The Cuba Libre Three Ways
  • photo-ph-meet
    Don Lee
    Cocktail Kingdom

    Don Lee is a software engineer/systems administrator by trade and documentary photographer by schooling; he is now pursuing his passion for food and cocktails. Don was the opening beverage director of PDT, and started the cocktails/spirits program for Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Currently he has partnered with to develop new, functional bar tools and expand its services. He is also engaged in a cocktail-focused web startup. When he isn't in a bar, you can usually find him consuming all things offal and swine.

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Cuba Libre

This drink is supposed to have originated in Cuba in the wake of the Spanish-American war around the turn of the 20th century. It became popular in the States around World War II: With sugar rationed by the government, Coca-Cola was one of the only available mixers. Since 1960’s Cuban embargo, the drink has been steeped in irony: Coca-Cola is unavailable in Cuba and the traditional Cuban rum used in the recipe is unavailable in the States.


YIELD 1 cocktail


  • Ice
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 6 ounces Coca-Cola
  • Lime wedge


Fill a Collins glass with ice and add the rum and Coca-Cola. Garnish with the lime wedge and serve.

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La Cola Nostra

Coca-Cola’s original formula shared many of the original ingredients and flavors of modern-day bitters and amari. Here, the soda is swapped for a mixture of Averna and pimento dram, and given bubbly body with Champagne.

SKILL LEVEL Intermediate

YIELD 1 cocktail


  • Ice
  • 1½ ounces Ron Zacapa 23-year-old rum
  • 1 ounce Averna
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
  • ¼ ounce The Bitter Truth Pimento Dram
  • 2 ounces Champagne or dry sparkling wine
  • Lemon slice


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the rum, Averna, lime juice, simple syrup and pimento dram. Cover, shake and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with Champagne, garnish with the lemon slice and serve.

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Cinema Highball

Fat-washing, a technique developed by Sam Mason and Eben Freeman at New York's Tailor, has since proliferated on cocktail menus across the country. Lee experimented with the trend while at PDT, and revisits it here: Rum is infused with popcorn, then fat-washed with clarified butter. When mixed with Coca-Cola, the combination results in the classic flavors of a movie theater.


YIELD 1 cocktail


Popcorn-infused rum

  • 20 grams dry air-popped popcorn
  • 750 milliliters Flor de Caña 4-year rum
  • 1 ounce clarified butter


  • Ice
  • 2 ounces popcorn-infused rum
  • 4 ounces Coca-Cola


1. Make the popcorn-infused rum: In a large container, combine the popcorn with the rum and set aside for 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Stir in the clarified butter, cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Transfer the container to the freezer and freeze until the fat solidifies on the surface, about 4 hours. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and store at room temperature until ready to use. Use within 2 weeks.

2. Make the cocktail: In an ice-filled Collins glass, combine the popcorn-infused rum and the Coca-Cola, stir and serve.