Saoco Is The Refreshing Cocktail That Stars Cuban Rum

Cuba, renowned for its vast sugarcane fields and thriving rum industry, is the homeland of several classic rum cocktails. Among the most famous is El Saoco (Cuban slang for "superb",) a drink perfect for sipping on the beach, with its fruity coconut notes and the mildness of light Cuban rum.

Originally, Saoco was invented by Cuban peasant farmers (campesinos) as a quick thirst-quencher while laboring in the fields. Since they didn't have access to fancy cocktail-making ingredients or liquors, they made use of readily available and affordable ingredients found in the Cuban countryside: fresh coconuts and Aguardiente — a very cheap, rum-like liquor made from unaged cane juice distillate. It wasn't until much later that Aguardiente was switched up with light rum. Beyond its refreshing nature, this cocktail perfectly reflects the resourcefulness of the Cuban people and their ability to make the most of what's at hand.

Today, you can savor a refreshing Saoco at almost any beach bar in Havana and other parts of Cuba (even Cuban bars abroad are likely to offer it). Saoco can be presented in a standard highball glass, but to embrace the tropical atmosphere, many folks serve it in coconut shells (often the same coconut the water is taken from to blend the cocktail). Just crack open a fresh coconut, blend in some rum, lime juice, and a touch of sugar or honey for sweetness, give it a good stir with a bois-lele swizzle stick, optionally add ice, and you're all set.

The best rums to stock if you want to make a Saoco

When it comes to making a classic cocktail like Saoco, the type of rum you use really matters. Particularly, you must pick a light rum and not the aged, dark kind. Light rum's neutral flavor lets delicate ingredients like hydrating coconut water shine without being overpowered by harsh alcohol — in contrast to dark rum, which gains woody and spicy notes from oak barrel aging. Additionally, light rum also retains some of the sweetness and creaminess of the sugarcane juice it's made from, which will help you further develop Saoco's signature sweet and bright flavor.

Next, if possible, go for authentic Cuban rum. You can choose any brand that fits your budget and is available to you. Bottles like Havana Club Añejo 3 Años and Ron Santiago de Cuba Añejo 11 Años are great choices since they're very well-known for their quality and are widely used in Cuba (and other parts of the world) to make classic Cuban cocktails – like Saoco.

However, in the United States, Cuban alcoholic beverages have been unavailable for sale since the trade embargo took effect in 1962. In case you can't source real Cuban rums where you are, fortunately, there are alternatives. Check bottles from brands like Bacardi (we highly recommend the Bacardi Superior), South Bay, Exposición Panamá-Pacific, and Caña Brava. They produce many Cuban-style rums that'll work very well as substitutes.