Christopher Columbus is credited with the introduction of numerous products and items to the Old Continent. One of them is tobacco, and cigars in particular. During his first voyage of 1492 three of his crewmen smoked primitive cigars together with the native tribes of the Caribbean islands on the island of Hispaniola (today Dominican Republic). Later, when the great discoverer and his men settled on the island of Cuba they repeated the cigar smoking which, actually, derives from the Mayans. The lonely geniuses of mankind had a verb sicar whose meaning was to smoke twisted, dried tobacco leaves rolled in palm or plantain ones. Thus their tradition of cigar smoking was introduced to Europe owing to Christopher Columbus and the discovery of the New World.
Nowadays cigars are mainly associated with Cuba and Havana (although cigar tobacco cultivation is widely spread in the whole Caribbean basin as well as in Central America, Brazil, the Philippines, Canary Islands and some parts of the USA) and are the major habanos. The term habanos is used in the Spanish-speaking world and it’s translated literally as “(something) from Havana”. And it goes well with another popular habanos, i.e. rum.
Rum is a drink from sugarcane produced by Malaya people and it was called brum. The first distillation and production of rum started on the island of Barbados in the 17th century and it developed on the Caribbean sugarcane plantations later on. In the 19th century rum had still been considered a low-quality drink and not that refined. It was cheaply made and wasn’t served in upmarket locals. And then a true passion for rum was created by the Bacardí family and the founder of the world largest privately-owned spirits company. The family-owned business was established by Facundo Barcadí Massó. He was Spanish-born from Sitges (Catalonia). The Spanish wine merchant immigrated to Santiago de Cuba in 1830 and laid the foundations of today’s company that is internationally recognized.
This was just the prelude ….. Now close your eyes and imagine being in a bar in Havana (or somewhere else in Cuba), smoking an original Cuban cigar and giving full respect to some extremely popular cocktails. 😉 Ta-ta-taaa ……..
Cuba Libre (rum, Coca-Cola, lime and ice): No matter how many stories you might stumble upon, Cuba Libre was first mixed and sipped in Cuba. Here is the story recalled by Fausto Rodriguez who was a messenger at the Signal Corps during the Spanish-American war. So, what happened exactly? He and his colleague went to bar “Americano” in Havana one evening. While sitting they saw that Bacardí Gold rum and Coca-Cola were served together as one concoction with some ice and a wedge of lime. At that moment there were some American soldiers in the bar and they were curious to know the name of the drink. When they got to know it didn’t have any, they suggested a name after the war whoop of the Cuban soldiers fighting for the liberation of the country, i.e. ¡Por Cuba Libre! Thus the name of Coca-Cola-rum based drink with ice and lime entered the cocktail folklore.
Daiquiri (rum, freshly squeezed lime juice and sugar): The story of the alcoholic drink started in 1898 in the town of Daiquiri (the name is of Taíno origin) in southeastern Cuba, near Santiago de Cuba. It was when Americans came to the island to help and build iron mines. One of the troops was led by American engineer Jennings Cox. He decided to make an experiment during the same year. He squeezed one or two limes and poured the juice over his Bacardí Superior rum. Then he added some water, sugar and ice and indulged in the refreshing drink in the tropical heat after work. Cox was at the Venus Hotel one evening. It was hot and he was drinking one of his drinks. All of sudden he reached a decision to name the drink after the town of Daiquiri and the eponymous mines. Thus this new fashion of drinking rum and squeezed lime juice with added sugar and water and some ice cubes was spread in the nearby town of Santiago de Cuba and crossed the borders of the island.
Mojito (rum, soda, mint leaves, lime, sugar, ice): The birthplace of Mojito is Havana but let us start from the beginning. Mojito dates back to the 16th century and its story is connected with Sir Francis Drake. He always had mint on his ship and he always added it to his drinks together with some wedges of lime thinking it would prevent him from illnesses. And he was right. While sailing towards Havana, his crewmen got dysentery and scurvy. He ordered some of his men to go ashore on the island and ask the local tribes for some remedies for this epidemic. When they came back they had the necessary medicine. They were given some local tropical ingredients which Richard Drake (an associate of Sir Francis Drake) added to the aguardiente de caña (the hard-core version of rum that was nicknamed as the fire water from sugar cane) and then put some lime, sugarcane juice and mint. This ancestor of Mojito was known as El Draque and was served in a wooden spoon with an extended helve, and it was consumed mainly as e refreshing drink after the epidemic passed. Aguardiente in El Draque was replaced with Bacardí Superior namely in Havana at the end of the 19th century. Sparkling water was added to the drink. Bacardí Mojito turned into a hit cocktail for all classes and later it became an unofficial drink of Cuba. By the way, if your choice is Mojito, you will feel like Ernest Hemingway in bar “La Bodeguita del Medio”. This is what I mean: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.”
Piña colada (rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, sugar and ice cubes): And finally, if you want to make a change and get a sweeter alcoholic drink, just get the “Cocktail of the Caribbean sunset”. The name derives from the two Spanish words piña (pineapple) and colada (shaken with ice and then strained). Originally, the cocktail started as a simple, cold and refreshing pineapple juice known as Piña Fria. Later on the other element – colada, was added and thus the cool taste of fresh pineapple was achieved. Later a coconut flavour became inseparable part of the drink. Thus the drink evolved step-by-step to become the cocktail we all know or at least have heard of. The greatest contribution belongs to Ramón Monchito Marrero Pérez. He was a bartender at the Caribe Hilton Hotel in Puerto Rico who added Bacardí Superior rum. He worked on the cocktail in the course of three months in 1954 and finally, developed the recent recipe we all know.
Cin-cin, folks …. 🙂