Not Just Mojitos: What to Drink on Your Visit to Cuba

 Photo by  Gabriel Flores

Written by Tyler Anneliese Moselle

You’ve landed at Havana Jose Marti International Airport… and whether this is your first visit or your twentieth to the "Pearl Antilles", you’ll notice immediately Cuba and its culture is changing with its new influx of first-time visitors.

There’s rum at every turn, but finding your preference is essential to traveling like a local. Here are seven inspired drinks embedded in Cuba’s epicurean history:

Havana Special

Here’s a libation exclusive to Cuba: white rum, maraschino liqueur, and fresh pineapple juice served straight up with a slice of pineapple or a twist in a highball glass or sometimes a pineapple.

 Photo by Stephanie Wang on our March trip

Photo by Stephanie Wang on our March trip

Cuba Libre

Okay, you’ve probably had some version of a rum and coke before, right? Well, the original was born from a toast to Cuba’s independence from Spain in 1900. ¡Por Cuba Libre!

After one of Coca-Cola’s first bottling plants outside of the U.S. closed its doors in Cuba in 1906, Cubans came up with tuKola.

Madrigal Bar Cafe is perfect for citizens of the world visiting for the first time and seasoned locals alike--both unwinding over Cuba Libres.

  • Forget the red Solo cup filled with cheap rum, Coca-Cola, and garnished with a stray Ping-Pong ball of your college days past. The original Rum and Coke has a revolutionary history, born in a celebratory toast between the soldiers of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1900. Captain Russell supposedly ordered a glass of rum with Coke and a wedge of lime, and celebrated the island’s independence against Spain by exclaiming ¡Por Cuba Libre! Ironically, you can’t get American cola in post-Revolution Cuba, so a Cuba Libre in the drink’s home country is made with tuKola: a different caramel-colored soft drink.


Perhaps the most famous—or infamous—Cuban cocktail in the world is the mojito. The present-day international tourist destination La Bodeguita del Medio was once the bar in Havana who helped make this drink a hit. It’s celebrated combination is white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda crushed ice, and fresh mint leaves.

Before coming to prominence during Prohibition, the mojito’s past is unclear. Some people suggest the drink was born as a remedy for scurvy aboard British ships—lime for Vitamin C, mint for easing digestion, and unrefined rum, aguardiente, for water purification. Other folks suggest African slaves came up with the concoction to mask the taste of cheap rum.

 Photo by  Kelsi Smith  on our March trip

Photo by Kelsi Smith on our March trip

Rón Collins

While the Tom Collins is a refreshing American creation from 1876 by "the father of American mixology", Jerry Thomas, the Cuban rendition punches it up with white rum. Blended with sugar, lime juice, soda water, and ice makes it equal parts delicious and simple.


During the U.S. Prohibition, this popular drink—in both the States and Cuba—was created and named after Cuban president Mario García Menocal. While you’re sure to encounter many original twists on the classic, this local drink calls for dark rum, curacao, white vermouth, and a dash of grenadine. Celebrate history with this ruby-red, lightly sweet elixir.


Trinidad’s signature canchanchara features a blend of raw rum, honey, fresh squeezed lime or lemon, and water. This cocktail is served in a traditional clay pot with ice and was once considered an elixir of life for Cuban guerillas.

It’s even rumored to have been invented to help soldiers withstand the harsh realities of the Ten Years War.

 Photo by  Fresh Off the Grid  on our March trip

Photo by Fresh Off the Grid on our March trip


The daiquiri wasn’t always a boozy slush akin to a Slurpee.

In the early 20th century, American engineer Jennings Cox created the first daiquiri when improvising a solution for running out of gin for his party guests. He mixed a pitcher of light rum, lime, and sugar and dubbed it after an adjacent community.  

However, the modern daiquiri was established and perfected at Havana’s El Floridita. They replaced sugar with grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur and threw it in a blender. Whether you’re a Hemingway fan or not, the spot known  as the” La Cuna del Daiquiri” worth a visit for a sip of his extra-strength, eponymous “Papa Doble” version.

Want a better taste of Cuba? Join us on one of our next trips coming up in October 10-17 and Nov 21-28, 2017.