Spain and the History of Rum
Spaniards enjoy cocktails, particularly made with rum, and why not? For centuries they've been growing sugar cane, the plant that is fermented to make rum.
The sugar cane plant is a native plant from South Asia, and was brought to Spain in the 10th century during Moorish rule. It was cultivated in subtropical areas of southern Spain. Sugar processing plants were built in Granada, and eventually in the Canary Islands.
The Spanish then introduced sugar cane to the Caribbean in the late 1400's. There, rum has been produced from cane since the 1600's. Because of the cheap production costs in the Americas using slave labor, and the high production costs in the Canary Islands with artificial irrigation, it became unprofitable to continue growing sugar cane in the Canary islands.
Today, the only sugar production plant (from sugar cane) in continental Europe is situated in Salobrena, Granada, located on the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain. In addition, on the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, sugar cane is still grown and processed into sugar and rum, with the family-owned Arehucas being the most widely-known and highly appreciated Spanish rum.
Rum is still a popular drink in Spain, most commonly mixed with cola to make a Cuba Libre, or with mint in a mojito. Below are our versions of these two cocktails.
Tony's Cuba Libre Recipe
Cuba Libre is Spanish for "Free Cuba." The exact origin of the drink's name is not clear, although it seems to have originated around the year 1898 when Cuba won the battle for independence from Spain.
Since its creation over a hundred years ago, it has become popular all around the world. The drink is known by slightly different names in the various Spanish-speaking countries, but in Spain it is still best known as cubalibre. The basic drink is a simple mix of an ounce or two of white rum and cola over ice.
A squeeze of lemon juice is mixed in, and served with a lemon wedge on the side.
After tasting the cuba libre prepared at Bar Ruiz in Patino, Murcia, Tony has a new favorite version of the cuba libre. The secret ingredient in this one that makes it special must be the bit of cinnamon stick dropped into the glass when stirred.
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest (colored portion only)
- Cinnamon stick, approximately 1.5 to 2-inches in length
- 2 oz white rum
- 6 oz cola drink
- Lemon wedge
- In a tall glass (12-16 oz), grate the lemon zest directly into glass.
- Gently squeeze lemon wedge into glass, then drop in.
- Fill glass halfway with ice cubes, not crushed ice.
- Pour the rum over the ice.
- Pour the cola up to the top of glass.
- Add the cinnamon stick.
- Stir gently with a long-handled spoon and serve.
Tony's Easy Mojito Recipe
A mojito is a traditional cocktail from Cuba, which is made of white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water, and fresh mint. The traditional method to prepare a mojito is to slightly crush the mint with a "muddler," a rounded piece of wood similar to a pestle. However, Tony's version uses a blender, to make a quick and easy batch for 6-8 servings.
- Ice cubes
- 6-8 oz white rum
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves (no stems)
- 2 heaping Tbsp frozen limeade concentrate
- 2 limes for garnish
- Use a large blender with a glass pitcher size approximately 40 oz or 1 liter.
- Fill blender with ice cubes.
- Pour rum in to the blender.
- Rinse mint leaves and place in blender.
- Scoop frozen limeade concentrate into the blender.
- Cover and blend until ice is crushed and ingredients are mixed.
- Serve in short glasses. Garnish each with a slice of lime.