Is there a better companion for the word ‘cocktails’ than ‘Cuban’? What a sultry image that conjures up… maybe sipping a Cuba Libre under the Caribbean stars, or a Mojito or a Daiquiri in one of the bars that Hemingway frequented in Havana. Can any city other than maybe New Orleans rival Havana for the creation of classic cocktails? It’s responsible for the Cuba Libre, the Daiquiri, the Mojito and El Presidente.
All of these are, of course, among over 50 Cuban cocktail recipes that are in this pocket-sized book of 130 pages. Like a good cocktail, though, it may be small but it’s filled with good ingredients and packs a punch.
First there’s some background, and a look into why Cuba has such a great cocktail culture. For a start, like any respectable Caribbean island there’s the rum. But good rum alone doesn’t create a cocktail culture. In 1924 the Cuban Bartenders’ Club was founded, and after attending their cocktail school bartenders were armed with a repertoire of some 200 cocktails.
The book then offers you a crash course in how to Become a Cuban Bartender, though the author seems a little confused. She says that it takes about 15 years in Cuba to be considered one of the true Maestro Roneros (master rum-maker) though she’s going to show us how to make true Cuban cocktails in 15 minutes. The Maestro Roneros are, of course, the rum blenders who create the rums, not the bartenders who create the cocktails from the rums. She must know that but it’s probably just clumsily phrased.
Anyway, she does know her rum cocktails and her bartending skills, and that’s what matters. There’s a list of the bartending equipment and types of glasses you’ll need to create these Cuban cocktails, and then some tips and techniques to help you master techniques such as blending, stirring, muddling and shaking.
Before getting down to the cocktail recipes the author then gives us some Tips and Tricks that we might want to try while making them. I like the idea of Flaming – light a piece of citrus peel over a glass and twist it to create an aromatic mist that falls into the glass. I am definitely going to have to try that and up my own cocktail-making skills and impress the guests!
Then come the Cuba cocktail recipes, and what I like about this book is that each cocktail isn’t just a recipe, they also come with a little relevant story attached. This one for the Cuba Libre is typical:
They’re only short snippets but they’re interesting to have, and something to pass on while you’re making or serving the drink. Some have two little bits of info, like this recipe for the Anejo Highball:
There’s a separate section called Rum with Chums (the author clearly likes catchy titles), and this contains recipes for punches and sangrias that are designed to be made big rather than on an individual basis (although if someone ever wants to make me a pitcher-sized mojito, I won’t refuse.
The final section is Rum-Bling Tum (what did I say about those catchy titles, though some work better than others!) This is a selection of ‘bar bites’, or Caribbean-style snacks you can serve alongside the cocktails. They include easy things like Spicy Mixed Nuts and Sweet Potato Fries through to proper dishes such as Jerk Chicken (though I’ve never eaten it served with Mac ‘n’ Cheese, as this recipe suggests).
With the addition of these food recipes, and the little stories you get with each cocktail recipe, this all makes for a book that’s just that bit different. It’s a fun, inexpensive and colourful addition to the cocktail bar or bookshelf.