The Best Cuba Libre I Ever Had Was in Tokyo (Recipe)


I arrived in Tokyo after 1) a five hour overnight layover in Kuala Lumpur coming from Phuket and 2) a 7 hour flight with horrible food (like seriously, the worst food I’ve ever seen on an airplane). This was followed by arriving to a not so great apartment and having to spend the next few hours finding a new place to stay. By the time I realized that I hadn’t eaten in hours, the closest place to our new apartment seemed like the best option for food.

I knew coming to Tokyo that the cocktail scene was one of the best in the world. However, I had zero expectations for the bar at the restaurant we ended up at. I played it safe and ordered a Cuba Libre. I realize this is a weird choice, but I secretly love rum and cokes and I figured this couldn’t be messed up too badly. It turned out to be a wise choice.

As I sat at the end of the bar, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the bartender carefully molding what already looked like perfect pieces of square ice to me. Then, in came the fresh squeeze of lime, followed by rum and then topped with coke. He gave a few deft twirls of the bar spoon before handing me the perfect Cuba Libre. It was pure theatre and as I took a sip, I realized that it was the best one I’d ever had.

Maybe it was the amount of style he put into creating it or maybe that perfectly crafted ice really makes a difference or maybe lime and cola tastes different in Japan…either way, it was amazing.

It reminded me of how truly beautiful this simple cocktail can be. I can’t remember what I ate that night, but I’ll always remember this drink. After a long day, it was exactly what I needed.


Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke)

1.5 oz.aged or spiced rum
4 oz cola
.5 oz lime juice or 1/2 lime

1. Fill a 10 oz collins glass with ice.
2. Pour or squeeze in lime juice over the ice.
3. Add the rum.
4. Fill glass with coke or preferred cola.
5, Stir gently until ingredients are combined.
6. Garnish with lime wheel.

Fresh lime juice is really the key and adding that over the ice before the rum and coke. I can’t say for sure why this makes a difference, but it absolutely does.