Just recently we were looking at the Gin Gin Mule by Audrey Saunders so it seems like the right time to examine her other famous creation – the Old Cuban. It’s a kind of French 75/Mojito lovechild that’s somewhat counter-intuitively served in a stem glass without ice and yet works surprisingly well. Quite where Audrey found a supply of aged Cuban rum back in 2001 New York is something of a mystery since it was embargoed at that time*. While Bacardi 8 is often called for in this recipe be aware that’s really just because Americans have no access to the right juice. For the rest of the world it’s Havana Club 7 all the way – yes, in the strange world of cocktails 7>8. Conversely while Champagne is the correct topping I think it’s a bit of a waste mixing with the real stuff and usually work with a decent dry (brut) cava instead. Your choice.
The Old Cuban is a little tricky to balance, requiring care not to let the Angostura take over: I love my Ango but quickly discovered that this is not the place to get too enthusiastic with it. Double straining is essential in this case as mint fragments ruin the look and mouth-feel of the Old Cuban. Make sure you can taste the mint but not see it. It is usually served with a mint leaf or sprig garnish but I’m not convinced that it’s really necessary if you managed to get enough mint oils in at the muddling stage. I gave it the benefit of the doubt for the picture but I wouldn’t complain if it was served without. Speaking of the picture I’m gonna replug a book for those of you interested in the history of the cocktail revival. Audrey Saunders and Pegu Club play a significant part in A Proper Drink by Robert Simonson [ISBN 978-1-60774-754-3]. While it’s certainly a bit meta it does do an excellent job of explaining how we got from the Dark Ages (c.1970 – 2000) to cocktail Nirvana (c.2005 – ∞). It’s the perfect gift for a manic cocktail nerd – which is where my copy came from…
1.5oz / 45ml aged Cuban rum (such as Havana Club 7).
0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.
0.75oz simple syrup (1:1)**
6 mint leaves.
2 careful dashes of Angostura bitters.
2oz / 60ml chilled Champagne or cava (brut).
Muddle the first four ingredients in a shaker. Add ice and bitters. Shake and double strain into a largish*** chilled cocktail glass. Top up with chilled bubbles.
Toast old Cubans.
*And still more-or-less is. You won’t normally be deprived of any Cuban rum you bring into the USA but none of the real stuff is imported. The “Havana Club” you might find in the US is a fairly insipid affair made by Bacardi that exists purely for them to perpetuate their spurious copyright claims. It’s a long story that I won’t bore you with this time around.
**Originally 1oz / 30ml but I found that a little sweet. Adjust to your taste.
*** The Old Cuban is a bit big for standard sized coupés so you will need a more capacious one. I find the kind of glass (pictured) which was popular for starters and desserts in the 1970s and 80s to be ideal. Since they’re seriously out of fashion for culinary use, nice ones can be found in charity shops for next to nothing. Otherwise a wine glass would be fine.