America’s fascination with Cuban rum

Traditional daiquiris made by Ryan Maybee at the Rieger feature Cana Brava rum from Panama, which is similar to Cuban rum. Tammy Ljungblad [email protected]

Blame Ernest Hemingway and his daiquiri, or the cigars, or the Prohibition-era party reputation. Americans have long romanticized Cuba, notwithstanding various thorny political issues, and thawing relations have only increased our fascination.

More Kansas Citians seem to now be heading to the island, and we’re likely to see more of its flavors appear here as a result.

“The United States is the biggest melting pot in the world, and it only makes sense that we have the most exposure to different cultures,” says Ryan Maybee, co-owner of Manifesto and the Rieger.

Maybee and a group of American bartenders visited Cuba in December at the invitation of Julio Cabrera, a Cuban native who oversees the Regent Cocktail Club in Miami Beach, Fla. He toured the Havana Club Museum, made daiquiris at the famed Floridita bar (Hemingway’s haunt) and judged the country’s national bartending competition.

And he brought back bottles of Havana Club rum, as allowed under rules from the U.S. departments of the Treasury and Commerce (authorized travelers can bring back up to $100 worth of alcohol or tobacco products).

You certainly can’t buy it in the United States due to the ongoing embargo. Even if restrictions ease, there’s still a trademark battle between Bacardi, which bought the original mark and recipe from the Arechabala family, who made the rum before Cuba’s 1959 revolution, and Cubaexport, which distributes Cuban-made Havana Club worldwide through a partnership with Pernod Ricard.

Despite a dearth of Cuban ingredients, we’ll still probably see more Cuban cocktails as bartenders and their customers experience the island. Take the menu at Manifesto: It’s heavily influenced by Maybee’s previous travels to Trinidad; Jerez, Spain; Oaxaca, Mexico; and elsewhere.

“You can spot the things on (Manifesto’s menu) that I’m really passionate about,” Maybee said. “I’ve been there and experienced them first-hand. That never leaves you.”

▪ Manifesto, 1924 Main St., Kansas City, 816-536-1325,

Ryan Maybee, co-owner of Manifesto and the Rieger, says a good daiquiri should be strong, slightly tart and bracingly cold. Here’s how he makes his:


Makes 1 drink

2 ounces rum (Maybee uses Caña Brava Rum from Panama since Cuban rum is still embargoed)

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons superfine sugar (see note)

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

Note: The sugar can be substituted with simple syrup. Be sure to adjust for sweetness.

Per drink: 168 calories (1 percent from fat), trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 10 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 1 milligram sodium, trace dietary fiber.

There’s more to Cuba than daiquiris, though. “Cuban Cocktails,” written by Ravi DeRossi, Jane Danger and All Lapushehik, reveals just how much more in its lush pages and the recipes perfected at New York’s Cienfuegos bar. This one is a take on the French 75.

Makes 1 drink

1 ounce Appleton Estate V/X Rum

1/2 ounce honey syrup (see note)

1/2 ounce lime juice

3 ounces dry sparkling wine

Lime, for garnish

Shake rum, syrup and lime juice with ice, and strain into a flute. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with lime.

Note: To make honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and water in a saucepan and warm until honey dissolves. Cool and refrigerate. It will keep up to 3 weeks.

Per drink: 147 calories (1 percent from fat), trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 7 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 56 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Anne Brockhoff, Special to The Kansas City Star

This entry was posted in Cultural. Bookmark the permalink.