Cuba is known for its rum. Canchanchara, from Trinidad stands out among other rum drinks. Served in a cute terracotta cup, it is the perfect combination of refreshing, light, sweet, and cold.
You can’t drink the water in Cuba. Other than bottled water, there are plenty of beverages. Ciego Montero TuKola is Cuban cola. It reminds me how cola used to taste, refreshing, and thirst quenching, not too sweet and syrupy. Nothing is better than beer on a hot humid day and Cuba has excellent beer. My favorite is Bucanero, a dark version of Crystal beer. Bucanero is close enough to Sam Adams or a good local beer. It isn’t heavy dark beer.
Thank you Cuba for coffee from heaven, strong but not bitter. Coffee beans are grown the old fashion way, using organic methods, dried in the sun, and cutting back weeds with a machete. Climate change is a huge concern for coffee farmers and they are exploring ways to meet the challenge. If there is anything to complain about, it’s that the coffee cups are too small. I brought back 2 pounds of coffee beans. Only 2 pounds, what was I thinking?
Then there is rum, or as it’s called, Vitamin R. I never liked rum, because before this trip, I never had Cuban rum. Forgive me, a rooky, as I try to describe Cuban rum as a hint of vanilla with a clean taste that goes down easy. One bottle of Havana Club, Anejo 7 Year Old rum, a gift from the hotel, made it home.
The mojito is a traditional Cuban cocktail of white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and mint, lots of fresh mint. I discovered as in the States, the bartender matters. The bartender in Trinidad’s hotel rooftop bar mastered the mojito. Maybe it was the party atmosphere, the band playing, the view from the roof, but I loved this drink.
There are other Cuban rum drinks such as Cuba Libre, invented in Cuba, its’ name, Free Cuba, was the battle cry of the Cuba Liberation Army during the war of independence from Spain. Made with Cuban rum, cola and lime juice, you can imagine how good it is. My only regret is that for some unknown reason I never got to try Hemingway’s daiquiri at El Floridita. Next time.
Finally, my favorite, Canchanchara , the drink of Trinidad from the 19th century. It was enjoyed hot to keep warm during chilly nights, and of course, to cure illness. Today, the drink is served with ice in a handmade terracotta cup from Trinidad. To make a Canchanchara, pour 1 Tablespoon of honey, and 2 ounces of rum into a glass. Stir with a straw until honey is dissolved. Add fresh lemon juice, sparkling or club soda, and ice. This drink is enjoyable to drink; it’s smooth, refreshing, and just sweet enough. Lime juice is often used in place of lemon juice. I prefer lemon.
Trinidad is known for its long history of beautiful pottery. Daniel “Chichi” Santander makes those terracotta Canchanchara cups. The Santander family is craftsmen who are part of that history going back generations. The clay is taken from caves, thrown by hand on a wheel, and baked in a wood fired kiln.
Ignore the tourist buses and Trinidad is like stepping back in time. The single story buildings retain their original appearance using century old techniques and materials, lime mortar, wood, terracotta clay roof tiles and cobble stone streets. Colorful buildings have large inviting doors and windows, and spacious courtyards. The city is surrounded by sugar cane plantations with its history of slavery. As in Cienfuegos, the artists are incredible. I was impressed with the linen and beautiful embroidery.
Trinidad is music, dancing, and eating, in other words, a party. And there are beautiful beaches.
- 2 ounces rum
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (or lime juice)
- 1½ ounces soda water
- ceramic cup or low ball glass
- straw or stirring stick
- Pour honey and rum into your desired cup or glass
- Stir with straw or stick until most of the honey is dissolved
- Add lemon juice, water, and ice
- Serve with lemon slice