When Carlos V issued a royal order in 1539 formalizing rum production, it secured Cuban rum’s place on the map. Today Cuba produces some of the world’s most respected brands of rum, silky smooth modern varieties that have little in common with the harsh drink enjoyed by sixteenth-century pirates and renegades. Quality ranges from the most basic white rum widely used for mixing in cocktails (famously the mojito, the cuba libre and the daiquiri), to various dark rums aged in oak casks for different lengths of time, from around three years to as many as thirty, the latter of which sell for around $50CUC a bottle – and are best enjoyed neat or over a chunk of ice. Though Havana Club is the best known of all Cuba’s rums, browsing the shelves of the convertible peso shops will reveal tempting but lesser-known varieties such as Cubay’s pleasantly sweet dark rum and Ron Palma Mulata, a good white rum that is slightly cheaper than its Havana Club equivalent. Among the finest Cuban rums are Havana Club Gran Reserva and Santiago de Cuba Extra Añejo – reputed to be the favourite tipple of Fidel Castro himself.

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