There is only one local drink in Gran Canaria and it isn't that lurid blue thing served in resort bars. You know the one: It comes in an outsize hurricane glass with a parrot-shaped stirrer, half a fruit bowl and sometimes, if it's your birthday, a sparkler. Often it is called the "Gran Canaria".
I've lived here for 30 years and have never seen a Canarian drink anything with Blue Curacao in it. Never. Not once. Not even in the Yumbo Centre!
Canarians drink rum and coke made with island rum! Or with Cuban run such as Havana Club. Never with Bacardi! I'm not even sure that Captain Morgan is allowed on the islands.
The Perfect Rum and Coke
- Drop a slice of lemon into a straight-sided high ball glass. Put in three big ice cubes: Canarian ice cubes are cylindrical and hollow: Designed to fit perfectly into the glass and leave room for plenty of alcohol. If you only have little square ice cubes, fill the glass up.
- Pour in local Arehucas gold rum (great drink, terrible website) until the ice cubes float: About 100 cc of booze is standard. Some prefer white Arehucas rum, which is perfectly acceptable. Other local brands, such as Artemi, are also fine. Bacardi is for cleaning the bar after closing time.
- Top up with Coca Cola or Pepsi. A proper local rum and coke has so much ice and rum in that it is impossible to pour the whole bottle of cola in at once. Top up as you drink up!
Never drink a rum and coke in the Canary Islands with a straw. It just isn't done! Straws in the Canaries are only for tourists and little children.
The Cuba Libre or Cubata
The rum and coke is known as a Cuba Libre in US and in trendy bars in the UK. It has a clouded history. Cubans claim it as a a revolutionary drink; combining Yankee cola with the pride of Cuba for the glory of Castro's beard. Cuban exiles claim it was invented post revolution in the Cuban communities in Miami. Since rum was probably invented in the Canary Islands we rise above all the arguments and just enjoy the drink.
In the Canary Islands the "Cuba Libre" is shortened to the "Cubata". This causes tense confusion and means every local barman can separate a tourist or newbie ex-pat from a local.
Spanish words that end in "a" are almost all feminine. By logic a Cubata should be femenine and ordered as "una Cubata por favor". However, because Cubata is a shortened form of Cuba Libre, it is masculine and therefore correctly ordered as "un Cubata por favor.
Get this idiom right and you will instantly earn the respect of the barman in any local Canarian bar.
To order a Cubata with gold rum ask for, "un cubata carta de oro". For a white rum version, "un cubata carta blanca". For a Cuban rum version "un cubata con Havana tres". If you have money to burn go for seven-year old Havana Club rum by ordering "un cubata con Havana siete".
Cubatas are strong and seriously tasty. They are also far stronger than your average cocktail: Canarians seem to have a genetic resistance to rum. They can drink Cubatas all night and still get to the beach early in the morning. Visitors tend to suffer more from hangovers or "resacas".
© Alex Bramwell