The Old Cuban makes a fantastic Cuban New Year’s Eve cocktail. Why do you ask? I think the inventor, Audrey Saunders said it best. She described it as “the Mojito in a little black dress.”
Her goal was to take the classic Mojito and give it a glamorous upgrade. Mission accomplished! The first upgrade is the Old Cuban uses aged dark rum instead of white rum along with adding Angostura bitters. Then instead of simple syrup muddle the mint in demerara syrup. After everything is mixed together, top it off with 2 ounces of sparkling wine.
I couldn’t think of a better way to start celebrating New Year’s Eve Cuban style. In fact a couple of Old Cubans is exactly what you might need to get ready for the stroke of midnight because it is going to take all day.
Cuban New Year’s Eve Traditions
Let’s start with how I grew up celebrating New Year’s in a small town in Placerville, California.
Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve would be on the TV counting down to midnight while listening to all of the musical performances. If we were celebrating with family and friends maybe we would put on some party hats and get out the noise makers. As the clock got close to midnight we would pour champagne for the adults and sparkling apple cider for the kids. At the stroke of midnight we would raise our glasses, take a drink and shout, “Happy New Year!” If we were feeling really wild we would bang on some pots and pans outside for a couple of minutes and New Year’s Eve was over.
Now let’s talk about some Cuban New Year’s Eve traditions or some might say superstitions. First, the food. Since New Year’s Eve tends to be celebrated by the “whole” family getting together or even entire neighborhoods celebrating together, a “whole” pig is roasted. The traditional sides will be served such as black beans and rice, yuca with garlic mojo, a salad and of course plenty of avocado and fried plantains. For dessert, buenuelos are a must. If a whole pig is too much, do what we do and roast the leg of the pig instead.
Here is why I tell you it is going to take the entire day to get ready for midnight. After the pig or the leg is starting to roast it’s time to get busy and gather the supplies for a successful New Year.
Here is what you will need.
- Bucket of dirty mop water.
- A suitcase.
- Money in an envelope.
- 12 grapes.
- An effigy.
Are you scratching your head yet? Let me explain one by one.
Bucket of Dirty Mop Water
Okay, like I said before the pork is starting to roast so it’s time to get busy, I mean cleaning. The entire house needs to get cleaned. Room by room we need to dust the furniture, vacuum the carpets, wipe down the walls, change the sheets, clean the bathrooms, and last but not least, mop the floors. But wait…..don’t throw out the dirty mop water. Save it!!! What?? Why would I save dirty mop water? Well, because we need to throw it out into the street at midnight to get rid of all the bad “juju” that has clung to us throughout the year. The bad must leave at midnight and never, never return.
Now while you are cleaning if you come across your suitcase leave it out. Put it by your front door because we are going to need that too. If you are itching to travel in the new year get ready to take it for a walk around the block or at least down the street. This will bring new travels your way.
Money in an Envelope
While we are leaving things at the door now would be a good time to put some money in an envelope and put it next to the suitcase so you don’t forget it. When it’s time we are going to take the envelope and put it in the mailbox. This will attract prosperity in the new year.
Count out 12 grapes to have ready right at the stroke of midnight. You are going to eat one for each month and make a wish. So that’s 12 grapes that will equal 12 wishes.
Glass of Sidra
After you have eaten the grapes and made the wishes, drink the glass of sidra to complete the tradition. If you don’t know what sidra is, it is unsweetened apple cider. If you can’t find sidra sparkling apple cider will be fine.
Last but not least the effigy. Write down all of your grievances and negative situations from the past year on little pieces of paper. Put those pieces of paper in an effigy or some kind of doll that can be burned. If you want to get rid of them forever then after midnight the effigy will burn releasing the bad into the night. In Cuba they tend to be life sized but here at home I don’t think having a personal Burning Man would go over well with your neighbors.
Putting It All Together
Now you are going to see why we needed the Old Cuban to get ready for New Year’s Eve and why we will probably need one more when it’s all over.
Let’s recap all of our Cuban New Year’s Eve traditions and hopefully you are ready.
At the precise stroke of midnight eat each grape one by one making a wish with each one for each of the 12 months.
Wash them down with the glass of sidra. This all must happen during the first 60 seconds into the New Year so eat, wish and drink fast!
Next, grab your suitcase and the envelope of money and walk around the block or at least to the mailbox and put the money in your mailbox.
Walk back home. Remember that bucket of dirty mop water that you have been saving? Grab it and throw it out into the street like you mean it.
Now for the grand finale burn the effigy into the night and a prosperous New Year is sure to find you.
How could it not?
Like I keep saying, after all of the work you put in to get to the New Year enjoy the ones you love and have one last Old Cuban because you earned it!
In a shaker, gently muddle the mint leaves in the demerara syrup. Add remaining ingredients except for the sparkling wine. Shake with ice. Double strain into a flute, and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a 1/2 a slice of lime and mint leaf.