Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Easy Road to Cuba

What’s old is new, and what’s new isn't really.  We are going back to Cuba again here on B+B.  In July, 2015, the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations after over 50 years of silence.  Perhaps this year we will see the long standing embargoes lifted.  Time will tell, as they say, but rather than wait, let’s get puzzling. In prior posts I have discussed a series of “cigar” themed puzzle boxes known as the “Havana’s” boxes, made by Carolina based woodworker Eric Fuller.  The series includes 4 boxes, each designed to house a single cigar, with increasingly difficult hidden opening mechanisms.  Eric is particularly good at designing tricky mechanisms, small hidden details, and detours or traps which distract you from the goal.  He wanted the Havana’s Box #4, the final installment, to be the most difficult to solve, and it certainly lives up to that objective.  

The Havana's Box #4 by Eric Fuller

I would argue that none of the boxes in this series are what could be considered easy, though, and I was certainly stumped for a long time on both #2 and #3.  Box #4 is once again beautifully hand crafted, made from Quartersawn Sapele and Wenge veneer, and made to look almost identical to Box #1 to acknowledge the project had come full circle.  What’s new is old.  Box #4, also known as the “Bruce” (after another one of the bartenders at the Havana’s Deluxe Bar, where Fuller frequently enjoys his cigars), has a remarkable feature which is discovered early on and which is unlike anything similar I have seen.  There are a few other discoveries in store, and a critical logic point which must be surmounted, but this initial feature dominates the experience and defines this box in a special way.  It’s an incredible puzzle box – though I would advise you not be in a hurry to get to the cigar!

Something particularly devious is going on here ...

As with the prior Havana’s boxes, we need something particularly Cuban to imbibe along with the experience.  It’s time to introduce what some perceive as the “lazy person’s” cocktail.  Something incredibly easy to balance the incredibly difficult puzzle box.  The story (there’s always a story if it’s a great cocktail) goes back to 1898, when Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders took control of San Juan Hill in Cuba, signaling the beginning of the end to the Spanish American War.  The US occupation of Cuba lasted from 1898 to 1902, which was just enough time for US produced Coca Cola to mingle with Cuban made rum.  This probably happened in 1900, with various accounts of who, what and where, as usual in cocktail lore.  Perhaps, as recorded by many historians, Captain Russel of the US Army Signal Corps, after ordering a rum, a coke, and a lime wedge, toasted, “Por Cuba Libre!” (To "Free Cuba”), and the Cuba Libre was born.  

The Cuba Libre

This incredibly simple, easy, and tasty drink has certainly stood the test of time, and remains ever popular today.  Perhaps you remember, or more likely, don’t remember, what you have done after a few “rum and cokes”?  With the resurgence of quality craft cocktail enthusiasm, you will likely find that your rum and coke is now more like the original “Cuba Libre”, which includes fresh lime juice and a few dashes of Angostura bitters.  What’s old is new.  Some even insist the original had a bit of gin in the mix.  It’s impossible to know exactly how the original Cuba Libre tasted, but it was certainly more complex than a rum and coke.  Coca Cola was very different in 1900, after all, both in flavor and certain ingredients ….  What’s remained the same is how easy it is to make.  So you can save up your energy for the puzzle box, obviously.  Cheers!

See you in Havana!

Cuba Libre:

2 oz rum (light, dark, aged – it’s all up to you. Go on, experiment!)
½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice (about ½ a lime)
Cola (Mexican Coca Cola is great due to the cane sugar, and other small batch brands are great too)
½ oz gin (optional, for the truly ambitious)
 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters

Squeeze the lime into your glass then drop it in.  Add the rum (and gin).  Drop in a few ice cubes, add the cola and bitters, stir, and enjoy.

For Eric Fuller’s website:

For a great article on the Cuba Libre:

For prior Boxes and Booze posts about the Havana’s Box series please see:

1 comment:

  1. I managed to solve this puzzle not using the "official way", but I feel (ok I know you will diagree...) the mechanism is far from being perfect and could have been much more improved, especially because following the official way does not work at 100%.... !!
    The top of mine is not centered any more unlike your pictures...Is it normal after opening the box for the first time? If not, what to do?