The key to throwing a memorable Cuban-themed party is in paying attention to the details and authenticity. As with any theme party, aim to impress with the music, the food and the decor. A thoughtfully planned Cuban-themed party should include a variety of homemade appetizers and drinks, simple but culturally appropriate decorations, and--of course--rumba or salsa music!
Cuban food is vibrant with flavour, and Cuban recipes frequently call for lots of fresh vegetables and legumes, particularly black beans. Plantains, smoked ham, pork, peppers and olives can also be found in multiple recipes. For appetizers, you can't go wrong with tamales--a spiced mashed mixture of meats or vegetables and corn meal, wrapped in a corn husk--and croquetas. If you're going all out and making entrées, there is the classic arroz con pollo (chicken and seasoned rice), as well as ropa vieja.
Cocktails might include the popular mojito, the traditional and easy to make Cuba Libre, and the tropical Papa Hemingway. Non-alcoholic drink options include cafe con leche and batidos, Cuban "milkshakes" that are flavoured with tropical fruits but contain no ice cream.
Recipes for all these creations can be found at icuban.com/food.
Traditional Cuban music is very percussive and heavily guitar-based. Most Americans born before 1960 tend to associate Cuban music solely with the rumba, which was extremely popular in the U.S. during the '40s and '50s. Tito Puente and Xavier Cugat are two early- to mid-20th-century performers who were extremely popular at their peaks, and their recordings are easily found at multiple online music stores such as Amazon or CD Universe. For those who'd like their Cuban party music to be a little less "old-school," diving into the wealth of instrumental salsa and timba music that is available will surely impress your guests.
A khaki-coloured burlap sack, neatly cut at the seams, makes an Old World Cuban tablecloth for a surprisingly authentic-looking refreshment table. Maracas are also a wonderful touch on every guest table, not only as a decoration but as a usable party favour. Cuban flags can be bought for as little as £2 online at sites such as Cuban Food Market. Little Cuban gallitos (fake roosters) are another nice touch.
If money is no object, stores like Home Depot and Lowe's sell extremely realistic looking 4 foot tall palm trees that require no watering or maintenance. Bear in mind, however, that these fake trees sell for around £52 each.