“It ought to make you fly high” was way the Airmail cocktail was described by master bartender W. C. Whitfield in his go-to guide Here’s How, Mixed Drinks.
It’s been explained many ways since that early description, including the “Carbibbeanized French 75” and “Daiquiri with a champagne honey punch.” Like so many famous cocktails from the 40s and 50s, where the Airmail came from and who created it is up for debate.
For many years, it was believed that the first written acknowledgment of the Airmail cocktail was in Esquire’s 1949 edition of Handbook for Hosts, which was a source on how to throw the perfect soiree from drinks and games to hors d’oeuvres and decorations. Although Esquire was considered the first, Whitfield had written about the Airmail eight years prior in 1941. Was Whitfield the creator of this fruity, bubbly concoction meant to send you into the sky? To get the answer, it’s best to consult the ingredients. Because gold Cuban rum was the original base for the cocktail, it only makes sense to start there for an origin story.
The first attempt at Airmail (the postal service, not the drink) was in 1911. It flew from Santa Rosa to Petaluma, California with three official pieces of correspondence. That may not seem revolutionary now, but at the time, it was a marvel of modern mail. Cuba was not going to be left behind, so they started their own regular Airmail service in 1930. Shortly after the first flight in Cuba, Bacardi Cuban Rum mentioned the Airmail cocktail—which was garnished with a real postage stamp—in their promotional pamphlet. This pamphlet was released almost a decade before Whitfield’s book was published. Because the Airmail doesn’t make an appearance in any literature before Bacardi’s pamphlet, and the dates match up historically, they should probably get the credit.
The Airmail is now categorized as a vintage cocktail that you don’t often see on modern menus—maybe because of the saturation of cocktails available, the pricey postage stamp garnish or the fact that you can’t get real Cuban rum in the United States. Bacardi exclusively comes out of Puerto Rico instead of Cuba now, and we find that it makes a drink that’s just as refreshing and satisfying. The Airmail combines the strong flavors of rum, honey syrup, lime and champagne in a way that perfectly balances sweet, sour and effervescent. The champagne and lime create a crisp flavor while the honey softens the bite. Rum notes come through subtly on the finish for a complex flavor profile.
- 1.5 oz. HAVANA CLUB Añejo Blanco Rum
- .75 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- .75 oz. Honey Syrup
- Champagne (to Top)
- Lime Twist (to Garnish)
Preparation: Add the rum, lime juice and honey syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a lime twist.