The world’s most misunderstood cocktail.
A major identity crisis with a side of multiple personality disorder. If there ever was a vintage cocktail that could lay claim to the said plight, the Daiquiri would be it. Worldwide, it’s known as a boozy slushy (usually strawberry flavored and topped with Reddi-wip) synonymous with college spring breaks or beachy vacations.
In reality, the original Daiquiri was a simple sour (base spirit, citrus, and sweetener).
We know this because, unlike most classic cocktails with nothing more than urban legend surrounding its invention, the Daiquiri’s origin was documented. There’s an actual recipe card signed and dated in 1896 by an American engineer named Jennings Cox.
Here’s how that recipe came to be: Cox was working in Cuba in the iron mining industry. One night while entertaining guests, the successful businessman committed the ultimate party foul: he ran out of gin, the fashionable drink du jour. He went out and grabbed the only booze that was readily available: locally made rum. Adding other ingredients that were also abundant (sugar and citrus) he made a punch, poured it over ice, and topped it with mineral water.
Guests loved it and demanded to know what it was called. Quick on his feet, he proclaimed, “The Daiquiri!” This was in honor of the small beachside village where he worked. (The town of Daiquiri was also where the United States first invaded Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898.) Up until 1909, Daiquiris were pretty much only available in Cuba. That is, until a U.S. naval officer, after a meeting with Cox, introduced it to the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. It quickly spread in popularity throughout the States.
Fast forward a bit to the late 1920s or early 1930s. The invention of a common household appliance would alter the rum drink’s path forever. At Floridita, a bar in Havana that still operates today, bartender and owner “Constante” Ribalaigua Vert used shaved ice and an electric blender to make the local drink. Hello, frozen Daiquiri.
And the drink’s slushy transformation was crystallized (no pun intended) when Ernest Hemingway strolled in the bar one day and fell in love with them (once drinking 15 in one sitting). “This frozen Daiquiri, so well beaten as it is, looks like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots,” Hemingway wrote in Islands in the Stream.
Floridita bar is also where the Hemingway Daiquiri, made from grapefruit juice and Maraschino liqueur, is said to originate. And thanks to the classic cocktail renaissance, the Daiquiri is back to its old tart, unfrozen self again—sans umbrella accouterment.
To experience one of the best Daiquiris on the planet, go to New Orleans’ Latitude 29 bar. Here, it’s said that owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry—tiki cocktail expert and author—spent over a year perfecting technique and ingredients, from the type of ice to use to how many seconds to shake it for the ideal icy temperature. Whatever you do, he says, avoid gold or dark rum (only white rum). Otherwise, it’s simply not a Daiquiri. And for all the bastardization this simple rum sour has suffered, just do what Berry says and make Daiquiris great again.
To try your hand at the American-Cuban classic, hide the blender and follow the recipe below:
- 2 parts Light Rum
- 1 part Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
- 2 tsp. Sugar
- Mint leaf (for garnish)
Preparation: Place sugar and lime juice into a cocktail shaker and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Pour in the rum and fill the shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a mint leaf.