Monday 2 June 2014

The Daiquiri

The daiquiri, that simple mix of rum, lime juice and sugar is one of, if not the, classic rum drinks. David A Embury, in his classic title "the Fine Art of Mixing Drinks" classed it as one of his six basic drinks (along with the Jack Rose, Manhattan, Martini, Old-Fashioned and Sidecar).

For all that it's a simple drink it's simple to get wrong and, as Embury himself said:

"So far as I can ascertain there are two main reasons why more daiquiris are not sold: The use of inferior rums and the use of improper proportions"

To deal with the first point, the origin story of the Daiquiri has it being made with Bacardi Carta Blanca which is now sold as Bacardi Superior.  I'm not a fan of Bacardi by and large but Superior does make a good daiquiri however, my personal favourite daiquiri rum is Plantation 3 star which has been distilled with the daiquiri in mind.  Whatever your preference make it a good quality rum, I've tried using supermarket own label rums and it's a false economy.

Embury's recipe is a simple one, 1 part sugar syrup, 2 parts lime juice and 8 parts white label Cuban rum, shaken over ice, strained and served in a chilled glass.  This recipe is simple, refreshing and has a lovely smoothness to it.

For me I prefer the variation taken from the excellent Difford's Guide (Note that a shot is 30ml/1 oz:):

Daiquiri Number 1 on the rocks

  • 2.5 shots of rum
  • 3/4 shot lime juice
  • 1/2 shot sugar syrup
  • Shake with ice and strain into an ice filled old-fashioned glass
For me this has more of a citrus bite to it and I find it very refreshing. If either of these sounds too sharp then I'd suggest trying one of the variations below , especially the number 2


The broadly accepted history credits a US engineer Jennings Cox with creating the daiquiri.  Following the Spanish-American war of 1898 he was sent by the Spanish-American Iron Company to manage mines in the Sierra Maestra region of Cuba .  As you'd expect the conditions were harsh, yellow fever was endemic so the engineers were given good wages and a tobacco ration, however Cox also negotiated a monthly ration of the local white rum, Bacardi Carta Blanca.  One of the mines Cox was responsible for was located in the village of Daiquiri, East of Santiago De Cuba.

One theory has it that while Cox was entertaining guests he ran out of gin, which was the more socially acceptable drink and, being wary of serving neat rum to his guests added lime, sugar and crushed ice to take the edge off.  

Another version suggests that a Cuban engineer named Pagliuchi was visiting Cox at his mine near the village of Daiquiri and, after a hard day's work made a drink with whatever was to hand, namely rum, lime and sugar served over ice.

Given that limes, rum and sugar are in abundant supply in Cuba the drink almost certainly existed in one form or another before Jennings Cox ever arrived in Cuba.  Below you can see the recipe Cox wrote in his diary for the daiquiri

Jennings Cox's original daiquiri recipe
One thing to note is that Cox says to use lemons, however as limes are abundant on Cuba and are commonly referred to as " 'limón" it's probable he was referring to limes.  The recipe as written is similar to that for Grog, the drink used to serve the daily rum ration to sailors of the Royal Navy, so adding lime and sugar to rum is hardly a great leap of logic.

The daiquiri stayed as Cuban drink until 1909 when Admiral Lucius W Johnson, a medical officer in the US Navy enjoyed the drink and introduced it to the Army & Navy Club in Washington DC.  From here the popularity of the drink grew and spread, aided by rum being much more widely available following FDR's Good Neighbour Policy which increased imports of Latin American goods and seen as more exotic and less as a drink of sailors and low-lives.

Meanwhile, back in Cuba

At the legendary Havana bar El Floridita a Catalan immigrant  Constantino Ribalagua Vert developed and improved on the basic daiquiri recipe.  Switching from crushed ice to shaved ice and using a blender he's the father of the frozen daiquiri.. During the 1930s and 40s Ernest Hemingway lived in Havana, writing masterpieces such as "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and drinking a prodigous amount of rum.

As a diabetic Hemingway avoided sweet drinks, while visiting El Floridita and sampling one of their frozen daiquiris responded 
"That's good but I prefer it without sugar and with double rum"
Thus was born the Hemingway Daiquiri (or Papa Doble) which for those of you with a stronger constitution is made up of:

  • 3.5 shots of rum
  • 1 shot lime juice
  • 1 shot fresh grapefruit juice
  • 3/4 shot maraschino liqueur 
  • Shaken over ice
Over time this evolved with the addition of a half shot of sugar syrup to allow for those without a palate made of cast iron.

Ribalagua created four variations on the basic daiquri at El Foridita, handily naming them numerically and they're listed below, all should be shaken over ice and strained before serving.  

Daiquiri number 2

  • 2 shots of rum
  • 1/8 shot of Cointreau
  • 1/2 shot of Orange Juice
  • 1/2 shot of lime juice
  • 1/4 shot of sugar

Daiquiri number 3

  • 2 shots of rum
  • 1/2 shot of lime juice
  • 1/4 shot of sugar
  • 1/4 shot of grapefruit juice
  • 1/8 shot of Maraschino liqueur
It's believed this was the drink that Hemingway ordered above

Daiquiri number 4
  • 2 shots of rum
  • 1/2 shot of lime juice
  • 1/4 shot of sugar
  • 1/8 shot of Maraschino liqueur

Daiquiri number 5

  • 2 shots of rum
  • 1/2 shot of lime juice
  • 1/4 shot of sugar
  • 1/4 shot of pomegranate syrup
  • 1/8 shot of Maraschino liqueur

So just remember when making yourself a daiquiri, use the best rum you can find, the freshest juices, get your proportions right and you'll soon be sipping on a classic cocktail with a storied history.

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