Caribbean Islands (1600s)
Santiago & Havana, Cuba (1900 – 1920)
The Daiquiri is nothing more than a basic “sour” of spirit, citrus, and sugar… but somehow transformative. Done right with the best limes you can find, a Daiquiri will astound people who only know the slushy Slurpee kind they churn out at the chains. If the classic, up style of serving this drink was good enough for JFK and Hemingway, it’s surely good enough for Joe Blow.
Soul-brother of similar sours/daisies (Margarita, Sidecar, Jack Rose, Whiskey Sour), the Daiquiri was popularized by Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer working in Santiago, Cuba around 1896. But mixing rum with lime and sugar was nothing new to the Caribbean, nor to British sailors who were issued daily rations of rum, limes, sugar, and water as “grog” as far back as 1740.
In the beginning, a “sour” was any spirit with lemon and sugar – and not necessarily tart, as the name would suggest. Cocktail historian David Wondrich has uncovered an 1856 menu from Mart Ackermann’s Saloon in Toronto, Canada that lists a Gin Sour and a Brandy Sour. In his pioneering 1862 book “How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion,” Jerry Thomas includes the Gin Sour and Brandy Sour as members of a family of drinks, along with their antecedents: punches, crustas, and daisies. A recipe for a Rum Sour appears in the 1895 cocktail book “The Mixicologist.” Shaking the old rum, lime, and sugar “grog” formula with ice may have been the official crowning of the Daiquiri as we know it, sometime in the late 19th century. The Daiquiri began to appear in recipe books during Prohibition, while Hemingway was living in Havana, Cuba and enjoying a range of Daiquiri variations made by El Floridita bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert.
Balance is the key to this drink. A quarter-ounce more or less of any ingredient, a bit too much dilution, and the whole thing falls apart. With drinks like this (small, specific measurements), quality makes a difference. Use the ripest limes you can get. And don’t skimp on the rum. Many mass-market brands cut corners to keep up with demand. The gold standard for many bartenders is Havana Club (in the 3-year aged expression). We’re emerging from under a frustrating and harmful embargo against Cuba here in the United States, in place since 1960 – Havana Club isn’t available at retail just yet, but is permissible to bring in from abroad (but pay attention to the label – Bacardi recently bought the rights to sell a rum made in Puerto Rico called “Havana Club” in limited US markets – it’s not the real deal). Your next best choices are The 86 Co.’s excellent Cuban-style Caña Brava, made in Panama, or Cruzan Aged Light Rum from St. Croix.
Hardware: Shaker, Jigger
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: Light rum (recommended: Havana Club 3, Cruzan, Caña Brava)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Simple syrup
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice, Spent lime hull half, Lime wheel
Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.
In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:
2 oz light rum
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1 spent lime hull half
Shake well to blend and chill, then double-strain (to catch small bits of ice and citrus pulp) into the chilled glass. Garnish with a lime wheel, either notched on the rim or floating.