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.
New York City, 1860ish
The Whiskey Sour is one in a family of “Sours” – modify the sweetener from simple syrup to honey syrup and you have a Gold Rush. Make it maple syrup and that’s a Rattlesnake. Make it with rum & lime, call it a Daiquiri. Keep swapping things around and tweaking proportions and you’ll get a Margarita, a Jack Rose, a Wild-Eyed Rose, a Sidecar… endless variations. Jerry Thomas first covered Sours in his 1862 book and just about every cocktail book since then has featured a version. I’ve uncovered a baffling array of recipes called “Whiskey Sour” – tall with soda in a Collins glass, frappe-style with blended crushed ice and Angostura bitters in a fizz glass, whiskey-forward on the rocks, citrus-forward up in a cocktail glass, and more. The original was surely just whiskey, lemon, and sugar, most likely on the rocks. Two hitchhikers this drink picked up along the way make a great addition: egg white and Angostura bitters. The egg brings body and texture, the Angostura helps mask the wet-dog smell that egg foam sometimes gets (plus it adds those delicious cinnamon and clove spices). Try it this way, then feel free to fiddle around with it, coming up with your own spin.
Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Fine-mesh strainer
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass or coupe
Spirits: Bourbon whiskey (recommended: Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey 81, Four Roses “Yellow Label”)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Simple syrup, Egg white
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Angostura bitters, Lemon wheel, Maraschino cherry
Chill a cocktail glass or coupe in the freezer at least ten minutes. Separate one egg, discarding the yolk. Lightly mix the egg white with a fork – this’ll help you measure it out.
In an empty shaker, add:
2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz egg whites
Make sure you have a good, tight seal (egg whites can foam up and expand when shaken). Shake without ice for 20 seconds to blend. Add a few ice cubes and shake again, hard, for at least 30 seconds. Double-strain into the chilled glass using a fine-mesh strainer.
Allow the egg foam to rise to the top (you can also spoon some residual foam out from the shaker) and, in a ring, drop:
8 drops Angostura bitters
Swirl the Angostura bitters with a cocktail pick to decorate the top of the drink. Garnish with a lemon wheel and Maraschino cherry pinned together with a cocktail pick.