The Daiquiri in 3 versions; one as it’s said to have been made in 1898, one from 1937 as made in El Floridita, Havana, and a present day version, using lime super juice. Unlike many classic cocktails, this Cuban cocktail, made with rum, lime and sugar, has plenty of written history. But the question is, how much of it is real?
We’ll look at the evolution of the Daiquiri and some interesting stories surrounding one of my favorite summer drinks, then I’ll give you the recipes to make, enjoy and compare 3 versions of it.
Most written stories about the creation of the Daiquiri point to the time of the Spanish-American war of 1898 in Cuba. But with rum, lime and cane sugar being so prevalent there, it’s highly unlikely these ingredients weren’t mixed before. Even sailors drank Grog, a mixture of rum, water, and lime juice, as far back as the 18th century. But as cocktails were generally an American phenomenon it makes sense that the first cocktail books and articles to write the recipe for the Daiquiri gave the credit to an American - Jennings Stockton Cox.
He was an engineer at an iron mine in the village of Daiquiri, near Santiago de Cuba. Even with him, there are many stories of how he supposedly came up with the cocktail, with a Cuban engineer named F. D. Pagliuchi stating that Cox swapped whiskey and at first simply called it a Rum Sour, as a Carribean version of the popular Whiskey Sour from his homeland. Some stories and recipes say Cox ran out of gin when entertaining American guests, and didn’t want to serve pure rum, so he mixed in sugar and lime. A recipe, claimed to be from his own diary, appears to show a cocktail more resembling a punch (with added water and made for 6 people), than the typical sour variant we know today.
The popular story is that Jennings Cox and his engineering friends were in Santiago de Cuba, at the Cafe Venus, drinking their favorite concoction. As written by Basil Woon, in his wonderfully titled 1928 book, “When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba” Cox realized they haven’t named this cocktail yet. On the spot, he supposedly suggested the name Daiquiri, for the village and mine they all worked at. The first version of the cocktail we’ll make will be as written in this book. The Daiquiri was brought to the US in 1909 when a U.S. naval officer Lucius Johnson visited Cox and fell in love with the daiquiri and later introduced it to the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C., where they even opened the Daiquiri Lounge (which still exists today).
And we can’t talk about the history of this drink without mentioning the work of Facundo Bacardí and his Bacardi Carta Blanca. He came to Cuba from Spain (in 1830) and in 1863 he acquired a rum distillery, using column distillation, light aging in white oak barrels and charcoal filtering to create what was soon simply called a Cuban Rum - a lighter, smoother and tastier version of the molasses spirit. Bacardi had to move its production to Puerto Rico because of the Cuban Revolution, but I think it’s still appropriate to use it for the original recipe.
Facundo Bacardi died in 1886 so stories saying he was passing around the recipe used by Cox and his friends (see below) has a few gaping holes. But that never stopped anyone in the history of cocktails, so let’s continue. We follow the recipe from “When it’s Cocktail Time in Cuba”, using cane sugar and lime, even if some of the earliest recipes called for lemon, mistakenly translating límon to lemon.
As David Ambury put it - “lemons are almost unknown in Cuba, whereas lime trees grow in everyone’s own yard.”
Let’s make the Daiquiri as it’s said to have been made in 1898, as per Basil Woon:
“The Daiquiri is now the best-known drink in Cuba. This recipe for the real Daiquiri was given to me by Facundo Bacardi and confirmed by of the men who was present at the christening:
● half one lime, squeezed onto one teaspoonful of sugar;
● pour in one whiskey-glassful (60 ml) of Bacardi (Carta Blanca);
● plenty of ice;
● shake until the shaker is thoroughly frosted outside.
● Meanwhile, chill a tall wine-glass of the kind known as “flute”, fill it with shaved ice, and pour in the mix-ture. Must be drunk frozen or it is not good.”
Two persons are mainly responsible for that, one of course being Ernest Hemingway, the famous author and a true ambassador for Daiquiris (sounds better than saying he was an alcoholic, right?). But it was a bartender and later owner of El Floridita, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, nicknamed Constante, who revolutionized Daiquiris by using a blender and creating many versions of the Daiquiris still served at El Floridita to this day.
As seen in the 1937 edition of the Floridita Cocktail Book (then called El Florida) 4 versions of the Daiquiri were listed, including number 3 with grapefruit, which later became the Hemingway Special, and Number four, with a teaspoon of Maraschino. That's the version I’ll make next, using a blender to create a cocktail I’ve had the pleasure of tasting when visiting this historic establishment myself back in 2018. Grab a blender and let’s make The Daiquiri Number 4.
The 1937 book stated “Marti” rum for the number 4 Daiquiri. That's likely due to the ad for the same rum seen a few pages back. In the 1939 book Havana Club was used and that is still used today.
Daiquiri NUM 4:
● 2 Ounces (60 ml) Rum (Havana Club 3y)
● 1 spoonful Sugar
● 1 teaspoonful Maraschino
● juice of ½ Lime
● cracked ice (in the amount of the glass you’ll serve it in). Serve frappe Blend everything thoroughly, then simply pour the drink into the glass, like Constante did over 80 years ago. And don’t forget a short straw.
The frozen Daiquiris were later modified in the US to make many fruit variants in a slushy form, which are still sold in the so-called daiquiri shops. We’ll skip this mid-20th century creation and focus on a modern interpretation of this classic 3-ingredient cocktail.
David Embury stated that Constante made over 10 million Daiquiris and squeezed over 80 million limes while doing so. While that’s admirable, he could have saved himself a lot of work if he knew about Super Juice. I’ve talked about this this revolutionary technique,
(created by Nickle Morris of the Bar Expo in Kentucky), which brings more lime flavor for a fraction of the price and waste; but it’s the zesty lime flavor which makes for a truly refreshing Daiquiri. That will pair nicely with the white rum I chose for this version: Diplomatico Planas, Venezuelan rum, aged up to 6 years and charcoal filtered, bottled at 47% ABV. With fresh, tropical aromas and subtle notes of coconut it will make a Daiquiri of your perfect summer.
Place a coupe glass in the freezer, grab a shaker, and let’s make the Daiquiri.
● 60 mL (2 oz) Diplomatico Planas
● 22.5 mL (0.75 oz) simple syrup
● 22.5 mL (0.75 oz) lime super juice
● 2 drops of saline solution (20%)
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake vigorously to chill and dilute. Once you’re done grab the chilled glass from the freezer and double strain to keep out all of the small pieces of ice. No need for the garnish, because the super juice adds enough citrus aroma.
Now try all of them and let me know what you think! You’ve seen the evolution of over 100 years of the Daiquiri. Cheers!
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To make it easier for you to try these recipes you can grab the bottles from my collection at CURIADA