“A true test of any bartender is a well-made daiquiri,” shares Ian Alexander, bar director of The Dead Rabbit in New York City. “If they can balance those three simple ingredients and really make them sing, you’re in good hands.”
In other words: Move aside, subpar and sickly-sweet renditions. The original daiquiri is not to be forgotten.
Made with familiar ingredients, the classic daiquiri is an elegant, balanced drink with a thirst-quenching, citrusy profile that fans of the gimlet and Tommy’s Margarita ought to enjoy.
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What Is a Daiquiri?
The daiquiri is a classic cocktail made with three ingredients—rum, lime juice and some kind of sweetener—and is typically served in a stemmed cocktail glass over ice. Thanks to its inherent simplicity and endless interpretations, the daiquiri is easy to learn but difficult to master.
“With a three-ingredient cocktail, everything needs to be just right,” explains Neal Bodenheimer, bar owner and co-author of Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’Em from the Award-Winning Bar. Factors to consider range from one’s choice of sweetener and rum to the drink’s pH and Brix levels, which all contribute to the drink’s overall flavor profile.
According to Bodenheimer, traditional recipes call for fresh lime juice, sugar (instead of simple syrup) and Cuban rum—a clear spirit that allows the lime juice’s pale shade to shine through, contributing to the daiquiri’s delicate chartreuse color.
The Origins of the Daiquiri
It’s undisputed that the original daiquiri originated in 19th-century Cuba. The exact details of its invention, however, are up for debate. Two wartime legends hold, although both attribute the drink’s name to its invention in the small village of Daiquirí east of the city of Santiago de Cuba.
The first involves American military officer William Shafter during the Spanish-American War. According to And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, Shafter came ashore to Cuba in 1898 and sampled a grog of sorts—a muddled combination of rum, lime juice and sugar—and proclaimed it was missing one element in the daiquiri’s now-codified formula: ice.
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More common is a second tale involving American mining engineer Jennings Cox. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol: Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives, author Scott C. Martin notes that Cox’s creation was the result of a compromise: with no gin or whiskey to serve guests after a long day’s work, he resorted to local rum. After a lively shaking with lime juice and sugar, the daiquiri was born.
As the story goes, Cox frequently served drinks out of his home to American soldiers. After trying one of Cox’s famous daiquiris in 1909, Admiral Lucius W. Johnson Johnson brought the recipe (and large quantities of local Bacardi rum) back to the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. The club quickly adopted the daiquiri as its official house drink and renamed its bar the Daiquiri Lounge, which still exists today.
The original daiquiri has since become one of America’s favorite cocktails. Tart and refreshing, the lime-rum combination is especially enjoyed in summertime.
How to Make a Daiquiri
Recipe by Jacy Topps
- 2 ounces light rum
- 1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- Lime twist, for garnish
Add the rum, lime juice and simple syrup to a shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime twist.
How to Make a Frozen Daiquiri?
It’s relatively easy to make slushie versions of the daiquiri. The main tool you’ll require? A blender. Just be mindful of the ratio of ingredients to ice, which is key to achieving the frozen drink’s desired consistency. Here’s our recipe for a frozen Hemingway daiquiri, which calls for blending its components—roughly 2.5 ounces of alcohol, two ounces of citrus juices and one ounce of simple syrup—with one cup of ice.
What Is the Best Rum for a Daiquiri?
The classic daiquiri calls for a light Cuban-style rum. However, modern Cuban-style rums are different from those popular during the drink’s heyday in the 1920s, a result of changes in production methods. To that end, it’s virtually impossible to identically replicate Cox’s original concoction, as noted in the Washington Post.
That said, you can get close. To mimic the traditional style, Bodenheimer recommends using a rum blend with complexity, such as Banks 5 Island or Denizen 3. “I think it’s the easiest way to take a simple cocktail and put some depth into it,” he notes. Alexander follows a similar route, opting for a house blend of white rhums. (Rhum, or rhum agricole, is distilled from sugar-cane juice rather than molasses.)
What Are Variations of the Daiquiri?
The daiquiri’s simple, three-ingredient formula lends itself to several variations. Among them are the strawberry daiquiri, a bright and fruity summertime staple. There’s also this modern take on the strawberry daiquiri, which ropes in earthy mezcal and spiced Fernet Branca. The moody Commodore daiquiri goes in different direction, with ube extract lending a deep purple hue, while the Navy Strength daiquiri channels anise, licorice, fennel, mint and other herbaceous flavors with a few dashes of absinthe. Meanwhile, the Autumn daiquiri conjures pumpkin patches and sweater weather with a spiced cinnamon syrup.
Also worth noting is the Hemingway daiquiri, a sweeter spin on the original that incorporates grapefruit juice and Maraschino liqueur. Literary icon and drinks connoisseur Ernest Hemingway took a liking to the cocktail (originally named “Papa Doule”) at the Floridita Bar in Havana.
Last Updated: September 22, 2023