Are the daiquiris you’ve seen colorful? Colorful in kind of a creepy way? Served in a tulip glass? Strawberry-flavored?
That’s not a real daiquiri.
But you needn’t worry. Help is on the way.
A real daiquiri, bless its rummy heart, belongs to the pantheon of classic cocktails that are true testaments to the sum and quality of their parts. It’s easier to screw up because it’s so simple—fudge one of the measurements, and it’ll end up too sweet or too sour or too rummy. If you’re somewhere nice, please order one. If you’re somewhere even nicer, order one with rhum agricole (rum’s funky, aged, a-little-bit-eccentric cousin). No matter what, a daiquiri should only consist of three things: lime juice (fresh), sugar (Demerara), and good (white) rum.
The Questionable Birth of the Daiquiri
Some attribute the creation of this drink to an American engineer in dire straits before a cocktail party he was hosting in Cuba. That is almost certainly not true—rum, limes, and sugar were all native to Cuba and South and Central America long before the engineer’s incident. (In 1896, this man, Jennings Cox, apparently found himself without his beloved gin but surrounded by rum, limes, and sugar. You get the idea).
Named after a little town in Cuba, the daiquiri is almost identical to Brazil’s national drink, the caipirinha, except it’s served up instead of on the rocks. Both are glorious and refreshing when done right, though the caipirinha is traditionally made with cachaça, another one of rum’s terrific but less popular cousins.
Too Good to Keep a Secret
A daiquiri, done right, is a revelation. It’s arguably the perfect drink on a hot day and very easy to drink quickly. It’s easy enough to make and delicious enough to warrant craving. I bet you’re thinking about drinking one right now.
Drunken sailors are largely responsible for rum’s discovery, distribution, and eventual rise in popularity around the globe. It was even a naval officer who brought the drink to the US, where it made its debut at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, DC. (You can still order one there!)
But back to the daiquiri. No one really knows why it got bastardized as it did, but it’s likely that Ernest Hemingway is somehow to blame. The Hemingway daiquiri still exists, but it is not a blended frappé of corn syrup, bad rum, and frozen strawberries. It’s close (add grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur and pour over shaved ice) and it’s pink-ish, but comparing the two is like slating a Maserati against a Mazda. I’ll let you decide which is which.
Recipe: The Hemingway Daiquiri
1 ½ oz. white rum
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. fresh grapefruit juice
¼ oz. simple syrup (1:1 water to sugar, dissolved)
¼ oz. Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Build all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain over crushed ice in a ridiculous glass. Garnish with a grapefruit peel. Best served somewhere very hot, like the plains of Africa.
Recipe: The Classic Daiquiri
2 oz. white rum
1 oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
Build all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, garnish with a lime wheel. Serve. Drink. Repeat.
If You’re Thirsty But Want Someone Else to Make Your Drink
As I said before, if you’re somewhere nice, you should order a daiquiri. Somewhere nice that knows how to make good cocktails, mind you. These places are a safe bet:
Lost Lake, Chicago, IL
Though Lost Lake is a tiki bar (a very good one run by Chicago’s veritable tiki king, Paul McGee), the bartenders there make a different daily daiquiri. The bar has such an impressive selection of rum, it literally has a rum club. Since the daily daiquiri is always made using the classic recipe, the only thing that changes is the rum. But at $8, it’s a surprise that cannot possibly do you wrong.
Rum Club, Portland, OR
It’s called Rum Club—I mean, come on. Its signature daiquiri isn’t exactly a classic, but what is life without adventure? (Not worth living.) It’s made with Bacardi 8 aged rum, fresh lime juice, maraschino, Demerara syrup, Angostura bitters, and a little absinthe, just to keep things interesting.
Anvil Bar and Refuge, Houston, TX
Anvil’s bartenders are super knowledgeable, and they’ve dedicated themselves not only to a short list of rotating house cocktails but also a very long list, which they’ve named, aptly, The 100 List. If you couldn’t guess why, it’s because it’s a list of 100 classic cocktails the bar keeps consider to be staples—and one of those is a daiquiri. You can also order a caipirinha! Order both! Compare! Live a little!
Photo by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon