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Cocktail Corner: Daiquiri

It’s a story I’ve told many times, but I suppose it’s worth telling again; the reason why I decided to abstain from drinking rum for the past five years is because of a single instance in which a series of rum and Cokes one night nearly made me keep my promise of swearing off drinking for life. It was only recently that I bit the bullet and added a bottle of dark rum to my mini-bar. I now have a new appreciation for this tropical spirit though. It’s more versatile than I ever realized, certainly more so than tequila. There’s also a number of classic, history-filled drinks that use rum as its base. One of those drinks is the daiquiri, a cocktail that has interesting 100+ year old Caribbean origins.

The original daiquiri is really just a rum gimlet.


2 parts light rum
1/2 part lime juice
Dash of Simple Syrup
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled martini or margarita glass.

Though now days it seems as if daiquiri’s are almost always served frozen and with pureed fruit, the original daiquiri was no more than rum, lime and sugar. The origins of the daiquiri date all the way back to the 19th century. The drink was probably already a popular Cuban cocktail when American troops landed in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898. While stationed in Daiquiri Beach, Cuba, American troops likely enjoyed the cocktail and brought the recipe back to the States. A Miami Herald article from 1937 claimed that Admiral Lucius Johnson officially brought the drink home in 1909 when he introduced the cocktail to the Army and Navy Club in Washington DC. It was supposedly Johnson who named the drink a Daiquiri after the beach in which the troops landed.

Much like Hemingway and the Jack Rose, the mention of the daiquiri in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s generation shaping 1920 novel This Side of Paradise, made sure that the cocktail would live on forever. In This Side of Paradise, the protagonist drinks a particularly lethal round of double daiquiris that gives poor unstable Amory hallucinations. Like being featured in a cable TV show in modern times, the inclusion of the daiquiri in such a popular novel in the early 20th century helped make the drink one of most famous cocktails of its time.

Sadly enough, the popularity of the original daiquiri has fallen so much over the years that most bartenders will assume that when a patron orders a daiquiri they want a frozen slushee with rum in it. The frozen daiquiri isn’t necessarily the bastard child of the original though, it actually has interesting origins in Cuba as well. Havana bartender Constante Ribailagua is credited for having both perfected the original daiquiri and creating the frozen concoction at the famed El Floridita bar in pre-Castro Cuba. One of the regulars at El Floridita was none other than Ernest Hemingway himself. Hemingway was apparently a daiquiri lover who even had his own special daiquiri cocktail named after him (ice, no sugar). Hemingway described Ribailagua’s frozen daiquiri in the late ’30s, saying that it “looks like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots.”

Frozen daiquiris certainly have their place.

Many accounts of Ribailagua’s early frozen daiquiri describe it far differently than the modern slurpee like drink. 1948’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks describes the drink in detail,

“His limes were gently squeezed with his fingers lest even a drop of the bitter oil from the peel get into the drink; the cocktails were mixed (but not overmixed)…. The stinging cold drink was strained through a fine sieve into the glass so that not one tiny piece of ice remained in it. No smallest detail was overlooked in achieving the flawless perfection of the drink.”

Though the modern day frozen daiquiri seems to be a far cry from its rich origins, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for it. I tend to like both versions of the classic cocktail myself. I think a lot of people will agree that the only thing that is really important when enjoying or creating a daiquiri is that it contains plenty of rum.

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