This wonderful cocktail, (I start to crave one as I write this at 10am), is a delicate balance of Rum, freshly squeezed lime juice and simple syrup.
Just as the simple omelet is considered a gauge of a Cook’s talent, a Bartender’s Daiquiri is a clue into a Bartender’s skill, methodology and education.
Substitute Gin for the Rum and you have a Gimlet. Substitute Tequila and add some orange liqueur - it’s a Margarita.
Maybe you feel like having a Daiquiri, but decide to serve it in a tall glass with ice and a bit of club soda plus some fresh mint. You just made a Mojito! Include the Seltzer, but leave out the mint, add some lemon juice and it’s a Tom Collins. The variations are virtually endless, and it is easy to invent new drinks based on what you have on hand with this base.
Lime juice a critical part of the drink. Forget about anything that comes prepackaged - freshly squeezed juice is the only option. Many people including myself do believe that keeping the juice in the refrigerator for about 4 hours produces the perfect juice. In fact Dave Arnold did a blind tasting with a group of Professional Bartenders who overwhelmingly chose a limeade made with juice that had been refrigerated for 4 hours over one with freshly squeezed juice.
After about 24 hours in the refrigerator, lime juice loses it fresh taste and becomes quite unpalatable.
We’ve talked about the Rum and the Lime Juice, now on to the sugar. Simple syrup of course is just granulated sugar dissolved in water in a proportion of 1:1. It’s important to measure, ideally by weight to ensure consistent results. Some Bartenders prefer a rich simple syrup for their Daiquiris, in a proportion of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Then you can experiment with different types of sugar. I prefer Demerara, (think Sugar in the Raw). It does affect the color of the drink slightly, but I think the taste is worth it.
As previously mentioned, the cocktail is shaken with ice, not only to chill the drink, but to dilute it with water. You may hear that a shaken cocktail should be 20% water, but referencing again Sasha Petraske, he would encourage his protégées to think in terms of the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of the finished drink. This takes into consideration the alcohol content of the Rum, which varies a bit from brand to brand.
In the Bartending community there is much talk about the size and “quality” of various types of ice. In the great book Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail author Dave Arnold states there is no difference in the quality of the finished drink whether using small hollow cubes, (known as “hotel ice”) and 1 ¼” solid cubes from a Kold-Draft ice machine. However he was surprised by his own experiment when using 2” ice cube the drink had a noticeably nice head and texture. His recommendation is now to use a 2” cube plus a few smaller “agitator” cubes. The conclusion hast to be that with the larger cube the drink is shaken longer to reach the proper temperature and dilution, and therefore more air is introduced.
One wild card - I personally like to add a few drops of a saline solution made by dissolving some sea salt in warm water. I store it in a dropper bottle which ensures I don’t ruin the drink with too much salt. I find this little bit of salinity works great in many cocktails, but especially well in the Daiquiri. Maybe it’s a hint of the sea air...
So on the surface it would seem to be a simple cocktail, but as we dig deeper into what makes up this drink wonderful we see that there are subtleties that affect the final product.
The origins of many cocktails is murky and difficult to trace. For example there is a story that the Manhattan originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the 1870s, where it was invented at a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston. The event was held to celebrate the election of Samuel J. Tilden as governor of New York State. However in his book Imbibe, David Wondrich disproved this by showing that Lady Churchill was actually was busy giving birth to Winston in England at the time.
In the case of the Daiquiri however, there is a written recipe dating back to the end of the 19th century.
The Daiquiri was apparently invented by an American mining engineer, named Jennings Cox, who was in Cuba after the Spanish–American War (1898). As the legend goes - while he was entertaining guests one night, Mr. Cox ran out of gin. Rum was produced on the island and easy to find. He procured some Rum added lemons, sugar, mineral water, and ice. His guests loved it, and wanted to know what it was called. It could easily have been named a Rum Sour, but he decided this delicious drink deserved a better name. He called it a Daiquiri after the nearby beach.
The Daiquiri became widely consumed in Cuba by American military and business people. It was introduced to Washington D.C. at the Army-Navy Club around 1909, supposedly by U.S. Navy Admiral Lucius Johnson.
Hugo Ensslin’s self-published book Recipes For Mixed Drinks, originally released in 1916 has a Daiquiri recipe. He called it the “Cuban Cocktail”, but according to David Wondrich he changed it to “Daiquiri” in a later edition.
Ensslin’s recipe is:
Philip Green who wrote To Have and to Have Another - A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, is a fascinating guy. He was our guest on Bartender Journey #181.