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Food & Drink | The Daiquiri - Cocktail Hour - Apéritif Time

Food & Drink | The Daiquiri - Cocktail Hour - Apéritif Time

Tart, slightly sweet, boozy and refreshingly delicious - no, not Lily Allen, the Daiquiri. Last week we looked at the Cuba Libre and this week we're staying in Caribbean rum & lime territory - but for an altogether more potent mix. The Daiquiri (pronounced Dackery) is one of the most misunderstood, messed-about-with classic cocktails made today, with bartenders bludgeoning the simple, bright, citrus-rich cocktail into all sorts of saccharine blender-slush. (I blame TGI Fridays, hen parties and Ibiza). The important thing to remember is a real daiquiri has just three ingredients: rum, lime and sugarcane syrup, and then it is shaken. No strawberries, no ice cream, no whisked egg white and no blender are required. Keep it simple.

The recipe

  • 2 pts Light rum. I'm going with HSE from the northern tip of Martinique.

  • 1 pt Lime juice, freshly squeezed

  • ½ pt Simple sugar syrup

  • Ice

  • Slice of lime for the garnish

Method:

Couldn't be simpler: pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well, and serve in a coupe or a Martini glass garnished with a slice of lime.

HSE rum from Martinique

A note on “Agricole” rum

The labels on some rums from French Caribbean islands like Martinique (above) and Guadeloupe declare it to be “Rhum Agricole”. This means it is distilled from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than from molasses. The word “Agricole” doesn't denote that it's of an inferior ‘agricultural’ quality - quite the opposite in fact: it is generally regarded as being of higher quality and is invariably stronger: 40–55% and in some cases as much as 70% alcohol ! So beware and check the numbers if you're lining up a rum cocktail session.

As we saw in last week's outing on the Cuba Libre, rum is the quintessential spirit of the Caribbean because it is made from sugarcane, a staple crop in the islands for centuries. The Daiquiri also features rum, as well as limes and sugar syrup which are also natives of these islands. So the Daiquirí is a cocktail with a strong sense of place - you might almost say terroir. Furthermore it has this in common with most of the other classic cocktails. We have covered in this column the Old Fashioned - definitely Kentucky and Tennessee. The Margarita? Can't get more Mexican than that. The Manhattan: self evident. The Negroni? Despite its Londonian gin it's totally Turin, and maybe Milan, but necessarily northern Italy. Cuba Libre: obvious. The Martini is a bit more international but I would contend it's very London and/or New York. (See Chrystal.eu/Food&Drink) Compare these geo-specific classics to more recent frothy and ephemeral concoctions like the Cosmopolitan ...clue’s in the name: it's from everywhere and nowhere. We live in an age where international trade and internet shopping enable us to get drinks and ingredients from just about anywhere, so if a thyme liqueur from Greece suits my Moscow Mule with Mexican agave syrup it may make a palatable drinky but what heritage does it have?

(The Bloody Mary is an exception to my theory, being a fusion of Russian vodka and American tomato juice with Mediterranean lemon and, though first mixed in Paris, it can hardly claim to be French.)

The original Bacardi distillery in Santiago de Cuba

Origins

Daiquirí is the name of a beach and an iron ore mine just to the east of Santiago de Cuba, a town on the southern tip of Cuba. And it’s surely no coincidence that Santiago de Cuba is the location of the original Bacardi rum distillery that first fired up its stills in 1862.

The cocktail is said to have been invented by an American mining engineer by the name of Jennings Cox who was working at this iron ore mine at the time of the Spanish-American War of 1898, with the aim of protecting his workers from yellow fever. According to the archivist of BacardI, Juan Bergaz Pessino, both the lime and alcohol were thought to protect against this deadly disease. P.D. Pagliuchi, a veteran of the 1898 war, confirmed this saying:

“On the sideboard of the mine’s dining room, there was no gin or vermouth; all we could find was Bacardi rum, limes, sugar and ice. … With this material, Mr. Cox made up a cocktail, which was so shaken as to be very cold. It tasted fine, and I asked Cox, ‘What are you going to call it?’ ‘Rum Sour’ he said, “In the US, a drink made up of whiskey, lemon juice, sugar and ice is called a Whiskey Sour.” I answered him, ‘This is too long a name; it was invented at Daiquiri, so why not call it a Daiquiri?”
— P.D. Pagliuchi

(Ummm, excuse me Mr Pagliuchi, maybe you'd had a few daiquiris by this time, but I have to point out that Dai-qui-ri has more syllables than Rum Sour, so how d’you reckon its shorter?)

Although there is also a more prosaic possibility that Cox invented the drink when he ran out of gin at a party and began shaking local rum cocktails instead. And it doesn't take a mining engineer to work out that a cocktail as simple as this, using such local ingredients, probably predates Mr Cox - many a punch in the Caribbean must have contained rum, lime, sugar and water for decades (even centuries) before that. In any event, four years after Cox’s so-called invention a US congressman, William A. Chanler, purchased the Santiago iron ore mines in 1902 and thereby got to sample a few of Cox’s daiquiris. Chanler then introduced the daiquiri to clubs and bars in New York. But the drink remained small-time until 1909, when Rear Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, a US Navy medical officer, tried a daiquiri and, so smitten was he by it, introduced it to the bar of the Army and Navy Club in Washington, DC. And from there it's fame spread.

President John F. Kennedy with his brother Bobby (R)

The middle classes in America enthusiastically took to the daiquiri in the 1940’s: World War II rationing had made whiskey hard to come by but, thanks to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt's “Good Neighbor” policy, rum was easily obtainable as this initiative opened up trade and travel relations with Latin America, Cuba and the Caribbean. The Good Neighbor policy also helped make Latin America and the Caribbean fashionable, so rum-based drinks - once frowned upon as being the choice of sailors and hobos - also became fashionable. The daiquiri saw a tremendous rise in its popularity in the US during the middle of the 20th Century and, by extension, in Europe too as the American movers and shakers gave it celebrity status. It was one of the favorite drinks of President John F. Kennedy, for instance.

Fidel Castro with Ernest Hemingway in the 1960s

Ian Fleming, author/creator of James Bond, lived and wrote in Jamaica. He purchased 15 acres of land there in 1946 and built himself a villa which he named GOLDENEYE (naturally) on Oracabessa Bay on the northern coast of the island. Ex-Royal Navy and British Intelligence officer Fleming, who shared with Bond a penchant for a strong cocktail, made full use of the local rum: when entertaining he would adapt the standard daiquiri recipe, making it into a dangerous and potentially explosive drink:

“Into a large glass bowl put a whole peeled orange and whole peeled lime. Add several bottles of light rum, and light with a match.
— Ian Flemming

Ian Fleming in Jamaica

Don't try this at home, kids. History doesn't record how and when the blaze was put out, but one must assume this pyrotechnic effect gave the cocktail a certain caramelised, flambé flavour.

The basic recipe for a daiquiri is similar to the grog British sailors drank aboard Her Majesty’s ships from the 1740’s onwards, as a means of preventing scurvy. By 1795 the Royal Navy’s daily grog ration contained rum, water, 2 ounces of sugar and ¾ ounce of lemon or lime juice - that's how the Brits got the nickname “Limeys” from the Americans. This was a common drink across the Caribbean, and as soon as ice became available this was included instead of the water.


Variations

The simple honest daiquiri has been twisted into more than its fair share of permutations, from the perfectly reasonable to the completely bonkers - Banana Bubblegum Daiquiri Jell-O Shots anyone?

The Hemingway Daiquiri

Ernest Hemingway’s passport photo from the 1920s

Back in 1921, as a young man living in Cuba, Hemingway quickly became a fan of the daiquiri. But he preferred them not too sweet, and in 1921 legendary barman Constantino Ribailagua Vert at the El Floridita bar in Havana created this variation in honour of his most famous (and extremely good) customer: to the standard ingredients of rum, lime juice and sugarcane syrup he added a measure of grapefruit juice and a dash of Maraschino liqueur, made from Marasca cherries. This brings some tart grapefruit along with the perfume and low sweetness of Maraschino to the classic mix. Hemingway must have appreciated the gesture because he was reported to have once put away 13 doubles in one sitting! It's pretty clear that if Ernest Hemingway was alive today - Nobel prize winner, friend of the rich and famous and with that unquenchable thirst - the drinks companies would be jostling to sign him up as a Brand Ambassador. Due to the success of this modified daiquiri as well as Ribailagua Vert’s regular Daiquiris in the post-World War I era, the El Floridita became known as La Cuna del Daiquiri - The Cradle of the Daiquiri.

The Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba - The Cradle of the Daiquiri

One of the most popular derivative daiquiri cocktails (and clinging resolutely to the ‘reasonable’ end of the variation spectrum) is the Strawberry Daiquiri. While not a fan of the loud noise of a blender in the kitchen, I find it perfectly acceptable when whipping up a fresh batch of strawberry daiquiris. In 1922, Stephen Poplawski invented the blender, changing the evolution of cocktails (Ok, and cooking) forever. Although originally meant for drug-store malts and milkshakes, the blender found its true calling in the Strawberry Daiquiri.

  • 4 fresh strawberries, plus ½ strawberry for the garnish

  • 2 pts White rum

  • 1 pt Lime juice, freshly squeezed

  • ½ pt Sugar syrup

  • 1 tbsp Strawberry liqueur

Method

Put all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth. Decant into a beaker of crushed ice, and stir. Pour into a coupe glass and serve garnished with a strawberry. If your blender can stand it, put ice cubes into it along with the other ingredients, blitz, and crush the ice that way.

Strawberry daiquiris in their natural habitat

Mulata Daiquiri

Rum mixed with coffee liqueur and with fresh lime juice and the sugar syrup.

Banana daiquiri

Another timeless favourite that’s a lot of fun at summer parties.

  • 1 pt Light rum

  • 1 pt Dark rum

  • 1½ pts Lime juice, freshly squeezed

  • ½ part Sugar syrup

  • 1 or 2 Ripe bananas, according to size & taste

  • Crushed ice

Method

Put all ingredients into a blender; blend until smooth; serve.

A Banana Daiquiri

Despite its many modern variations, the Daiquiri remains one of the classics for a reason: its three-ingredient simplicity produces a very satisfying drink. So add this foolproof cocktail to your bartending arsenal and your friends will thank you.

Next week : We cruise over to New Orleans for a fragrant Ramos Gin Fizz. Join us for another drink.

Chin chin!

Milkshake? No, a Ramos Gin Fizz

Next Week on Chrystal.eu

More by David Prince

Disclaimer: This article is not for commercial ends and no gratuities were received from any products mentioned herein. Chrystal 2019

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