I have to admit, I pity the daiquiri. Never has a cocktail been so misunderstood.
Most likely, when you hear the word “daiquiri”, you picture some fluorescent pink concoction churning around in a machine. And most guys wouldn’t be caught dead ordering it in a bar. “Uh yes, I’d like the strawberry daiquiri—the sweeter the better. And if you could put one of those pretty little umbrellas in it….”
The truth is, the original, classic daiquiri is worlds apart from that awful 7-11 slushy you might be used to. And in fact, the classic daiquiri is anything but a “girly drink.”
It may surprise you that the daiquiri is actually one of the oldest cocktails, dating back to the 1900’s, when it was said to have been invented by an American mining engineer in Cuba.
The daiquiri stands alongside other classic cocktails like the martini or the manhattan in the way that it allows the quality of the liquor to really shine through. It’s practically a study in minimalism: the basic components are just rum, sugar, lime juice and ice.
It’s a great drink for a hot summer afternoon. And make no mistake, even though its fruity derivatives have given it a bad wrap as a girly drink, the classic daiquiri is not for lightweights. It can pack a real punch if you’re not paying attention.
What’s great about the basic daiquiri is its sheer simplicity. Here’s the basic recipe:
2 parts rum
1 part simple syrup
1 part fresh lime juice
Combine the ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously. It’s traditionally served up, though I like to have it on the rocks.
So easy, right?
Besides its simplicity, the other reason it’s great is that this fundamental formula allows you to make tons of drinks.
The daiquiri follows the basic formula outlined in one of my favorite cocktail books, DIY Cocktails: 2 parts strong, 1 part sweet, 1 part sour. Cocktails are all about achieving balance, and this cocktail formula is the essence of balance. The booze is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the simple syrup and the sourness of the lime juice.
Knowing this formula allows you to experiment and create new drinks on the fly. If you substitute bourbon for the rum and lemon juice for the lime juice, you’ve got a whiskey sour. Add soda water and ice to that and you’ve got a John Collins. Replace the bourbon in that concoction with gin and your John Collins becomes a Tom Collins, and so on…
Ernest Hemingway famously created his own alternate to the classic daiquiri recipe, which he drank copious amounts of. You can see that his version loosely follows the classic daiquiri recipe, but with a few minor twists:
2 oz white rum
¾ oz lime juice
½ oz grapefruit juice
½ oz maraschino liqueur
His addition of the grapefruit replaces some of the sourness of lime, but also adds some sweetness. Instead of simple syrup, he opts for maraschino liqueur.
Ironically, the core daiquiri recipe is so simple and such a versatile base, it’s easy to see how the daiquiri became the fruity abomination that most people know it as today.
It’s so easy to tinker with—it’s basically the cocktail version of a Volkswagen Bug. The parts are so simple to understand that no one need be afraid to “get under the hood” and mess around. You can freely explore endless combinations. Substitute muddled fruit for some of the simple syrup…use grapefruit juice instead of lemon…then pretty soon someone asks, “Hey, what if we use crushed ice and blend it up together?” And before you know it you’ve got a slushy, fruity (albeit possibly delicious) concoction that looks like a girly drink.
Say what you will about the daiquiri. When you look at the latest bastardizations of it, you might just see a boozy slushy in a blender. But what I see is its roots: the solid, classic, cocktail that’s just aching for you to rediscover it.
So, Hemingway had his version. What will your contribution be? How will you tweak the daiquiri and make it uniquely yours? Leave a comment below with your ideas.
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