Bright red, blended ice, overly sweet, and too much rum. I’m talking about the Strawberry Daiquiri. That is what I and probably a lot of other people remember thinking of when we heard the word ‘daiquiri.’
Luckily, times have changed and craft cocktails have saved of us from these atrocities. A true daiquiri is a classic sour; a simple ratio of spirit, sour, and sweet; 2:1:1. When made correctly, it’s tart but sweet with a kick of booze, and it’s not necessarily easy to make right. For some, it’s a drink to order to know if the bartender knows what they are doing. And from this point forward, it should be the drink everyone thinks about when they hear the word daiquiri.
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The History of the Daiquiri
The daiquiri has a somewhat credible history, however, I’m still on the fence. Until I can go back in time and see it for myself, I am going to hold on to a bit of skepticism. That said, here is a brief history of the daiquiri as we know it.
- 1896 – Jennings Cox, an American expatriate working as a mining engineer, in the small Cuban village of Daiquiri, was set to entertain friends but ran out of gin. Instead of serving straight rum, he decided to add juice and sugar to make it more palatable. He named it after the village and it became a local hit, although, some dispute Cox’s claim stating it was already a Cuban specialty or that he was aided by a Cuban engineer named Pagliuchi. Then…
- 1909 – Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, a US Navy medical officer, had a taste of Cox’s concoction. So enamored with the drink, he brought the recipe to the Army & Navy Club in Washington DC and the world. He had the navy introduce sour to the seaman’s rum to help fight off scurvy.
- 1920 – The drink is so popular by now that F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned it in “This Side of Paradise.”
Another interesting piece of history, a big supporter of the daiquiri was the larger than life literary leviathan, Ernest Hemingway. There is even a Hemingway Daiquiri. He liked his daiquiris without sugar. The Hemingway version of the drink originated at La Floridita Bar in Havana, Cuba and morphed over time into what we know it as today. It’s said he once drank 16 of them in a sitting.
The Present Day Daiquiri
The daiquiri is held in high regard by many bartenders. Although a simple drink, it is difficult to make a well-balanced daiquiri without proper technique and knowing how to balance flavors. I have heard some establishments use it as a part of their hiring process for bartenders. And some use the daiquiri as a “Bartender’s Handshake,” serving the drink to the staff before the start of a shift, as a drink to give to visiting industry staff, or a well-liked patron. After being revealed in a New York Times article, the “Snaquiri,” a smaller pour of the bartender’s handshake originating in 2010 at Dutch Kills in NYC, became a big hit amongst the bartending world.
Making a Daiquiri
The daiquiri is three ingredients; rum, fresh lime juice, and sugar or simple syrup. And because it is so simple with only three ingredients, you need to have the right proportions and the right flavors or they will be noticed instantly. To make a good-tasting daiquiri yourself, consider each ingredient and ask yourself:
- Which rum will I use? Some rums are sweeter than others and you need to tweak your proportion of sugar to suit the overall drink.
- What kind of limes am I using e.g., key limes or regular Persian limes? Not all limes are the same; some are more tart than others, while others are sweeter. It’s good practice to taste your lime juice first to know their level of sweetness to tartness.
- How much lime juice is needed to complement the rum and sugar? If there is too much lime juice the drink can be overpoweringly tart. And too much could mean a quarter ounce too much, which is very little in the grand scheme of things.
- Are you using simple syrup or granulated sugar? What kind of simple syrup is it? If you are using a rich simple syrup as opposed to a standard simple syrup then you may want to use less due to it being sweeter. If you are using granulated sugar it may take longer for the sugar to incorporate into the drink.
In the end, it all comes down to taste and knowing your ingredients before you start mixing.
Shaken with ice
This is a shaken drink, so ice is an integral part of the recipe. Back when I was in my strawberry daiquiri days, ice was “
It all comes down to temperature, aeration, and dilution. You want to chill the drink down, but you also want to control the dilution. I tend to shake with either a few filtered one-inch cubes, a large 2-inch cube, or even a large sphere if that is all I have.
In Cocktail Codex there are some tips for shaking a cocktail with ice.
- Large cube (2.5-inch cubes): Start with a slow speed and work up to a quick pace that you can sustain for ten seconds. Keeping in mind that your shake is a circular motion. You don’t want to slam the cube back and forth. Try an arcing motion to swirl the cube and liquid around one another. How you shake it, one-handed, side-armed, in front of your chest, two-handed over your shoulder, that is up to you. Now take about ten seconds to slow down. 15-20 seconds total.
- Medium cube (1-inch cubes): Add the ice to the small tin until the liquid reaches the top. Place the large tin over the top and seal the two together. Now using your own technique of shaking/swirling the drink around the ice, shake. About 10 seconds in total.
- Store bought ice or small cubed freezer ice: Fill the small tin with ice till the liquid reaches the top. Then fill the large
tinabout a quarter full of ice. Seal the tins together and shake in your own style as fast as you can. About 5 seconds.
Dave Arnold, in Liquid Intelligence The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail, also ran the numbers and did the tests on shaking ice. Here are a few of his findings:
- Whatever ice you shake with it helps to shake off any excess water on the ice. Do this by placing the ice in the large tin and placing a Hawthorne strainer over the top. Bang the tin down on a hard surface and pour out any water. Now transfer your ice to the small tin.
- Shaking should last anywhere from 8-12 seconds. Less than 8 seconds and your drink may be under diluted. Over 12 seconds there is no real change other than wasting your energy.
- For best texture use a large 2-inch cube along with a couple of small cubes.
Building your drink
Anytime you are building a drink, build the drink in the small tin starting with the cheapest ingredients first. This way, if you mess up early on it won’t cost you as much by starting with the cheaper ingredients.
Now onto the recipe.
After straining into a nicely chilled coupe glass you should have a fantastic daiquiri. Your own personal technique will come with time just keep practicing. Invite friends over. I know for a fact they will be more than willing to help you make a perfect daiquiri.
I know this seems like an easy cocktail to make, but I assure you it does take practice. Once you find your rhythm and perfect your timing, it’s time to start branching out, and you should try out some of these other classics within the sour/daiquiri family.
- Bee’s Knees
- Jack Rose
- Whiskey Sour
- Tom Collins
And once you’ve tried these recipes out, it’s time to start experimenting with your own creations.