Ask anyone from the North Pole to Tierra del Fuego about the Daiquiri, and she will probably say, “I love Daiquiris. I drink them all the time.” Chances are the version she’s drinking is a frozen Daiquiri, and perhaps one with strawberry, banana, or some fruit other than just lime tossed into the blender. This is fine if you like slushy drinks. (Slushy drinks are enjoying a cocktail renaissance at the moment and, during these dog days of summer, may be just what the doctor ordered!) But we’re here to proffer a less noisy interpretation of the original Daiquiri, one that doesn’t involve worrying about having enough ice in the freezer, or a blender that is sturdy enough to grind it to fine crystals; one that goes back to its roots as one of “six basic cocktails” according to David A. Embury is his seminal mid-20th-century classic The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.
In his recipe, he mixes two ounces of rum with a half ounce of lime juice, and a quarter ounce of simple syrup, making the finished product a little tart to the uninitiated. No offense to Mr. Embury and his mandate for imbibing pre-prandial drinks on the drier side, but the palate has changed thanks to the disco era’s swirl of cavity-inducing cocktails, and as a result, we crave drinks a little sweeter. But don’t worry, we only use a tablespoon of sugar per drink, which is double the amount Mr. Embury decrees. (And if you wish to keep with tradition and invoke his recipe to the letter, by all means do. It is your drink, after all, and we won’t mind one iota.)
What we discovered when trying to come up with the perfect recipe for the Daiquiri, one that would work with a variety of party food, isn’t really the amount of sugar or light rum in the drink, but the quality of the lime. Pick the freshest one you can find, one so fresh that, when you cut it in half, the oils from the peel mix with the pulpy juice and instantly hit your nose with the smell of its fresh limy essence. After you toss some wedges into a mixing glass along with the white sugar crystals and muddle the heck out of the pair, you will be left with the most delicious juice possible. The oils are released from the sugar crystals abrading the lime peel, and they dissolve in the chartreuse-colored juice.
But what about the strangely spelled name daiquiri? Where does it come from? A little Web-sleuthing reveals that the name derives from Daiquirí (die-key-REE), a beach and an iron mine in Santiago, Cuba, where it was putatively invented by American mining engineer Jennings Cox, who happened to be in Cuba at the time of the Spanish-American War. As the twentieth century progressed, and relations with Latin American countries, such as Cuba, prospered, rum consumption grew, and the Daiquiri, as well as all things Latin American, spiked in popularity.
Although perfect for any time of year, summer feels rather appropriate for a Daiquiri. The commingling of juice and oil from the limes lends itself to rather remarkable food pairings, especially Guacamole with Chips, and Shrimp Cocktail. ¡Salud!
2 ounces light rum
1/2–1 tablespoon sugar (depending on how sweet you like them)
Cut the lime into wedges and add to a shaker. Sprinkle sugar on top. Muddle vigorously, extracting all the juice from the lime, allowing the sugar to dissolve. Add rum and ice. Shake for 15 seconds and strain (or double-strain if you do not want any tiny stray bits of lime pulp – although, if serving with party food, the little lime pulp bits may add flavor nuances) into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe.
Guacamole and Chips
photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz