The Daiquiri has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity among professional and at-home bartenders alike. The original recipe, with a simple 3:2:1 ratio of rum, lime juice and simple syrup makes it easy to learn though hard to perfect, which is a significant factor in its allure.
Unlike most other well-liked cocktails, the Daiquiri’s origin and subsequent spread across the world is well-documented. There exists an original recipe card (conveniently batched for a little party) signed by a Mr. Jennings Cox in 1896 Cuba—an American engineer working on the island after the Spanish-American War—though he was by no means the first to combine rum, citrus, water and sugar. The British Royal Navy had been using a similar drink they called Grog to stave off scurvy for centuries, and other rum-citrus-sugar recipes existed in Cuba, like the predecessor of the Mojito, El Draque, invented by Sir Francis Drake nearly 500 years ago.
American naval officer Admiral Lucius W. Johnson is responsible for cocktail’s expansion to the U.S. He visited Cox in Cuba and liked the engineer’s signature drink so much he shared the recipe with the bartenders at Washington, D.C.’s Army and Navy Club in the early 1900s. From there, the drink underwent a few transformations. Before the First World War, the Daiquiri was served in a flute with ice. But Emilio “El Maragato” Gonzalez, bartender at the Hotel Plaza in Havana, decided to mix it up. He eliminated the water dilution from the original recipe, shaking the ingredients with ice and straining them into an empty coupe—the way it’s served today.
A decade or so after Gonzalez’s Daiquiri development, Constantino “Constante” Ribalaigua Vert, bartender and owner of Havana bar Floridita, began blending the recipe with shaved ice, inventing the frozen iteration. According to legend, Ernest Hemingway sauntered into the joint one evening and requested Vert’s cool concoction without sugar and twice the rum, supposedly throwing back 15 of the specially-requested cocktails in one sitting and giving rise to the original Hemingway Daiquiri. Now a Hemingway Daiquiri includes grapefruit juice and Maraschino liqueur, but the lore lives on.
Fruit blends and other “tropical” twists were added to the frozen recipe during the post-WWII Tiki craze of the 1940s 50s and many new versions were born. You can still find them in sandy beach bars, but you’re more likely to find intriguing, non-frozen versions in mostly landlocked establishments today that employ different rums and liqueurs to create interesting new iterations of the centuries-old recipe. Here are instructions for a few such variations from The Rum House on the northern end of New York City’s Times Square. As one of the bar’s founding partners and rum connoisseur Kenneth McCoy explains, “it’s a beautifully simple cocktail and we wanted to showcase some fun interpretations in honor of the classic drink.”
The Hemingway Daiquiri
2 oz Banks 5 Rum
.5 oz grapefruit juice
.5 oz lime juice
.25 oz Maraschino liqueur
.25 oz simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice before straining into a chilled coupe glass and garnishing with a lime wheel and Luxardo or Maraschino cherry.
1.5 oz Plantation Pineapple Rum
.5 oz Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum
.75 oz simple syrup
.75 oz lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice before straining into a chilled coupe glass and garnishing with a slice of pineapple.
2 oz Bacardi Anejo Quatro Rum
.75 oz cinnamon syrup
.5 oz lime juice
.25 oz orange juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice before straining into a chilled coupe glass and garnishing with an orange wedge.