Never in the history of cocktails has a more perfect libation suffered more lies and out-and-out abuse than the classic daiquiri.
First, let’s start with what a daiquiri is.
Originally, this cocktail was nothing but some lime juice and rum poured over a little sugar and, if you were lucky, ice. Eventually, ice became mandatory, evolution added a shaker, and now, generally the sugar is replaced with simple syrup. That’s it.
Light, refreshing, a little tart, a little sweet, balanced, elegant, and perfect for a hot day in the islands.
Anything else is not a classic daiquiri!
When considering the classic daiquiri, shenanigans begin all the way at the beginning. Just try to ask someone claiming to be in the know: “who invented the daiquiri?”
Likely, the answer you’ll receive is Jennings Cox. This American was working at an iron mine in the town of Daiquiri near Santiago on the southeast coast of Cuba around 1905. Legend has it that Cox had his eureka moment when he ran out of gin while entertaining guests. (About now is when I ask, “Why the hell was this man drinking gin in Cuba?”)
There are other tales that grant the honor of invention to German nobility and others that give the honor to Cuban barmen, but the real question is:
If people have been enjoying a cocktail for hundreds of years and you decide to name it ‘Fred’, does that mean you just invented the Fred cocktail?
The answer, of course, is “no!” (Unless you’re a misguided megalomaniac like Christopher Columbus .)
But unfortunately, that’s just the case with the daiquiri. The truth is, rum and lime go together like drinking and dancing, or rice and beans, or callalloo and macaroni pie! If one is around, the other is likely to follow.
In the British Navy, rum and limes were a staple of every sailor’s ration by 1795. That may be a hundred years before Cox, but that’s still at least a hundred years after rum and limes were a major part of the West Indian landscape.
If you think locals weren’t mixing the two and thinking, “hmm, that could use a little sugar” at least 200 years before 1905, you’re crazy!
Even with a rich history, the past decades haven’t been kind to the daiquiri. Go ahead and do a Google images search for the term and you’ll see a bevy of bright red, chemically colored, artificially flavored, frozen abominations! Straws, bizarre garnishes, cherries, blueberries, whipped cream, umbrellas! On and on and on… There are even frozen daiquiri pouches — the Hot Pockets of alcoholic beverages.
Who do we have to thank for this explosion of outrageous ignominies? One Mariano Martinez of Dallas, Texas.
Back in 1971, Mariano swung by his local 7-Eleven for a cup of coffee, saw the Slurpee® machine churning up its frozen concoctions, and thought, “hmm, wouldn’t it be great if there was alcohol in there?” And just like that, the frozen margarita was born.
Normally, the inspiration to add alcohol to anything would sound like a great idea, but in this case the collateral damage would be felt on a global scale.
About ten years later, the folks at the Frosty Factory of America in Louisiana upped the ante by deciding to Slurpeefy™ any drink they damn well pleased. Thus the frozen daiquiri machine was born, it quickly grew to ubiquity in the state (where you can still sample their output in drive-throughs), then the region, then the country, and can now be found all over the world.
The reputation of the elegant classic daiquiri has never recovered.
Let’s all do our part
Today, I’m imploring you to reconsider the humble, near-perfect classic daiquiri. And doing so couldn’t be more easy:
- 1/4 cup Light Rum (I like Brugal Especial Extra Dry or Cruzan
- 1 fl oz Lime Juice
- 4 spoons Simple Syrup
Simply pour all the ingredients into a shaker over ice cubes and shake until completely cold! For this drink, the sweet/sour balance is key, so experiment to reach your version of perfection.
Strain into a glass. (Even better if it’s pre-chilled.)
And help spread the word of the elegant flawlessness that is the classic daiquiri.
Together, we can undo its abysmal treatment across the ages… One sip at a time.