The history of the daiquiri
The daiquiri is a simple mix of rum, citrus and sugar. The story of how this combination became known as the daiquiri can be traced back to the 1890s and an American engineer: Jennings Stockton Cox. He insisted on a monthly rum ration for the engineers he employed and apparently made a special cocktail for guests which he named after the Cuban mining town, Daiquiri, where he was based.
The Second World War saw the daiquiri rise in popularity in America as vodka, whisky and gin from Europe became difficult to get. Rum from Cuba, Latin America and the Caribbean on the other hand, was readily available and on their doorstep.
An elevating cocktail, as Nate Brown from Merchant House says, a daiquiri “should be fresh and energising, sharp like a sting from a bee!” So, how to achieve this at home? Keep it simple and fresh.
What kind of rum should I use?
Daiquiris are the territory of white rum, almost exclusively. Whilst you can make a daiquiri with a gold or even a dark rum, the characteristics of the drink will stray quite far from the fresh, zingy, bright tropical drink you might imagine yourself sipping by the side of a pool. White rums that are easy to pick up in the supermarket like Havana Club and Barcadi will make a decent daiquiri.
If you’re looking for something a little more unusual though, Jim Wrigley from Bourne and Hollingsworth suggests a light rum but with a bit of body like Plantation 3 Stars. Drew Mallins, founder of the London Bartender Association is a fan of it, too, along with Appleton Estate White and El Dorado 3-year-old. Check out the Plantation Pineapple rum for an easy way to add a more tropical edge. Another top tip from Jim: you can add a bit of body to any white rum with a splash of ‘rhum’ agricole.
Read our guide to the best bottles of rum compiled from one of our expert taste tests.
Lime vs lemon
The original daiquiri recipe from the 1890s states lemon rather than lime, however, this is more than likely due to things getting confused in translation as the Cuban term for lime is limón, and lemons aren’t native to Cuba whereas limes definitely are. I think the majority of the world today agrees on this one, daiquiris are made with lime.
When it comes to the lime juice, fresh is the way forwards, and if possible you need to squeeze it just before making the drink. Using a piece of kit called a Mexican elbow makes it easy to juice limes quickly and without too much mess. You’ll also be able to squeeze directly into your cocktail measure to ensure you’re using the right amount to balance the flavours. Rolling your limes before squeezing and cutting them in half on a slight diagonal can also help you to get the most juice out of them.
Jim Wrigley advocates adding a lime husk to your cocktail shaker after you’ve squeezed. The lime oils from the skin will be released and add a citrus depth to your daiquiri as you shake.
Powdered sugar vs syrup
The original daiquiri used powdered sugar; however there is a good argument for using sugar syrup today. Gillian Boyle, bar manager at Hang Dai in Dublin explains that when looking to temper the strong rum with sour (lime) and sweet (sugar), it’s easier to measure sugar syrup more accurately. You can also be confident that it has integrated into the cocktail when you’ve shaken it.
Jim Wrigley goes a step further, specifying the use of an unrefined sugar such as Billingtons. He also notes that you should make the syrup with warm – not hot – water. You’ll often see recipes that state boiling water which risks a darker, caramelised flavour.
How to make a balanced cocktail
The daiquiri is pretty simple in terms of what goes into the mix, the key is balancing those ingredients. Unsurprisingly you’re going to need a cocktail measure (OXO do brilliant plastic measuring cups). Jake Burger from The Distillery in Notting Hill stresses that the jigger cocktail measures you’ll see bartenders use require filling to the brim. No short pours, people.
Kate Meehan from Furnival’s Well in Liverpool always tastes the cocktail to check the balance. You can do this before or after you shake, but it’s easier to fix before as a second shake can over-dilute the drink. If it’s too sour, add a touch more of the sugar syrup, or vice versa if it’s too sweet.
Make sure your ice is of good quality — best to buy it from the supermarket. Your homemade ice cubes will fall apart when you shake. The aim is to get the cocktail as cold as you can, as quickly as you can, requiring a strong, hard motion without the risk of diluting the drink.
The final step divides bartenders; single or double strain? Single means pouring out of the shaker using a standard strainer. Double straining is putting a tea strainer over the glass, too. The difference? Single strained daiquiris will have small shards of ice (if you’ve shaken hard enough!). Whilst some bartenders like this, especially on a hot day, others don’t. It’s up to you. Just make sure the glass is chilled first, either by storing in the freezer or by adding ice and a little water whilst making the drink.
Twists on a classic
Easy: Drew from the London Bartenders Association recommends digging around in your cupboards for other sources of the sweet element of the daiquiri. Try honey or flavoured jams to give an instant twist to the classic formula.
Medium: The most famous twist on the daiquiri is the Hemmingway, created for author Ernest Hemingway at El Floridita in Havana. Instead of sugar syrup, use maraschino liqueur and add grapefruit juice. Here’s the recipe:
- 40ml white rum
- 10ml maraschino liqueur
- 15ml lime juice
- 10ml grapefruit juice
Medium: Frozen! Nate from Merchant House calls it the perfect drink and there’s less sugar required as crushed ice will dilute the drink counteracting the sourness from the lime. Simply stick your quantities into a blender with ice (about a mugful per drink). If you want to add fresh fruit, try berries. Just beware of sweeter fruits and add more lime/less sugar as necessary to balance the cocktail.
Read up on your favourite spirits and become a cocktail master with our other handy guides…
What’s your favourite daiquiri recipe? Let us know in the comments below…