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It’s Daiquiri Day, Time To Learn About ‘The Hemingway Daiquiri’


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We’re going to say it: The Daiquiri is the most refreshing cocktail on earth. Debate that if you must (G&Ts can cool a body off wonderfully, too), but you must admit: Lime, sugar, and a strong pour of rum make for a summer classic. And whether you’re a seasoned pro or a home bar hobbyist, this is definitely one you should have in your repertoire.

The good news is it’s an easy drink to mix in its most basic form. Pour 1.5-ounces of white Cuban rum into a shaker along with one-ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice and a barspoon of fine azucar (that’s a fine Cuban sugar, though most bars use simple syrup these days). Shake that vigorously with ice, pour it into a chilled coupe glass, garnish with a lime wheel, and serve. It’s really that easy. Ernest Hemingway was such a fan that he drank 16 in one sitting at the legendary Floridita in Havana.

That’s what’s great about this world-class gem: It goes down like water but, unlike our beloved milk punch, you don’t need an advanced degree in microchemistry to make one.

Of course, Hem, the ultimate enthusiast, was not a simple observer of life. If he had a passion, he threw himself into it. In Cuba — when he showed up to write, fish, spy, and party — he started experimenting with his own remixed daiquiri recipes. So today, in honor of National Daiquiri Day (as if we needed an excuse), let’s go back and figure out how a basic blend of Cuban rum, lime, and sugar enticed the Papa to remake the cocktail in his image forever.

A Brief History of the Daiquiri

All you really need to know about that daiquiri is that it’s Cuban. It’s Cubanness is what makes a daiquiri a daiquiri. It all started when the U.S invaded Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and American soldiers began trouncing around the backcountry with Cuban rebels. Those rebels carried gourds of home-distilled white rum (though it was probably much closer to a sugarcane juice distillate called aguardiente, or literally firewater), sugar cane juice, and lime juice, which they used as a sort of in-field analgesic and general pick-me-up.

Other reports name American engineer Jennings Cox as the inventor of the daiquiri. The myth goes that while he was working at an iron mine near the town of Daiquiri, he ran out of gin and had to start drinking the local firewater. He would mix the white rum with lime juice and a spoon of white sugar to make the it palatable and, boom, the daiquiri was invented.

In reality, the birth of the drink is a little bit of column a and little bit of column b. The Cuban rebels certainly drank a gnarly early version of the cocktail, made with the basic components. Cox also served the drink he concocted to get through the heat of the Cuban afternoon. In fact, it was Cox who served his “daiquiri” to US Admiral Lucius W. Johnson. Johnson loved the drink so much he taught the barkeeps to mix it up at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, DC. Thanks to the US Navy’s global reach, the drink then spread around the world like wildfire.

The original recipe was constructed in a collins glass. You’d take a collins glass, fill it with shaved ice, pour in the sugar, the lime, and rum then mix until the glass was ice cold. Slowly, that was refined into a straight up (chilled with ice, but served without ice) cocktail, poured into a coupe or a slightly blended drink poured into a wine glass.

So it remained until the 1940s and the arrival of a certain adventurer, author, and all-around drunk: Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway and the Daiquiri

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Upon visiting the island in the early 30s, Hemingway decided that The Floridita in Old Havana was just his type of watering hole. Back then, The Floridita was great joint with white-coated bartenders who threw down some of the best cocktails in the world. The world-renowned vagabond fit right in among the robber barons, artists, journalists, Cuban dissidents, and spies.

The birth of the Hemingway Daiquiri was out of paranoia more than taste. Hemingway loved the daiquiri but he really didn’t like sugar. He was afraid of getting diabetes and tried to keep away from sweets. So Papa would ask the bartenders to make him a special version sans sugar and with double the rum. That’s the basis for the fame “Papa Doble.”

The recipe goes: three-ounces of white rum, one-ounce of fresh lime juice, shake, pour into a chilled wine glass over crushed ice, serve. The drink was so strong, that the bartenders served each subsequent daiquiri to Hemingway in a rocks glass with a napkin rubberbanded around the drink so he wouldn’t drop it as he started to get the shakes. Eventually, the bartenders at Floridita nicknamed the drink to distinguish it from the regular daiquiris they were shaking up.

This drink isn’t that great if we’re being brutally honest here. It’s white rum and lime over ice. That crucial sugar component that not only velvets but sweetens the drink is missing. Try it yourself. Get some Cuban white rum and lime juice, shake it up and pour it over ice. It sorta tastes like something you’d make in a pinch when there was literally nothing else left on your liquor shelf.

But, alas, ol’ Hem loved them.

The Refinement of the Hemingway Daiquiri

This is where things get a little annoying. This drink officially has three names: The Papa Doble, The Hemingway Speical, and the Hemingway Daiquiri. It really depends on where you are in the world and level of cocktail history the bar chefs have that’ll determine what appears on their menu. It’s worth noting that the drink was originally called ‘Papa Doble’ by the Cuban bartenders who made it for the man himself. So there’s that.

Regardless, here’s what happened. As people flocked to Havana in the ’50s, they wanted to drink with Hemingway at the Floridita. If he wasn’t there, they then wanted to at least drink what he liked. Thing is, as mentioned above, a double daiquiri with no sugar is…not that good. As time passed, the bartenders started “fixing” the drink so that it’d remain true to Hemingway’s version but also drinkable by the masses.

The Papa Doble or Hemingway Daiquiri was refined with the addition of Maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice. These additions added a slight cherry sweetness and more sour to the drink. The recipe became a fairly complex mix of three-ounces of white Cuban rum, 1.5-ounces of fresh grapefruit juice, half-an-ounce of Maraschino, and half-an-ounce of fresh lime juice. All of that is poured into a shaker and vigorously shaken with ice. As a final refinement, the drink is poured into a chilled coupe and served straight up.

The addition of Maraschino and grapefruit took the drink a long way from the original three-part cocktail. The Maraschino adds a svelte texture and hints of sweet without adding any sugar — so it still honors Hemingway’s abhorrence of sugar in his drinks. The grapefruit gives the drink a deeper density that you just don’t get from lime juice.

Overall, the drink is a bit heavier, yet maintains its refreshing nature and killer kick.

The “Hemingway” Today

In the era of super studious bartenders and $20 drinks, you’ll find the Papa Doble, Hemingway Special, or Hemingway Daiquiri on plenty of bar menus. The basic recipe with the addition of maraschino liqueur and grapefruit has stood the test of time. Naturally, there’s some argument over whether a “Papa Doble” is the grapefruit version only and the “Hemingway Daiquiri” is the original version the man himself drank at the Floridita or vice versa. But that’s really only an argument to have while drinking the daiquiri itself in whichever form you prefer.

The real variation these days comes in how bar chefs decide to serve the drink. That and which of the three names to use on the menu. You’ll get the drink served in a coupe glass straight up, in a rocks glass over standard ice cubes, or even in an absinthe glass over shaved or crushed ice. Some bars even serve it in a classic cocktail glass. Others will blend it with the ice. It really does just depend on the bar. The thing is, none of those serving styles are wrong.

Purists will tell you that you need to use Cuban rum. That’s fair and true of any daiquiri at the end of the day. The mix of rum, sugar, and lime is pretty common around the world. British Navy grog was exactly that recipe and dates way back to the 1700s. Brazil’s Caipirinha is basically the same exact drink with Cachaça (a sugarcane juice distillate) in place of Cuban white rum (a molasses distillate). The Ti’ Punch is also pretty much the same thing only with rhum agricole (a sugarcane juice distillate) instead of Cuban white rum. So, it really is the Cuban rum that is the defining factor. Use it.

Our suggestion is to do it like Papa. Drink your first one straight up in a coupe to take the edge off. Then switch over to a rocks glass over ice. That added water melting into the drink will likely be what saves you from alcohol poisoning later in the night. Because, again, this is a double. Water is your ally when drinking drinks this strong. Whether you want a rubber band wrapped around a napkin over the glass is up to you.

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