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.