A janitor’s advice on Classic Cocktails: Daiquiri Time Out

The British Royal Navy mandated in 1740 that every member be given a ration of Grog in 1740.  It was necessary to keep morale high and scurvy at bay. By 1795 the recipe for Grog included Rum, Lime or Lemon juice, and sugar.  The Navy brought this recipe throughout all of their voyages through the Caribbean. Story has it, that around 1900 in a bar called “Venus” in Santiago de Cuba an American Iron engineer named Jennings Cox was entertaining some guests.  Unfortunately the bar ran out of gin (the horror!) and switched to making their cocktails with rum. The “new” drink was promptly christened “daiquiri” after a nearby beach.

Early recipes make the drink akin to a “swizzle,” served long, with lots of shaved ice in a glass frosted by stirring briskly with a straw. It evolved into a drink served up, in a cocktail glass.

So what makes it a classic cocktail is it passes the dive-bar test whereby the ingredients exist, therefore it is possible to be made.  It has historical providence.  It also has a long convoluted story with lots of ins’ and outs’ making the old Duderino’s head spin.

For the recipe we turn to the bar la Florida cocktail book printed in 1935 from Havana, Cuba.  Ground zero for daiquiri drinking and permutation: they claim to be the cradle of the Daiquiri. Here’s how their recipe reads:

Take 2 ounces of Bacardi Rum, 1 teaspoonful of sugar, & juice of half a lemon. Shake firmly with plenty of cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Bacardi Rum would have been a different animal in 1935; it’s sad to say that it is no longer the product that it once was.  That is not to say it’s a bad product, it just has sacrificed being interesting for being mixable with Diet Coke. It is useful to use a lighter style of rum in a Daiquiri, but still with enough character to support the lime profile.  The selection of Colorado distilled rums immediately turned on to Downslope’s white rum. It’s clean, with an aroma of toasted sugar and coconut.  It has a rich mid-palate without sitting around awkwardly. The finish is clean with a slight alcoholic burn.  It’s not a rum that I would cozy up to in a snifter in front of a fire, but these three qualities are going to make it work wonders in a simple cocktail.

The files are in the computer!

The printing of Lemon juice is a common translation error. The Spanish recipe is written with Limon Verde, or Green Limon, which would be an under ripe lemon, or a lime. Hasty translation has been responsible for much worse mistakes so we’ll let this one slide.  An important note about Lime and Lemon juices: they come from limes.  They don’t come from boxes or jugs. Hansel couldn’t figure out how to get the files out of the computer, one shouldn’t need a dissertation on how to remove limejuice from a whole lime.  Some bars will tell you that pasteurized lime and lemon juices work fine in cocktails, even bars and restaurants that preach freshness in all the rest of the kitchen’s ingredients will try to slip pasteurized juices into your drink.  Don’t be fooled.  It’s possible to make a good drink with boxed juice, but you’ll never get a great drink. Don’t even think about using powdered sour mix or any of that crap borne out of the bowels of mixological hell. Limejuice comes from happy, healthy, juicy limes, not from concentrate.

Ah, sugar, you come from so many forms.  I feel that in a daiquiri the sugar should reflect the profile of the rum.  Rum that just hints at sugar and vanilla would be serviced by simple table sugar.  Rum with heavier molasses aromas and fermented flavors would be benefited by a sugar with a bit of heft and flavor.  There isn’t a rule that says you can’t use sugar in the raw in a daiquiri.  With the Downslope rum we opted to use white table sugar, as it would compliment the profile of the rum.  If I were making a daiquiri with Appleton or Banks 5Island, I would seek out a sugar in the raw possibly to compliment the heft of these two rums.  Now, does one make a sugar syrup or use granulated? Not an easy answer, unfortunately.  My qualms with using a simple syrup in a cocktail like the daiquiri is you aren’t just adding sugar, you’re also adding water, thus diluting the flavor of the cocktail and removing some of the flavor-enhancing benefits that sugar brings to the table. For Colt & Gray’s Daiquiri, we use sugar; it is stirred briefly in the limejuice to assist in its dissolving before adding the rum.

Title: Daiquiri
Glass: Chilled Cocktail
Garnish: Lime wedge

  • 1.75 oz Light Rum, for the distiller’s festival Downslope’s white rum was used to great effect.
  • 0.75 oz Lime Juice
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar (to taste)

Method: Combine sugar and lime juice in the base of your mixing tin, stir briefly to combine.  Add rum and plenty of ice.  Shake-the-shit out of it and strain into cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lime.

About Kevin Burke

Kevin is an occasional barman and fulltime practitioner of the Janitorial Arts at Colt & Gray.