Utterly simple but tricky to perfect, the classic Daiquiri has only three ingredients: sugar, lime juice, and rum –– shaken, strained, and served up. The cocktail has had a long and circular path to where it is today, with a strange disco and spring breaker period most mixologists would prefer we all forget. But the Daiquiri’s sheer simplicity makes it easier to spot any flaws, and every choice of ingredient and the technique used at every step counts. If you want to make a great Daiquiri, the right details make all the difference.
The Daiquiri made its debut in 1896. Cubans had been mixing rum, lime, and sugar for 200 years before an American expat nudged it down the path of cocktail glory, according to cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, owner of the New Orleans Tiki bar Latitude 29.
The particular American in this origin story is Jennings Stockton Cox Jr., who was living in Cuba and running John D. Rockefeller’s Spanish-American Iron Company near the harbor town of Daiquiri. According to the generally accepted lore, Cox and some friends improvised the drink for visiting Americans because they were out of gin. They were trying to smooth out the taste of the rum for their guests — a now extinct Bacardi Carta Blanca distilled in nearby Santiago.
Cox and his pals simply called it a rum sour at the time, and it wasn’t until it started making the rounds at Santiago and Havana bars that it acquired the name Ron à la Daquiri and was modified from a batched drink into the single serving cocktail that you’d get in any serious bar today.
The Daiquiri captured the hearts of Americans visiting Cuba during prohibition, and by the time Hemingway got there in the late 1930’s, it had already been modified into multiple versions. Papa fell in love with the El Floridita bar’s Daiquiri no. 3, which omitted sugar, added a spoon each of Maraschino Liqueur and grapefruit juice, and was mixed in a blender.
Meanwhile in America as time went on, the disco culture’s craving of sweet drinks and the American propensity towards all things processed turned the Daiquiri into a cliché of sweet frozen jungle juice. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that mixologists brought back the original Havana version and the circle was complete.
5 Pro Tips For Making A Next-Level Daiquiri
The Daiquiri has earned its place among the most well known in the world for good reason. If you want to whip up a few of the Cuban classics, it’s good to keep these professional tips in mind.
1. Use Room Temperature Limes
“You get about 20% more juice out of softer room temperature limes,” says Roderick Groetzinger, a bartender, and the owner of Equal Parts bottle shop in Charleston, SC. Groetzinger loves the Daiquiri because it’s easy to build and easy to personalize for people’s individual palates –– boozier, sweeter, or tarter –– depending on subtle adjustments to the ratios of the three central ingredients.
2. Use Granular Sugar, Not Simple Syrup
Chris Hassaan Francke, owner of The Green Zone, a Washington, D.C. cocktail bar, is known as “The Daiquiri Police” for his purist view of the cocktail. Unsurprisingly, he has strong feelings about dissolving the sugar directly into the lime juice: “I see too many bars and cocktail enthusiasts making drinks with up to an ounce of lime and simple syrup — that’s too much juice and too much water,” says Francke, “All the water should come from the ice as it dilutes and chills the drink.”
3. Don’t Over-Sweeten
The pros agree that the rum should always shine through the Daiquiri and be the star. For this reason, Francke prefers to use the El Floridita bar’s daiquiri recipe from the 1930s, which calls for 2 ounces of rum, 1/2 ounce of lime juice, and a teaspoon of granulated sugar dissolved into the lime juice before adding the rum. “With these ratios, it’s a proper rum cocktail, not just a boozy juice.”
4. Use The Right Rum
“The Daiquiri is, at its heart, a delicate Cuban rum cocktail,” says Francke. “It should always be made with Cuban light rum, or rum approximating that style.” He recommends Havana Club 3 outside the US where you can legally buy it, because when shaken with lime and sugar, it’s “synergistic in an uncanny way.”Inside the US, he recommends using Probitas, a white rum blend that is a collaboration between Barbados’ Foursquare and Jamaica’s Hampden Estate, blended and bottled by Foursquare’s famed Master Distiller and Master Blender, Richard Seale.
“It’s bottled at 47% and perfectly captures that very lightly funky note and easy mixability that Havana Club brings,” says Francke. To him, the bottom line is that the rum needs to be “light yet flavorful,” in the spirit of the original, because many modern white rums are too neutral, and “a Daiquiri made with them just tastes like boozy limeade, which is not the goal.” Franke cautions against using super funky rums, fully aged rums, or overproof rums, saying that overly funky or woody notes don’t belong in a Daiquiri, and the overproof varieties can overpower the drink.
“Gold, spiced, and flavored rums can be left for other cocktails,” says Groetzinger, echoing this same sentiment. “Being in the US where we do not have good access to Cuban rums, I think unaged or something 3 years or younger is key to keeping it classic,” he says. With the cocktail’s growing popularity, Groetzinger says that lately people have been coming into his bottle shop to buy rum for ‘Daiquiri Parties,’where a host supplies the sugar and lime, and everyone brings a different rum to try out.
5. Frozen Isn’t A Bad Word
“Let’s not forget that frozen daiquiris were actually created at the Floridita,” says Francke, of the Havana bar that first put the cocktail into a blender. “The Daiquiris nos. 3, 4, and 5, when made according to the original recipes, are all delicious in their own right… delicate and well-balanced, not overly fruity or cloying, and certainly don’t come out of a slushy machine!” A frozen Daiquiri can still be elevated and classic, despite what some renditions would have you believe. And even when you’re not serving it frozen, Francke recommends that you “shake it until the shaker is so cold it hurts.”
The Daiquiri Recipe To Memorize
The Latitude 29 Daiquiri
Jeff Berry and his staff spent over a year perfecting the Daiquiri at Latitude 29, where he currently likes to use Hamilton White Stache rum for this recipe.
- 2 level teaspoons sugar blend*
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 2 ounces white rum
- Combine sugar blend and lime juice in a mixing tin.
- Stir until sugar is fully dissolved into lime juice.
- Add rum to the sugar and lime, and large ice cubes cracked with a bar spoon.
- Shake and strain into a coupe.
- Garnish with a lime wheel.
*Sugar Blend: 4 parts organic white cane sugar to 1-part turbinado or demerara sugar.