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It is difficult to think of a classic cocktail that has gone through as many unflattering permutations--to the point where nearly all resemblance to the original has vanished--as the Daiquiri. That the word Daiquiri instantly conjures images of umbrella-laden, too-sweet-for-consumption slushees served to retirees on cruise ships only punctuates this point, since this modern-day mutation bares as much resemblance to the original Daiquiri as Rocky Balboa does to Rocky Marciano, or say, Justin Timberlake does to Michael Jackson.

So how did things deteriorate to this point? My normal inclination in these matters is to blame midwesterners with fanny packs, as they are natural scapegoats for many of society's woes, at least in my mind, but that doesn't really lead us to a solution. I suppose, then, that the most fitting way to ameliorate this is the old school approach, which is to simply set the record straight, one classic cocktail at a time.

Named after the small Cuban coastal town of the same name, the classic Daiquiri is a simple yet sublime combination of rum, lime juice, sugar, and ice--that's it. You can even skip the garnish altogether. In fact, you should.

As with many drinks that originated in a bygone era, there are numerous stories of the Daiquiri's origin, depending on who you ask. One version theorizes the Daiquiri as the inevitable progression of the concoction known as "grog" or "grogg," which was often made by mixing rum, lemon juice, sugar, and water, and originally served to British sailors in the 18th century. The citrus, in addition to preventing scurvy, helped make the harsh rum more palatable along with the sugar and water, and the rum was said to prevent the malaria-induced fever prevalent in the mosquito-abundant Caribbean islands. As this theory would have it, once ice became available a century or so later, it was used in place of the water, and thus the Daiquiri was born.

Another version of the story dates back to 1905 and credits Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer working in Cuba, who is said to have invented this drink one night when he was expecting company and ran out of gin. Although this is a popular and oft-repeated tale of the Daiquiri's origin, it overlooks important details that would at best give Cox credit for the drink's name, such as the fact that rum, lime juice, and sugar were all ingredients readily accessible to native Cubans for centuries. If not by virtue of creativity, someone would have surely stumbled upon this combination accidentally prior to the 20th century.

Regardless of how the Daiquiri came to be, its fame quickly spread once it was introduced to American palates. In 1909 Admiral Lucas Johnson of the US Navy introduced this drink to the Army and Navy Club in Washington after trying it in Cuba. It became so popular there that they named their bar the Daiquiri Lounge. Despite the onset of Prohibition in the states, the drink continued to gain popularity as Americans traveled to Cuba to indulge their inebriative desires.

The Daiquiri's popularity is evidenced by the many references to the drink in literature, politics, and popular culture. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, characters so casually imbibe on Daiquiris that you would think this was their life-long tipple. Rum, which was once considered a vile spirit, became en vogue as tastemakers like President John F. Kennedy and actress Marlene Dietrich were seen enjoying Daiquiris.

The most famous and loyal advocate of the Daiquiri, however, was without a doubt Ernest Hemingway, who was said to have enjoyed half a dozen Daiquiris when merely being social, and who once boasted of drinking sixteen in one evening. So immense was his adoration of the Daiquiri that a special version was made just for him by the bartender at his favorite Havana hangout, El Floridita. That version is called the Papa Doble (also commonly called a Hemingway Daiquiri) and a version of its recipe, along with a recipe for the original Daiquiri, are both provided below.

The Daiquiri (pictured above)
1 1/2 oz silver rum (Cuban rum if you have it)
1 tsp fine sugar (or 2 tsp simple syrup)
juice of 1/2 lime

Tools: cocktail shaker, strainer

Glass: pre-chilled coupe (pictured above) or cocktail glass

If using sugar, first pre-dissolve the sugar in the lime juice. Otherwise, place all ingredients in a shaker along with ice and shake briskly. Strain into your chilled glass and enjoy. Be careful not to overshake, since the original Daiquiri is a bracing drink in which you want to chill without diluting.

Some enjoy Daiquiris perfectly strained without any ice chips or lime pulp, and if you also prefer it this way, simply double strain. Conversely, some enjoy theirs in the manner that bares the closest resemblance to today's abominable version, which is to say, blended. That's fine as well, provided you skip the umbrellas, cherries, bananas, strawberries, and other useless props and embellishments. Instead, either shake with crushed ice and pour directly without straining, or put everything in the blender.

If you've never tried a Daiquiri like this, you may think this drink needs to be sweeter. But as Charles Baker wrote in his classic tome The Gentleman's Companion, "A too-sweet daiquiri is like a lovely lady with too much perfume." If you must, you can adjust amounts to your own taste, but this is how the original drink is supposed to be, and subtly sweet is how I prefer it as well.

Traditionally a Daiquiri was not garnished, but if you must garnish this drink, a simple twist of lime peel will suffice.

Papa Doble (aka Hemingway Daiquiri)
2 ounces
silver rum (Cuban rum if you have it)
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur

Tools: cocktail shaker, strainer

Glass: pre-chilled coupe (pictured above) or cocktail glass

Place all ingredients plus ice in a shaker and shake well, again being careful not to overshake. Strain into a chilled glass and enjoy.

The above recipe for the Papa Doble comes by way of Jim Meehan of PDT. There are a number of recipes for this drink out there which differ from the recipe above with respect to the specific amounts of each ingredient called for. Some recipes call for 3 ounces of rum, and some call for even more; and there are recipes that call for the juice of half a grapefruit and two limes. While I cannot attest to the authenticity of any of them, nor claim to know exactly how Hemingway preferred his, I can personally affirm that the above recipe is the tastiest and the most balanced in terms of flavor, so that at least you will enjoy it.

As you can see from both recipes above that the Daiquiri is no daisy of a drink, despite its modern-day rep. If you don't believe me, try drinking a dozen. Then get back to me so we can set the record straight. Cheers!

*Paystyle was born in Tehran and grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) before moving to Brooklyn with his wife and co-pilot Vanessa Bahmani who provides the stunning photography of Pay's cocktail concoctions. Return every Wednesday for his weekly Happy Hour column.
Column: Happy Hour


  • Hemingway would have had the drink made with Ron Bacardi… not Havana Club aka Ron Arechabala.

    TK on

  • Wow Paystyle, great post! When you offered me a Daiquiri, I really was expecting a slushy pink drink with an umbrella sticking out of it. I think it's fascinating how much it's changed from it's original version.

    Vanessa Bahmani on

  • Jones – There have been numerous inventive and quality offshoots of the Daiquiri. Check in tomorrow, as I'll post an apricot-flavored version that also deserves the same respect as the original.

    Paystyle on

  • I don't think I've ever had a real daiquiri, although my favorite Baskin Robbins flavor growing up was Daiquiri Ice. (Probably a little too close to the despised midwestern slushes, right?!)

    I had a tasty cocktail once called an American Flyer, which seems to be a similar recipe, but topped off with sparkling wine.

    Jones on

  • TK – I never wrote anywhere in the post that Hemingway preferred Havana Club—check again and you'll see. The only presence of Havana Club is in the photo, and I think that's entirely appropriate considering Cuban rum was used in original Daiquiris, and I don't happen to have a pre-revolution bottle of Bacardi.

    Remember the focus of the blog is the Daiquiri, not Hemingway—he's one interesting side note within a much larger context.

    Moreover, what you say is not entirely true. Hemingway actually would have had the drink made with either Bacardi or Havana Club pre-revolution, although there's evidence to suggest his preference was Bacardi White Label. However there's no doubt that he wouldn't have had it w/Bacardi post-revolution.

    Paystyle on

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