The Four Gospels: The Daiquiri

daiquiri
I’ve been fascinated for a while with the concept of the four bedrock drinks of cocktailia. Each is based on one of the four foundation spirits upon which classic drinking lore is laid: Gin, Bourbon, Rum, and Brandy. I refer to these cocktails as The Four Gospels. I’m not sure if I made this up, or if I read it elsewhere. I suspect I read it elsewhere, as I ain’t that clever usually.
This post is about the Gospel of Rum, the mighty Daiquiri.
Allegedly invented at the beginning of the Twentieth Century in Cuba, by an American mining engineer (I always say allegedly with cocktail lore… unless the story is just too good), the Daiquiri is at its core light rum, lime, and sugar. David Embury points out that it is a, nay, the rum sour.
When you want to play with Daiquiris, here’s the starting point:

DAIQUIRI

  • 3 oz. light or gold rum
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz. simple sugar

Serve in a tumbler over ice cubes.

Dead easy, and delicious. But among the four Gospels, the Daiquiri lends itself to the most variation while still being considered a Daiquiri.
First, feel free to play with the proportions. The ratio I show here is 6-2-1. Depending on your tastes, and the quality of rum available, you may choose to up the rum amount to taste. You could lower it too, of course, or play otherwise with the proportions. Whatever ratio you find you like the best, settle it in stone in your heart and insist at every opportunity that it is the only proper ratio, while generously allowing that others may experiment for themselves.
Secondly, there are the preparation and serving directions to be played with. The Daiquiri is equally happy should you shake it and serve it in a cocktail glass. You can even flash blend it with ice and serve in a goblet, and it is still a proud, classic Gospel. Choose whatever method suits your mood, your demesne, or the weather.
Third, you may fiddle a bit with some additives. For whatever reasons, mostly historical, it is more classically accepted to go beyond the original ingredient list with Daiquiris than with the other three Gospels. I suspect that this is because unless you have better light rum than that readily available (at least in Ohio), the basic Daiquiri, while still delicious, lacks depth. At any rate, should your alterations be small, and don’t change the basic flavor of the drink, it’s still pretty much a Daiquiri.
A notable exception to this rule is that Cocktail We Cannot Name, if we don’t want to use Bacardi that is. By my working definition, it’s still pretty much a Daiquiri. But due to the color change, and its rich, colorful history, we usually call it by its own name.
My favorite chord change, after some experimentation, is called by various names. The most commonly used refers to one of drinking’s most famous practitioners, Ernest Hemingway, a man who is otherwise most famous for looking uncannily like my father.

HEMINGWAY DAIQUIRI

  • 2 oz. 10 Cane, or other light but aged rum
  • 0.75 oz. lime juice
  • 0.25 oz. Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 0.25 oz. pink grapefruit juice
  • 2 dashes simple syrup

Swirl ingredients together in a mixing glass, then pour over the rocks. Garnish with a slice of lime or grapefruit.

This is referred to as a Hemingway Daiquiri since it was most often served to outsiders who wanted to drink what the Man always drank. It is not what the Man always drank. That concoction is known as the Papa Doble, and you approximate it by doubling the rum and flash blending.
The Hemingway is a Daiquiri, so play with the ratios and serving style as you like. Avoid punching up the maraschino or grapefruit much more than here, or it will a) stop being a Daiquiri, and b)stop tasting good.
Any good Gospel needs some heresies, of course. And the poor Daiquiri suffers more than it’s brethren. No doubt this is due to its flexibility. Once you encourage people to play a bit with a classic, they will often go berserk. They’ll start claiming the cocktail was married and had children. Or they’ll go around nailing 99 Variants to the door of the Pegu Club. Or they’ll put in giant gobs of strawberry.
strawberry 'daiquiri'
Looks gorgeous, doesn’t it? And not just because it’s a much better photograph than the one I took above. Ninety-eight out of a hundred Americans will look at the drink pictured here and say, Fabulous Daiquiri! They will look at my Hemingway and go, Huh? And that’s too bad. A real Daiquiri is a sublime, subtle concoction that does all the things a great cocktail should. It provides interest, provokes the appetite, loosens the tongue, and improves the mood. The Slurpee is a spring break, gut-busting mind-eraser. I’m not saying it isn’t tasty if made well. It is. I’m also not saying I never drink them. I do, on (the appropriate) occasion. But if you ever consider ordering a strawberry frozen daiquiri to go with your adult, pre-dinner conversation, please just report to the Budweiser tent and save everyone a lot of trouble.
The Daiquiri is the Gospel of Rum. It is meant therefore to be a showcase of that spirit. Use the good stuff, and it will shine. Use cheap hooch, and it will punish you. Mask the taste with massive amounts of fruit pureé, and it won’t be a Daiquiri.

Thus endeth Daiquiri, The Book of Rum.
Here are the other posts here relating to the Four Gospels of the Cocktail:
The Manhattan, The Book of Whiskey
The Martini, The Book of Gin
The Sidecar, The Book of Brandy

About the author

Doug

I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.

13 Comments

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  • Nice post, Doug. For all my rambling about being a gin fiend, the drink I most often make at home is a daiquiri. It’s a real shame so many people think it requires a blender and that “lime daiquiri” is a flavor you have to specify.

    Which is why I make it at home instead of ordering it out!

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  • I’d never much gone for Daiquiris before I had a Hemingway Daiquiri at Details here. I always had gone with the very basic recipe before, and that bored me quickly, especially since I always made them with Bacardi. It’s fun how you can just add little grace notes and get so much more interest without really changing the intrinsic character of the drink.
    So, how do you make yours?

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  • Just a comment on the Hemingway daiquiri. The Floridita recipe for the Hemingway is similar to yours, specifying only a teaspoon of grapefruit juice. (Recipe here.) But it does not seem that is how they actually made them for Papa. Hemingway biographer AE Hotchner, who actually drank daiquiris with the man described Floridita bartender Constante’s recipe as “two and a half jiggers of Bacardi White Label Rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, and six drops of maraschino, all placed in a electric mixer over shaved ice, whirled vigorously and served foaming in large goblets.”

    Now obviously it’s tough to say how much lime that is; I’ve seen some small limes in Mexico and they might have had the same ones in Cuba. So maybe that was only around an ounce or so of lime. But the juice of half a grapefruit would be at least two ounces, I think. Anyway, much more than a teaspoon.

    When I originally made this drink I used something like your recommended 1/4 oz. of grapefruit, and it didn’t make sense to me. What’s the point of putting that little in? You couldn’t taste it; it was just a daiquiri sweetened with maraschino instead of sugar. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Nowadays I usually put equal amounts of grapefruit and lime, which I admit is pretty juicy. But I am a grapefruit fiend.

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  • Half a grapefruit seems pretty extreme to me. At that point, I think we’re losing Daiquiri status.
    I have another question about the Hemingway that didn’t occur to me until after this post was written: What kind of grapefruit did they have back then? What did they use?
    There would be a world of difference if you used the juice of half a big yellow grapefruit, as opposed to half of a modern, small, pink grapefruit.

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  • The Daiquiri is the Holy of Holies when it comes to rum cocktails. The abominations of slurpee machine glop that people drink today are just horrid indicators of how badly we’ve lost our way.

    I can’t even count how many times I’ve had the following conversation:

    Me: I’d like a daiquiri made with Rum X please.
    Bartender/Waitress: We don’t serve blended drinks.
    Me: A daiquiri is not a blended drink.
    Bartender/Waitress: Look, what I mean is that we don’t have a blender.
    Me: A daiquiri is not a blended drink.
    Bartender/Waitress: Huh?
    Me: Give me rum, sugar, and lime juice in a glass with ice.
    Bartender/Waitress: Lime? You mean sweet & sour?
    Me: On second thought, I’ll have a club soda.

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  • @Doug:
    Yeah, half a grapefruit seems extreme, but remember that recipe also calls for almost four ounces of rum (it is a double, after all). Still, it’s a lot. I generally use about 3/4 oz. each of lime and grapefruit (in my experience that would be about 1/8 of a ruby red grapefruit) to go with 2 oz rum and 1/4 oz. maraschino. That sort of splits the difference between the recipes, I think. And like I said I really like grapefruit.

    I would also be interested to know what sort of citrus, not only grapefruits but also limes, they were using at the Floridita back then. Who would know something like that?

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  • Matt,
    You told me that conversation once before. Are you still the willing dungeon slave of the one guy who knew what you meant when you asked for “Rum, lime juice, and some simple syrup”?

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  • Andrew,

    The best I’ve tried so far (for Daiquiris) was some 10 Cane. But if you want more advice (lot’s more) follow the link to Rumdood’s site. He actually knows whereof he speaks with rums.

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  • I’ve found that Embury’s recipes tend to really highlight the flavor of alcohol which is why his ratios might seem extreme, if that is to your taste then you must use a *flavorful8 white rum, which eliminates the ubiquitous Barcardi. We use Flor de Cana.

    La Floridita #3, the Hemingway Daiquiri is a favorite of ours, we’ve tried about a dozen variations on the recipe, remembering that drinks used to be far less sweet than today.

    For a drink whose recipe was repetitively published by the bar where it was invented, the Hemingway Daiquiri and Papa Doble have a lot of variations, we’ve yet to try all (both?) the ‘take the juice of half a grapefruit’ variations, that’s for our next backyard party.

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