What Does the Daiquiri Taste Like?
The Daiquiri is a fantastic cocktail that can be either sweet or tart, depending on the amount of simple syrup added. Rum can be pretty sweet, to begin with, so edging on the side of tart balances the rum nicely. Many topical cocktail enthusiasts cite the daiquiri as the foundation of tiki or exotic cocktails, but it’s a traditional sour with spirit, citrus, and sweetener. It’s still a fantastic drink with endless variations.
The History Of the Daiquiri
The common history of the Daiquiri was invented in late 1800 by the American miner Jennings Cox. Cox was a manager at the Daiquiri mines in Santiago, Cuba. Some put the creation of the daiquiri around 1905, but regardless it’s often thought to have been invented during that range. Who knows if this is true or not? Even the most academic articles I can find on Caribbean cocktails put an asterisk on this statement and say it is just the story that has survived through the years.
We can definitively say the Daiquiri’s first published appearances came around 1913. The earliest Daiquiri recipe comes from the 1913 cocktail book “Straub’s Manual” by Jacques Straub. The recipe is actually pretty awful, but it is the oldest. It’s 2 oz lime juice, 1 oz rum, and a tsp of sugar. Interestingly the daiquiri is spelled with a “g” instead of a “q” as daiguiri. Every American cocktail book until prohibition spells it this way, and any news article mentioning the daiquiri mines spells it this way too. The Daiquiri mines were an important topic during the lead-up to the Spanish-American war, and all of the journalism from this time spelled it with a “g” too. It’s not too surprising it was misspelled, though. This was the start of yellow journalism, and most national news leading up to the Spanish-American war was not concerned with accuracy. The best early recipe for the daiquiri comes from the 1914 U.S. Navy Standard Publication. A periodical by the U.S. Navy mentions the Daiquiri as the latest in cocktail clubdom. They also spelled it correctly. The recipe they provide is a pony of rum, the juice of half a lime or lemon, and a little bit of sugar. Generally, half a lime provides 1/2 oz of juice, and I’ll take a little bit of sugar to be either a tsp or 1/3 of an oz, but they were not trying to be precise.
In the 1931 book “Cuban Cookery” by Blanche de Baralt, the author states that cocktails were not part of the culture in Cuba before the Spanish-American War. American-style cocktails were first brought there by the soldiers stationed there and the tourist that soon followed. Enamored with the high-quality rum and juices available on the island, many new Cuban cocktails were invented. She specifically calls out the Daiquiri. Baralt provides an alternative origin for the Daiquiri that sounds more accurate. She states the U.S. Naval Officers stationed in Guantanamo Bay made the drink on base and named it after the nearby mining town. This makes much more sense to me, and it would also explain why one of the earliest records of the daiquiri comes from a U.S. Naval publication and that they are the only ones to spell it correctly for decades.
Most people probably know the recipe from the two main cocktail books to come out of Cuba in the 1930s. Sloppy Joe’s and Bar La Florida. Sloppy Joe’s recipe is more on the sour end with a whole ounce of lime juice, but Bar La Florida’s recipe is identical to the U.S. Navy recipe. A comment brought this to my attention, but the Bar La Florida cocktail book is mistranslated. The Bar La Florida cocktail book has Spanish on the left and English on the right; in every place, limes are mentioned, and the English side says lemons. The book uses the older term for limes, limón verde, but the English translation says lemons. Just keep that in mind when looking at recipes in that book.