What is Daiquiri?

Let’s talk about this sweet, classic cocktail. Although most people think of the Daiquiri as a sugar-filled blender bomb, the cocktail’s origins are actually much more serious than its spring break beach party reputation might suggest. The classic Daiquiri, made from nothing more than rum, lime juice and sugar shaken with cracked ice and strained, takes its name from the place it was invented, the mining town of Daiquiri on the south-eastern tip of Cuba.

There is no drink that has suffered more abuse than Daiquiri. In the roughly 130 years since its inception, the granddaddy of rum cocktails has gone from the pride of Havana to an unloved extra on the back of a Señor Frog’s table tent. Even today, as the craft cocktail movement reaches full tilt, most people too often associate the Daiquiri with adult slushies, the stuff of spring break blackouts and mind-splitting hangovers. But in its purest form, the Daiquiri is simple and sublime, a delicate blend of rum’s sweetness with the raw freshness of sugar and lime juice. Whole lives have been dedicated to balancing the three. That each ingredient should be of the highest quality goes without saying, though even then the Daiquiri can throw you a curve. Choose too-sweet rum, and you’re sipping liquid candy; overdo the citrus, and the cocktail drowns in a puckering pool of acidity.

During the time of the Spanish-American War, in 1898, an American mining engineer by the name of Jennings Cox created the drink to protect his workers from yellow fever. According to Bacardi archivist Juan Bergaz Pessino, both the lime and alcohol were thought to protect against the deadly disease, also there are rumours that Cox accidently invented the drink when he was short of gin and began shaking rum cocktails instead at a party.

Several decades later, a veteran of the War for Cuban Independence, P.D. Pagliuchi, laid claim to the name, stating: “On the sideboard of the mine’s dining room, there was no gin or vermouth; all we could find was BACARDÍ® rum, limes, sugar and ice. … With this material, Mr. Cox made up a cocktail, which was so shaken as to be very cold. It tasted fine, and I asked Cox, ‘What are you going to call it?’ ‘Tum Sour,’ he said. (In the U.S., a drink made up of whiskey, lemon juice, sugar and ice is called Whiskey Sour.) I answered him, ‘This is too long a name; it was invented at Daiquiri, so why not call it ‘Daiquiri’?”

The cocktail was further made famous at Hotel Venus in Santiago de Cuba, where it was christened in 1932, and Feliza Bar in Havana, where Spain-born owner Constante Ribalaigua created variations on the cocktail (the #2, #4 and Hemingway Daiquiris), all made with BACARDÍ rum.

The Daiquiri was introduced to the United States in 1908, when a U.S. Navy medical officer brought the recipe from Cuba back to the Army & Navy Club in Washington, D.C. It experienced a rash of popularity from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Despite its many modern variations, the Daiquiri remains one of the classics for a reason.

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