In the early aughts, working at one of the bars within the Match Bar Group was the London equivalent of cutting your teeth at New York’s Milk & Honey, Pegu Club or Flatiron Lounge. With a roster that included the pioneering Match, the Player and Trailer Happiness, to name a few, nearly everything the group touched turned to gold.
“[W]henever we did anything: opened a new bar, made choices about the brands we used and stocked, or released a new menu, people—especially within the industry—took notice,” explains Kevin Armstrong, owner of London’s Satan’s Whiskers and former bar manager for the Match Bar Group. This influence extended to the drinks that the group created; new cocktails from the Match Bar Group soon found their way onto the menus of other industry hot spots.
The group, owned by bar entrepreneur Jonathan Downey, had the late Sasha Petraske consulting on the London location of Milk & Honey, while Dale DeGroff was doing the same for Match Bar. They had the recipe for success, and Armstrong was at the center of it all, responsible for menu development, recruitment and training for the entire group.
In 2005, Armstrong was developing drinks at the now-shuttered Match Bar and wanted to make his own twist on the Daiquiri. His goal was to create a rum sour that was notably different in its delivery, but still recognizable as the classic. The result was the Dry Daiquiri, a simple twist that adds a measure of Campari into the equation.
“What I liked about the first iteration of the Dry Daiquiri was that when [the] drink hit the tongue, it felt and tasted like a classic Daiquiri,” explains Armstrong. “But as it reached the back of the mouth, it started to dry out—the way Campari does—and almost forced you to go back for another sip.”
With the simple addition, Armstrong had nearly dialed in his take on the drink, but he couldn’t help but include his signature “dash of pash,” a small portion of passion fruit syrup that was a defining ingredient in a handful of his creations in the aughts. “At the time, there was a running joke among our more senior bartenders about my apparent appreciation for passion fruit syrup,” says Armstrong. “The first few versions of the Dry Daiquiri didn’t contain any, but not wanting to shatter the illusion of just how much I loved the stuff, some of the later versions had just a drop or two added to the recipe.” The punchy tropical syrup paired beautifully with the bittersweet Campari, and the final version of the Dry Daiquiri was born.
With Match Bar Group’s clout in the London bar industry, the Dry Daiquiri was primed for success; however, it wouldn’t really take off until a year later in 2006, when it found its way onto the menu at Trailer Happiness. The tiki bar that opened in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood in 2003 almost single-handedly sparked the city’s love for tropical and rum-based cocktails, and the Dry Daiquiri was a pillar of the bar’s offerings. The drink quickly became a group favorite, and was served as a bartender’s choice across their properties, particularly favored by other bartenders.
“The Dry Daiquiri was very much an industry drink,” says Gergő Muráth, former bar manager of Trailer Happiness. “Match Group bars were frequented by bartenders and cocktail geeks, and the Dry Daiquiri mostly stayed in that circle.”
While the drink ebbed and flowed in popularity at Trailer, bartenders who had left the group wouldn’t let the flame of this beloved modern classic burn out. According to former Match Bar Group bartender Julian de Féral, Match workers introduced the cocktail to those outside the company. “Many of those bartenders would go on to open their own bars or consult, and they’d keep the legacy [of the cocktail] alive” explains de Féral.
In London, award-winning bars—such as Happiness Forgets, Bar Swift and Armstrong’s own Satan’s Whiskers—owned by former Match bartenders now include the Dry Daiquiri as part of their standard repertoire, where it has caught the attention of a new generation of contemporary bartenders who have taken the Dry Daiquiri template and made it their own.
“The drink was already a part of our staple off-menu recommendations,” explains Alexander Taylor, owner of Pennyroyal in Cardiff, Wales, where bartender Tom Parham recently created a house twist on the original. Parham’s version keeps the core Daiquiri formula of rum, lime juice and sugar, but instead of Campari, he opts for the cult favorite Fernet-Branca, and swaps passion fruit syrup for watermelon syrup. “The idea was to create an unusual flavor pairing by matching the bitter aloe notes in Fernet with the watermelon, while the amaro’s saffron adds a warmth that lifts the rum,” says Taylor.
Meanwhile, at Trailer Happiness, Muráth championed the Dry Daiquiri by bringing it to many of his bar pop-ups and guest bartending shifts, including a stint at Bar Convent Brooklyn in 2019. There, he says, “the drink swapped the typical Campari for a bitter grapefruit liqueur called Pampelle, and we used pineapple syrup instead of passion fruit—a riff that was also on the menu at Trailer for a while.”
In West London, at the members’ club Kindred, de Féral brought his take on the Dry Daiquiri to the bar with yet another twist. His variation, the Dry Pornstar Daiquiri, marries the sophistication of the Dry Daiquiri with the presentation of the London-born modern classic Pornstar Martini. The drink combines rum with Bonanto aperitif, vanilla syrup, passion fruit and fresh lime juice, served with a sidecar of Prosecco with passion fruit “caviar.”
“The Pornstar Martini was already one of the most popular drinks of the decade, but ultimately was seen as a good-time party drink… Kevin quickly figured out that the popular fruity-yet-dry flavor of passion fruit was beautifully paired with a bitter element,” says de Féral of the drink’s inevitable success. “Applying [passion fruit] to serious vintage-styled cocktails was a master stroke.”