Come winter, however, the drink all but disappears from our collective consciousness. And that’s a shame for many reasons, not least among them: One of the drink’s key components—lime—is at its freshest and most flavorful in January, when citrus fruits are in peak season.
“The notion of having a wintertime Daiquiri means something very different in this country than it does in the drink’s place of origin,” explains bartender Joaquín Simó of Pouring Ribbons, who’s known for his love of the classic and its infinitely adaptable template. “I don’t want to get away from the drink [in the winter],” he says. “I think it just calls for a different style of rum.”
Bartender Jim Kearns of Slowly Shirley and The Happiest Hour agrees. “Rum is probably the most versatile, friendly spirit ingredient there is,” he says. “It’s very easy to swap in a darker rum [in a Daiquiri].”
Having an idea of what you gravitate towards in a white rum can help to determine what might suit your palate when swapping in aged variations. “If you are the kind of person who likes a very funky white rum, then I might go for an aged rhum agricole or an aged Jamaican rum,” says Simó, name-checking Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend and Reserve as softer examples within the latter category, and Hamilton’s Black and Gold rums as heavier.
Beyond the Rum
Syrups: Though it’s not necessary to swap out simple syrup for a richer sweetener, the latter can add extra depth to a Daiquiri in winter. Simó and Kearns recommend syrups made with Demerara or brown sugars, or with honey, which can accentuate the molasses note present in many aged rums.
Flavored Syrups: Cinnamon syrup tends to complement most aged rums and vanilla syrup is almost universally welcome in a Daiquiri, though it can be used in lesser quantities because of its high level of perceived sweetness. Spiced syrups are also worthy stand-ins if used judiciously. (Simó cautions against using allspice syrup with a Jamaican rum, for example, as it can cause the rum’s signature notes of clove to feel overwhelming and out of balance.)
Garnish: Another way both bartenders might add spice notes to the drink is with a garnish, such as grated cinnamon or nutmeg, or a torched cinnamon stick.
Sugar Rim: Simó also suggests a sugar rim, dolled up with finely ground dehydrated citrus peel or spices. Even if only half the rim is garnished, he says, it can provide an unusual boost of aromatics to the drink.
For spicier flavors, both bartenders recommend a Trinidadian rum, citing Scarlet Ibis (which Simó had a hand in blending). And, as a one-size-fits-all winter Daiquiri base, Kearns suggests an aged Spanish-style rum with light to medium body, like Santa Teresa’s Claro or 1796 bottlings, or The 86 Co.’s Cana Brava 7-Year-Old Reserva Añeja. (He likens the latter to a similarly aged offering from Havana Club.)
“[Spanish-style rums] tend to have the least in-your-face, distinct qualities, as opposed to an agricole or a Jamaican-style,” says Kearns. “They’re really going to let all of the other ingredients kind of shine.” Alternatively, Simó suggests both the three and five star rums from Barbancourt out of Haiti (aged four and eight years, respectively).
When no single rum will quite do: blend multiple rums into one cocktail, borrowing a decades-old trick from the tiki canon. “There’s a Don the Beachcomber quote, ‘What one rum can’t do, three rums can,’ and it’s really kind of true,” says Kearns. “If you swap in different types of rum, you will always create a more complex flavor profile—the rums will play off of each other.”
His Happiest Hour Daiquiri, calls on Spanish-style and Jamaican rums plus rhum agricole, while his aptly named F.A.F. Daiquiri incorporates no fewer than five base rums and introduces both Trinidadian and Guyanese examples into the mix.
For a more basic formula, Simó offers his go-to Mai Tai split: a fragrant combination of funky La Favorite Amber (a rhum agricole) and Hamilton Gold, which works equally well shaken with lime and sweetener as it does in the tiki classic. “If I’m going to throw a third rum in there, I like a heavy, smoky Demerara rum,” he says, “something like the El Dorado 12 Year Old,” to provide a culinary “base note.”
Even when swapping in and out different rums, Kearns and Simó agree that their ratios can remain largely unchanged (however, an aged, molasses-driven rum often requires less sweetener than others). Same goes for the drink’s citrus backbone, says Simó, which is the one ingredient carries the drink year-round. “Limes are so full of flavor and so on point [in winter] that the drink never stops being about the lime.”