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How Well Do You Actually Know the Daiquiri?

Born in Cuba as a malaria preventative at the turn of the century, the simple combination of rum, lime and sweetener eventually became an international cocktail sensation. Here, get to know the Daiquiri in three classic recipes and their modern interpretations.

The word “Daiquiri” often conjures images of the flamboyant, artificial fruit variety, garnished with at least one umbrella, a plastic swizzle stick and, if you’re lucky, a real strawberry. But, at its core, the famous drink relies on the simplest of templates: rum, lime and sweetener.

According to Charles H. Baker, author of 1939’s The Gentleman’s Companion, the drink was born out of the need to make palatable the combination of rum and water (then commonly used as a malaria preventative). The solution to add a squeeze of lime and a little sugar to the otherwise medicinal mixture, Baker writes, originated with Harry E. Stout and Jennings Cox, who created the cocktail in 1898 in Cuba, in the village of Daiquiri.

This simple combination, according to David Wondrich’s Imbibe, became the “first true classic cocktail invented outside the United States,” having gained a following in the crowds of Americans stationed on the island following the Spanish-American War. It wasn’t for another decade that the Daiquiri would become a stateside sensation and earn its place in the cocktail canon.

How the drink came to be inextricably linked to its frozen variation is another story, which begins with Constante Ribalaigua of El Floridita bar in Havana, who occasionally served the Daiquiri as a frappé on a bed of finely shaved ice, a style that would become popular stateside. A labor-intensive process, the order was received—not unlike that for a Pousse Café or a Ramos Gin Fizz—with a groan. It wasn’t until the 1937 release of the Waring Blendor (the official trademarked spelling) that the frozen Daiquiri became commonplace.

As for the shaken variations, there is a small canon of classics upon which to riff, thanks again to Ribalaigua, who is credited with the creation and documentation of the drink’s three primary calling cards. Labeled numerically, each builds on the rum-, sugar- and lime-based template of the original cocktail, the Daiquiri No. 1: While the No. 2 sees the addition of orange Curaçao and orange juice, the No. 3—what we now refer to as the Hemingway Daiquiri—is flavored with grapefruit and maraschino liqueur.

Here, a look at those three quintessential recipes and their modern twists.

Classic: Daiquiri
Modern: Davy Jones’s Locker, PX Daiquri, La Bomba Daiquiri

The original Daiquiri, like so many Caribbean classics, takes well to the addition of tiki flavors, like the cinnamon-spiced Davy Jones’s Locker, which plays on the classic flavors of Don’s Mix. For a more winter-ready riff, Chantal Tseng blends in PX Sherry in place of simple syrup, while Joaquín Simó opts for an extra-tart variation, adding raspberries and tangy pomegranate molasses to his bright La Bomba Daiquiri.

Classic: Daiquiri No. 2
Modern: Joggling BoardRoyal Bermuda Yacht Club

Originally created at El Floridita bar in Havana, the Daiquiri No. 2 dates back to the 1920s and is notably flavored with both orange Curaçao and orange juice in addition to lime. Trader Vic’s original Royal Bermuda Yacht Club builds on that template, adding to it his calling-card, falernum, while Greg Best’s Joggling Board pairs rum and Curaçao with grapefruit and lemon—plus ginger liqueur and a pinch of black pepper—for an especially complex variation.

Classic: Hemingway Daiquiri
Modern: Hemingway in Europe, Paddington

While the El Floridita Daiquiri and the Hemingway Daiquiri (aka Daiquiri #3) are often described as interchangeable, there’s plenty of debate as to whether the drink was served shaken and strained, or blended with ice. However, there’s plenty to agree on in terms of the drink’s flavor profile, which famously includes grapefruit juice and, most often, maraschino liqueur. Keeping those two flavors, the Hemingway in Europe loses the classic spirit, rum, in favor of Batavia arrack, while the Paddington, a longtime PDT staple, sees the addition of Lillet Blanc and orange marmalade.

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