“If you can’t make an omelet, you don’t know how to cook,” says Joaquín Simó, bartender and owner of Pouring Ribbons in New York. “Same thing with a Daiquiri.” Ask any bartender what drink they order at a cocktail bar when they want to test a bartender’s skill—nine times out of 10 the answer will be the Daiquiri. It’s a drink whose balance is precarious. You must know the tartness of your lime juice that day, choose your rum (or rhum) wisely, and calibrate your sweetener to work in tandem with the spirit’s perceived sweetness and profile. Will it be dry sugar or syrup? Cane, demerara, turbinado? What is the ratio of that syrup? What ice will you choose to shake with, and how much? Will you fine-strain, or intentionally allow the spent shards of ice to collect on the surface of the drink?
The sour template—to which the Daiquiri adheres—invites this attention to balance of acidity and sweetness against whichever base spirits you happen to be working with. Oftentimes, the difference between a great Amaretto Sour and a lousy one is in the overall proof of the drink or, in the case of the Whiskey Sour, the unorthodox addition of OJ. In our Masters of X series, we spotlight bartenders who have sought to take apart a seemingly simple drink in search of the perfect recipe. So, if you’re going to make yourself a Daiquiri, may we suggest that you make a superior version of it? Here is a selection of tried-and-true recipes for nine sours, from the Last Word to the Sidecar and beyond.