The Daiquiri, Caribbean simplicity

Author: Marco Negro

The world’s best-known cocktails have a precise place and date of birth. Through a journey of cultural insights and historical notes, we are recounting the best-known recipes, the distillates used and the techniques of ‘mixed drinking’.

The origins of the Daiquiri are lost among several legends. Two of these are more popular than others and converge in one place; Cuba’s exotic Playa Daiquiri. It is a beautiful tropical beach near Santiago de Cuba, on the south coast of the island. It all happened in 1898, during the Spanish-American War, which had Cuba and its people as sacrificial victims. The Americans stationed on the island were bewitched by the mixing of local rum with the sweet taste of sugar and the sour taste of lime.

The history of the Daiquiri also passes through an important bar in Havana, the legendary El Floridita, which has been serving fish, tasty shellfish and cocktails for over 200 years. Here, barman Constantino Ribalaigua Vert fixed the current formula of the Caribbean cocktail par excellence.

Bar Floridta in Cuba and a pink car next to it.

Some of the iconography relating to the Daiquiri, however, can be traced back to Ernest Hemingway. It is known of the American writer that he stayed several times and for long periods in Cuba. Journalist, writer, counter-intelligence figure and great traveller. A turbulent life with a few fixed points. Among them the visceral love for Cuba, where he lived for several periods of his life, and the vicious love for Daiquiri.

The writer Hemingway with some friends drinks and talks while sitting at a bar in Cuba

The formula noted by the barman and patron of El Floridita bar is as follows:

– 4.5 cl white rum

– 2.5 cl of lime juice

– 1.5 cl sugar syrup

The preparation is very simple. All the ingredients must be poured into the shaker. After adding ice, the actual mixing by shaking takes place. This movement is not choreography, it is a real technique, very useful for two reasons. Stirring allows the ice to cool quickly in the small mass of a few centilitres. In addition, the speed allows the sugar syrup to mix very well with the rest of the ingredients. The mixture is then strained through the strainer and served in a small cup with a stem.

It is one of the bartender’s best-known tools. It is much more than a simple strainer. Its spiral spring allows it to retain the ice fragments created during shaking in the shaker. In this way, cocktails can be served very cold, but without ice shards, which would only dilute the bartender’s creation, watering it down.

A glass of Daiquiri cocktail on a table

Daiquiri falls into the so-called ‘sour’ category, cocktails in which an important acidic component, that of citrus fruits, is present. Mixing with acidic citrus juices and sweet bases served in the past to mitigate the poor quality of Rum, Tequila or Pisco, which were often coarsely distilled by makeshift means. In these blends, sensitivity and experience are needed to keep the three components (alcohol, acid and sweet) in balance because the citrus fruits from the shopping basket may have different degrees of ripeness.

In this category of cocktails, in addition to the Daiquiri we also find the Margarita and the Pisco Sour. Apparently easy to make, having as a base a distillate, the juice of a citrus fruit and a sweet base, these cocktails on the other hand require great skill to keep the variable degree of ripeness of the citrus fruit in balance.

The main actor in Daiquiri is white rum, basically a spirit derived from sugar cane, a plant cultivated in all tropical areas of the planet. At the end of the sugar extraction process, a thick, dark liquid, the molasses, still rich in sucrose, remains. Fermentation of the diluted molasses and subsequent distillation in stills of this fermented product gives rise to rum. Besides this industrial technique, there is also another artisanal method, which involves crushing the cane to obtain a juice to be fermented and then distilled. The rums obtained from the distillation of fermented fresh juice are called ‘agricultural rums’White rum is the one that has been aged for at least one year. Any colouring that the toasted wood in the barrels has given off during ageing is removed through activated charcoal filters. Some rums continue ageing instead. Each producer makes his own choices in blending the rums available, creating his own consistent and recognisable style. The world of aged rums is a fascinating one, made up of scents and aromas that derive from the different barrel maturations and national styles. Daiquiri uses white rum, with a dry and neutral flavour.

Rum barrels on a beach with a pirate sailing ship in the background

The ‘sour’ component of the cocktail comes from lime juice. This name is used to identify the fruit of various citrus fruits obtained from crosses, including that between citron and lemon. Limes are generally small and oval, with a thin greenish skin and seedless pulp. Their acidity is much lower than that of lemons. Pulp and peel have a very delicate aroma. Before the service starts, the barman prepares the squeezed and filtered juice that he thinks might be needed, so as to amalgamate the differences that may exist between different fruits. Another presence on the bar is sugar syrup, which stems from the need to have a sweet base that can be diluted without lumps and difficulties. It is obtained by dissolving 30 parts sugar in 70 parts water over moderate heat, taking care to avoid caramelisation.

The Daiquiri: Caribbean simplicity in a cocktail, which for its sour and refreshing character can be enjoyed at any time of day.

30th June 2022,

Marco Negro

Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.
Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.

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