Papa do preach—about the glories of the Daiquiri. (Illustration: George McCalman)
“The Indispensables” is Liquor.com’s series devoted to the classic cocktails drinkers of every skill need in their arsenal. Each installment features one signature recipe, assembled from intel by the best bartenders. “The Indispensables” may not save the world, but it’ll surely rescue your cocktail hour.
Ernest Hemingway is inspiration, not author, of the cocktail that bears his name. It’s an important distinction, and takes some of the pressure off of the much disputed origin story of the most popular Daiquiri riff.
Hemingway preferred his Daiquiris with half the sugar—and double the booze.
Whether Hemingway actually drank 16 double daiquiris at Cuba’s La Floridita bar in one sitting is rather beside the point. His request for a Daiquiri made with half the sugar and double the booze created an unbalanced drink: one that bartenders couldn’t help but right through the eventual addition of maraschino liqueur and a little bit of grapefruit juice.
These delicious evolutions are several degrees away from any cocktail the author would have ordered in Cuba. To reinstate some of Hemingway’s proprietary influence, this recipe takes two subtle sidesteps.
Fresh key lime juice adds much-needed pucker to a slushy-like Daiquiri.
First, this cocktail uses key lime juice. These smaller limes were very likely the fruit used at La Floridita, as key limes were the primary limes grown and made available in the States until the 1930s. In addition, the very first Daiquiris were made with lemons, not limes, so the extra tart pucker of a key lime tips the tang further in the direction of historical accuracy. The reasoning behind reinstating key lime juice in this cocktail is not just a memorializing effort: The vanilla-like aroma and extra jab of acidity add an underpinning of tropical refreshment.
The earliest Daiquiris were served with crushed ice—not a far cry from the blended version.
Second, the whole shebang goes for a whir in the blender. (Silence your gasps!) For years, bartenders have been weaning us off the blended Daiquiri of the spring break set, training us to instead employ dainty jadeite coupes. In reality, the earliest Daiquiris were served with crushed ice, including, most likely, those consumed by Hemingway. A departure from the blender drink was necessary to our cocktail schooling. But it’s now time to re-embrace the frosty brilliance of a Daiquiri slushy.
Kaitlyn Goalen is a writer, editor and cook based in Brooklyn and Raleigh, N.C. She is the editor and co-founder of Short Stack Editions, a series of single-subject, digest-size cookbooks, and has contributed to a variety of national publications.