Pity the poor daiquiri. Mention the word to your average neighborhood bartender and the odds are probably 50-50 you'll wind up with a slushy, fruit-flavored morass of syrups and chemicals, designed to mask any hint of alcohol and get the drinker blotto as quickly and painlessly as possible. And hey, I've got no problem with that. A great deal of my college career was spent quaffing those very libations, and on those rare occasions when I'm in the mood for the alcoholic equivalent of a Slurpee, it still goes down mighty easy.
But a daiquiri, it's not. A properly made daiquiri, like a martini or a Manhattan, is one of the most elegant cocktails you'll ever drink. A deceptively simple alchemy of three ingredients -- white rum, lime juice, and sugar -- that, when combined, create true magic in a glass.
The exact origins of the daiquiri are lost in the mists of time, but the generally accepted story is that it was created by Americans in the town of Daiquiri, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War in the late 1890s. By 1920, it was well-known enough in the States to warrant a mention in F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel This Side Of Paradise. In the '30s and '40s, as tourism to Cuba increased, the daiquiri's popularity really took off. Everyone from JFK to the drink's best-known proponent, Ernest Hemingway, could be seen downing them. There are very fine daiquiri variations, such as Papa's own Hemingway Daiquiri. Over the decades, however, the drink has been bastardized, slushified and infused with more fruit flavors than a pack of Starburst.
Here's how to make a classic daiquiri, as described in Gary Regan's invaluable tome The Joy Of Mixology:
2 ounces white or light rum
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (emphasis on fresh-squeezed)
1/2 ounce simple syrup (simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water, with the sugar dissolved)
Combine ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice, and strain into a wineglass. You can use a lime round as garnish if you have any left.
And, voila. Such an uncomplicated recipe gives would-be mixologists plenty of room to tinker, but little room for improvement.
Since a daiquiri is more than half rum, the question of which one to use is a vital one. Strangely, however, white rums, with the exception of Bacardi, aren't nearly as well known as their darker, longer-aged and unfiltered counterparts. Many distillers are hard-pressed to admit that they even market a white rum. Perhaps it's because, in most cases, they're somewhat unrefined and are meant for mixing, not sipping. Well, it's time to reclaim the daiquiri, and it's time to bring white rum out of the shadows. What follows is a list of several of the most noteworthy (for better or worse) white rums. Remember, a daiquiri is only as good as the ingredients you put into it. Choose your rum carefully! And, as always, if I missed any of your favorites, feel free to mention them in the Comments.
Now it's your turn. Agree? Disagree? Have a favorite that I missed? Don't be shy! Discerning daiquiri drinkers await your feedback!