The day of the daiquiri

Alcoholic beverage expert Helen Light tells us about the history of the Daiquiri and the resurgence of rum

The day of the daiquiri

The 19th of July is my brother’s birthday and, as the resident drinks expert, I was tasked with finding a ‘perfectly elegant cocktail’ for his celebrations. Luckily, I discovered that the 19th of July is also International Daiquiri Day.

Coincidence? I think not.

However, after a little time I started to think that perhaps this was a dark road to travel, if, like me, you grew up in the 90s then the word ‘daiquiri’ has few links to ‘perfectly elegant’ and more associations with ‘perfectly naff’. Cue visions of sweet alcoholic strawberry slushies on package holidays in Majorca.

Determined not to be defeated in my quest to find the ‘perfectly elegant cocktail’, I delved into the history of daiquiris, and I’m pleased to say I found a truly captivating story and refined concoction that is fast overtaking my beloved negroni as summer drink-of-choice.

In today’s cocktail climate, people tell me they want an easy-to-make drink, delivering a distinct, flavourful and premium result

Let’s put this in context. In today’s cocktail climate, people tell me they want an easy-to-make drink, delivering a distinct, flavourful and premium result. Ideally, something they can use to show off to their friends at dinner – getting the shaker going whilst throwing out a few bits of trivia, or something to whip up as an affordable luxurious treat for themselves.

Well folks, I have the answer; the classic daiquiri, which has it all.

The daiquiri was born in Cuba in the late 19th century when an American mining engineer called Jennings Cox created the drink out of the limited available items in the local area: Bacardi rum, limes and sugar.

Two versions of events exist: firstly, that it was inspired by the local iron-ore miners in the area who mixed their coffee with rum. The mines were treacherous and it was an extremely tough job. As supervisor, Cox decided he and his workers needed something bright to keep themselves going and experimented with what was to hand – the daiquiri served as both reward and pain relief from descriptions of the work involved!

The second version is that Cox ran out of gin at his home whilst entertaining guests from the US. He was hesitant to serve neat rum to such refined visitors so mixed it with lime and sugar to soften the blow. Either way, we know where the event took place – the mining town of Daiquiri.

Shortly after Cox’s creation had been named, it made the trip to the Army and Navy Club in Washington via Admiral Lucious Johnson, who had been visiting Cox. The daiquiri caught on, growing more popular during the Second World War when whisky and vodka became scare due to rationing, and later becoming the favourite drink of JFK.

The daiquiri also has some great literary links – it’s the mid-morning tipple of Graham Greene’s fallible lead in ‘Our Man in Havana’ and one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite drinks.

In fact, if you are in the mood to create a more differentiated version of a daiquiri then I urge you to avoid the slushy strawberries and give Hemingway’s version a go: the Papa Doble. The original Papa Doble is not for the faint hearted – it is essentially double the rum and no sugar, but the modern version includes a dash of maraschino, grapefruit and a little sugar syrup to give it a fruity, bittersweet finish.

Tapping into the daiquiri of old is the perfect fit for the resurgence of rum - there is so much potential for rum brands

And here’s a useful piece of pub quiz trivia for you: apparently the daiquiri is a more sophisticated version of ‘grog’ – the British sailors’ drink of necessity rather than choice in the late 1700s to combat scurvy.

But let’s bring it back to the here and now. We’ve all been hearing for more than a few years now that ‘rum is the new gin’ – indeed its growth has been significant in the last couple of years - but I believe we’re still waiting to see real clarity and serve innovation in the category.

Bartenders and mixologists tell me that people “don’t understand rum” – it’s hard to tell what’s premium and how to interpret flavours, so people fall back to classic serves like mojitos and Cuba Libre.

As we’ve seen with gin, premium serves that are easy to replicate and can be tailored to suit personal taste holds appeal for the populous – everyone has their very own G&T recipe. This is why tapping into the daiquiri of old is the perfect fit for the resurgence of rum. There is so much potential for rum brands, it’s just about who gets there first.

The Day of the Daiquiri is now and hopefully here to stay. So raise your glass this Thursday (19th July) and enjoy!