Telling You What's Good

Alcoholic Liquid Nitrogen – The Real Daiquiri

(A continuation from yesterday’s post on the mojito)

If the mojito is liquid air conditioning on a hot day, the daiquiri is like drinking boozy liquid nitrogen, a short, sharp, shock of ultimate cold to the mojito’s enveloping effervescent coolness. Additionally, the daiquiri is a more elegant, refined drink, whereas the mojito is a bit more rustic and working class, but they’re connected regardless. Both were invented in Cuba, and both were perfected at bars that Ernest “And a Bottle of Rum” Hemingway, who drank lots of both, frequented. Before we begin, let me tell you what a daiquiri is NOT:

  1. It is NOT made out of a slushie machine.
  2. It is NOT made with all kinds of random fruits (I’m looking at you, strawberries).
  3. It is NOT meant to be sweet.
  4. It is NOT pronounced DAK-uh-ree.  It’s Spanish, for God’s sake.

It’s shocking how many otherwise credible bars still think that’s what a daiquiri is. When made right, it’s a smooth, dry and tart yet balanced, delicious drink that chills upon first sip. Cocktail maven David Embury considered it one of the six essential drinks and called it “”a vastly superior cocktail to the Manhattan,” and “a cocktail that is difficult to improve upon.” In its purest form, it is nothing but white rum, lime juice and a trace of sugar, shaken and served up, with some acceptable variations as described below.

Bad boy reputedly would have up to 16 double sized ones in one night.

The real and still legitimate variations were invented and/or popularized at El Floridita, an upscale bar and restaurant in Havana popular with the pre-embargo jet set, by legendary bartender Constante Ribalaigua, the owner and head bartender.  In addition to the classic recipe, his variations included blending and serving over crushed ice, adding Maraschino liqueur (the funky-ass stuff distilled from cherries, like Luxardo), or a splash of grapefruit juice to supplement the lime.  In modern parlance, a daiquiri that adds in Maraschino is typically called a Floridita daiquiri, one that adds to that grapefruit and occasionally served frozen, and was the house special at El Floridita, is called a Floridita daiquiri no. 2 or sometimes a Hemingway daiquiri, and one that at least doubles all the quantities and is always served frozen over crushed ice is a Papa Doble, what EH actually drank at El Floridita.

When it’s really hot and you just don’t give a shit, go for a Papa Doble.  One or two of these and you’ll be in a state of arctic bliss.  If you just want an elegant, icy sipper, go for the standard or Floridita versions.  For a fruitier twist, go for the Floridita no. 2.

Basic:

  • 2 oz white rum (Havana Club is best, Flor de Caña and Brugal are worthy substitutes)
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice (Constante would squeeze them by hand so as not to express any lime zest oil, but that’s just unnecessary pedantic fastidiousness)
  • half oz (or less) simple syrup
  • Shake hard over cracked or crushed ice and double strain into a cocktail glass

for the Floridita: Add 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.

For the Floridita no. 2: proceed as for Floridita, but split the ounce of juice 50-50 between lime juice and grapefruit juice, or simply add 1/2 oz grapefruit to the previous ounce of lime.  All of the above may be served up or blended and served over crushed ice.

Papa Doble: Hemingway’s recipe was for “two and a half jiggers of white rum, juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, six drops of maraschino liqueur, served frozen.”  This is vague, so let’s throw some measurements in:

  • 4 oz rum
  • 1.5 oz lime juice
  • 1.5 oz grapefruit juice
  • 0.5 oz Maraschino
  • Blend with crushed ice and serve with the ice in a large glass – Hemingway liked goblets, apparently.
  • Take it easy

A note on crushed or shaved ice and blending: You don’t want Slurpee consistency i.e. microscopic-sized ice and perfect integration.  There should be some liquid left sloshing around, and the ice should be crushed, but not pulverized.

For a more detailed overview of the daiquiri as served at El Floridita, here’s an excellent writeup.  Note: the recipes vary a bit in proportions to mine.

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