Last July I studied Daiquiris, that classic Cuban summer cooler. There is a lot of lore associated with this classic cocktail, devotees of which notoriously included Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy. I always like a bit of lore to go with my cocktail.
Here's what I discovered:
The Daiquiri is an early 20th century discovery named for a mining camp in Cuba. I imagine a mining camp in Cuba might inspire all sorts of alcoholic liquid refreshment, and where rum and limes are plentiful it is no surprise the Daiquiri emerged as the relief of choice.
I tried 4 types that warranted further discussion:
- the original: 2 oz white rum, juice of 1/2 a lime, 1 tsp sugar, mixed and poured over ice in a highball glass
- the classic: 2 oz white rum, juice of 1/2 a lime, 1 tsp sugar, shaken with ice and served in a cocktail glass
- the La Floridita Daiquiri No. 4 (a Hemingway version): the classic with 1 tsp Maraschino liqueur, blended with ice
- the Caipirinha, the modern Brazilian version made like the original but with shaved ice and Cachaca instead of white rum
In my opinion, all are excellent, but I have to say the classic version is good for a before-dinner cocktail-hour relaxer, but the original is better for sipping on the porch on a hot afternoon. They all have the same "limeade" base of fresh lime juice and sugar. Fortunately you can mix up a pitcher of the base recipe and pour it over ice in a tall glass or shake it with ice and put it in a cocktail glass for the buttoned-up crowd.
I tried some variations with more and less sugar and with simple sysrup. Simple syrup didn't work at all. The classic amount of sugar is perfect for a standard store-bought lime.
The Hemingway version (I have seen another that includes a grapefruit, but never made it) includes the notable addition of the Maraschino. Marashino is a clear, lightly musty, sweet liqueur made from sour cherry pits. I use it in a number of Victorian recipes. It is an inspired addition. I don't know if it was Hemingway's idea or that of his bartender at La Floridita, but if the latter, well he deserves some acclaim too. I will go a step further in a moment...
The Caipirinha is a delicious concoction that is served by the bucketful in Brazil, but when made with quality ingredients it is a very respectable potion. The Cachaca is key to the exotic flavor, but you can do fine with white rum - then the only difference is serving it over shaved ice as in a Mint Julep. In my humble opinion, going from a Mint Julep in June to a Caiprinha in July is a perfectly natural progression as the Earth tilts increasingly into the torrid zone. Cachaca is available here and there, certainly in New Bedford but I think I got my bottle in Plymouth or else in Milford.
I think the Maraschino is a fine addition. The shaved ice - not so much. There has been a great frosty wave of frozen blender drinks in recent years and I have yet to find one worth the ingredients that are wasted in it. If you spend your own hard-earned shekels on quality rum or other liquor, why fill it with ice chips? Even the attractive clear cubes that you buy in a bag were once plain water from some factory tap somewhere. Until I can buy Poland Spring crushed ice, I can't shake the feeling that I am adulterating some of my favorite fine ingredients with ice from Secaucus Springs or someplace.
The crushed ice certainly keeps the drink cool on a hot day, until it melts. What's wrong with ice cubes from the water I cook with and drink every day? We have good water in Plymouth; indeed had we not the Pilgrims would have settled elsewhere.
So here's my verdict: Make the classic cocktail if you need a cocktail and the original if you are sitting on the porch. Maybe add a bit of Maraschino if you have it... but by all means if you can get the Cachaca then add the Maraschino as well and served it over ice cubed in a tall glass.
For a more professional take on this classic cocktail, read Mark Holmes' thoughts on his Cardiff Cocktails blog.