Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thirsty Thursday - The Daiquiri

A summertime staple, drink of beach bars around the world, and quencher of the sun's fiery power, the Daiquiri is a drink with a long and complicated history that belies its fluffy rep. It all starts on a certain island just 90 miles from the southernmost point in these United States, the tropical island of Cuba. The Spanish long used Cuba as their foothold in the Americas. Christopher Columbus claimed it for the Spanish crown and Spain fought to keep their foothold, doing battle with the French and the British to retain control. Cuba repaid its monarchs with the financial rewards reaped from tobacco and sugar.

Fast forward to 1823 and the Monroe Doctrine and its edict that European powers should keep their hands off the Americas. Having survived the trials and tribulations of its conflicts with France and Britain, Spain still was the ruling power in Cuba, a fact that wasn't so popular with Cubans. During the Spanish-American War, America landed troops in Cuba, coming ashore on a beach named Daiquiri. The end result, American occupation of Cuba and Cuban tobacco and sugar filling American coffers for a change.

In the wake of the war, Jennings Cox moved in to profit from an iron mine not far from Santiago and Daiquiri beach and its Mr. Cox who is credited with creating the original Daiquiri. Supposedly, Jennings was entertaining one night and ran out of gin. Not wanting to let the festivities die, Cox resorted to the most readily available liquor on the island, rum. He added lemons, sugar, and mineral water and to his pleasure, his guests loved the result. Pressed for a name he initially called it a rum sour, but eventually he switched to the fancier moniker, the Daiquiri. Through the Bacardi website you can even view Mr. Cox's original recipe.

Allegedly Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, a US Navy officer, fell in love with the Daiquiri and introduced it to the Army and Navy Club in Washington DC as well as the University Club of Baltimore (the Admiral apparently got around). By the 30's the Daiquiri began to come into its own courtesy of two famous American writers.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gave the Daiquiri a cameo in This Side of Paradise, but Ernest Hemingway was more associated with the cocktail. Hemingway loved the Daiquiri so much that even diabetes wouldn't stay his appetite. Instead he swapped grapefruit for the sugar, added maraschino liqueur, and doubled up the rum, creating the Papa Doble served at El Floridita. He penned on the wall of La Bodeguita "My mojito in La Bodeguita. My Daiquiri in El Floridita."

The Papa Doble (Hemmingway Daiquiri)
3oz White rum
1oz Lime juice
.5 oz Grapefruit juice
.25 oz Maraschino liqueur

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and gently shake with ice.. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Ah, but time waits for no man and it has a habit of playing holy hell with his drink of choice. In the 1930's two things changed the Daiquiri forever: the refrigerator and the blender. Back at Hemingway's favorite Daiquiri haunt a bartender by the name of Constantino Ribalaigua Vert was transforming the drink from shaken cocktail to slushy with a kick. With a good blender a barkeep could puree any fruit he wanted and add it to the mix and soon there were banana, mango, and strawberry Daiquiris made to order with the slush-like consistency of something you might find at your local 7-11. Soon vodka replaced gin and America moved into its Tiki mid-life crisis making the Daiquiri the drink of choice for sloshed co-eds at every spring break beach party. By the end of the 80's the Daiquiri was just another washed up has been on cocktail Skid Row.

But, as this blog shows again and again, nothing old stays that way for long and the past never really leaves us forever. The resurgence of drinking culture in the 90's brought back an interest in making cocktails the way granddad did. Out went the corn syrup mixes, fresh fruit juices and in-house infused liquors came into vogue, and soon the drink that blew in from the Spanish American war had been returned to its glory.

Regardless of what you think of the United States' re-imagining its relationship with that island 90 miles offshore, summer's a great time to rediscover the Daiquiri. Leave the bickering and phony politics to the politicians, let us have lime and rum and happy memories.

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