The Daiquiri

The Daiquiri (1)

19 Feb. 2018
After all these years, we decided it was time to give this iconic cocktail its due

It just struck us that after all these years, we still haven’t really tackled the two Cuban cocktails everyone, anywhere, has heard about: the Daiquiri and the Mojito. With the 2016 Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix approaching fast, we decided it was time to give those iconic cocktails their due. So expect a few articles in the coming weeks… And to start off, let’s have a look at the history of the Daiquiri. Or should that read its histories? Indeed, many theories abound, so we had to look towards some of our favourite cocktail historians and see what they had to say.

(One of the too numerous to mention) mainstream version(s): US mining engineer Jennings Cox ran out of gin and had to make do with Cuban rum when he wanted to offer a drink to some guests at the Daiquiri mine, near Santiago de Cuba, back in 1898. According to a supposedly authentic, original recipe, it was shaken with still water and served over crushed ice.

David Wondrich’s version: Probably conscious he would be stepping into a minefield, he focuses on the Daiquiri’s American history. According to Wondrich, it made its way to the US a good ten years later, around 1910 and landed first at the Navy Club in Washington. Although Wondrich doesn’t name him, it’s worth noting that many writers credit Admiral Lucius W. Johnson for introducing the drink over there.

Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry’s version: Jeff begins with the “no gin, what should I do? Oh, is that Cuban rum I see there?” version. He then explains that it took the arrival of seven mine superintendents from the States in 1908 for Cox’s drink to reach Santiago’s bars and be, at last, christened. The rest is history, as they say…

Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown’s version: In ‘Cuban Cocktails’, everyone’s favourite cocktail detectives dedicate over 60 pages to the genealogy of the Daiquiri. We can’t sum it up, but at the heart of their narration is the conviction that various Daiquiris were promoted by various people until a classic form was ‘agreed’ upon. They don’t trust the Cox version and underline that the Daiquiri owes both to the American Rum Sour and the Cuban Canchánchara (a point Beachbum also makes).

And what about BarNews, then? Oh, well, if you really must know… We don’t think the Daiquiri needs to be attached to particular names. Many source seem to agree on its christening, if not his creation, being linked to US mine engineers and the city of Santiago de Cuba. And it’s widely accepted that it started making waves outside of Santiago around 1910. It’s also obvious that Cubans were already drinking mixtures of citrus and sugarcane by-products (aguardiente, molasses, sugar…), but that the Daiquiri was made following American methods. So can we claim the Daiquiri as another example of Cuban fusion? We think we can. And that, cantineros, is what really matters, because drinks are as much made by people who met people, as they are made to help people meet people.

François Monti