Havana Club 3
7 Jun. 2017
Lime, sugar and rum: the Cuban Holy Trinity.

In Cuba, they have their own version of the Holy Trinity. Lime, sugar and rum: the island’s most typical citrus, the product of the wonderful plant Columbus introduced centuries ago and the spirit that made Cuba famous throughout the world. Properly combined (it’s as easy as 2 parts rum, 1 part sugar and 1 part lime), this Cuban Trinity has given the world its finest cocktail: the Daiquiri.
Some say it was invented around 1898 by an American engineer called Jenning Cox near Santiago de Cuba. He had run out of gin and decided to improvise with Cuban light rum. His guests approved. Although historical research suggests that American miners might have indeed had something to do with it, the rum, citrus and sweet mixture is quintessentially Cuban: the Canchanchara, Cuba’s first cocktail, drunk by the heroes of the independence war, was already built upon this time-honored formula.
No one mixed cocktails quite as well as the Cuban cantineros (bartenders) of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Many of them were proud of their ability to flawlessly balance sour and sweet in the Daiquiri. Emilio ‘Maragato’ Gonzalez was credited with bringing the drink to Havana from Santiago and Vincente Gayo would delight anyone who stopped for one at the Havana Club Bar, right opposite the city’s cathedral. But one man perfected the Daiquiri in completely original ways: his name was Constantino Ribalaigua (Constante to his friends), and El Floridita, his bar, quickly became known as “The Cradle of the Daiquiri”.
At Floridita, Constante and his team not only made the best classic Daiquiris in the world, they also came up with a number of twists that have stood the test time. The Daiquiri #1, as they called it, respected the basic formula and it was shaken to perfection, so it would come out perfectly chilled and crisp. The Daiquiri #2 added a trace amount of orange juice and curaçao. The Daiquiri #3 followed the same format, but traded in the orange for grapefruit — favoured by Cubans for its subtle flavours — and maraschino, an Italian dry Cherry liqueur. The #3 became the basis for the famous Hemingway Daiquiri, such was the love of the famous author for this drink. The Daiquiri #5 just added trace amounts of grenadine for those who wanted their drink pink but really, Constante could have stopped at his masterwork, the Daiquiri #4 — the blended drink everyone knows as the Frozen Daiquiri.
Watching an expert cantinero make a Frozen Daiquiri is a spectacular experience. Look at him hand-squeezing the lime juice, see how he adds a spoonful of pure white sugar in the blender before scooping in the perfect amount of cracked ice. And the rum? Well, he pours it while the blender’s blades are already spinning. He does it gradually so the Daiquiri literally takes shape before your eyes and, once served, it needs to have the texture of the smoothest snow. This guarantees the freshest, best balanced and most refreshing Daiquiri.
The Daiquiri, in all its forms, has been one of the world’s most popular cocktails for over a century. It has inspired countless bartenders to create their own versions, and every tropical drink owes a debt of gratitude to the cantineros who perfected the formula. There’s no great bar without a great Daiquiri. But who says you can’t make one at home? You could have a go at the Frozen Daiquiri, but the original Daiquiri is as easy to make as it is pleasant to drink: pour 50 ml of Havana Club 3 Años, 25 ml of freshly squeezed lime juice and 25 ml of sugar syrup (or a heaped tablespoon of white sugar) over ice into your shaker — although any good, clean mason jar will work as well. Shake well until perfectly chilled and let the magic of the Cuban trinity work its wonders on you and your guests. It’s as easy as 2-1-1.

François Monti