Up here in the rainy Pacific Northwest we don't see much sun until roughly mid-July, but this year we've been treated to an unseasonably warm spring. I've altered my weekend beverage schedule accordingly. You see, while April and May are usually set aside for Mint Juleps at my house, this glorious sunshine has me currently sipping my all-time-favorite summer cocktail: the Daiquiri.
Now, despite the hard work my fellow bartenders and I have done the past 15 or so years to rectify the problem, some drinkers out there still recoil in horror any time I utter the word "Daiquiri." They stare at me as if I were suggesting we all line up at a slushy machine filled with a neon-green slurry and hope for a brain freeze before the foul concoction hits our collective stomachs. Yes, I do serve a delicious green frozen drink, but that has nothing to do with my Daiquiri. So patrons have no reason to cringe at it's mere mention, because a properly made Daiquiri is nothing more than a classic rum sour—and not something that comes from a machine at a second-rate Caribbean resort.
Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer stationed in Cuba around the end of the 19th century, reportedly invented the original, non-slushy version of the Daiquiri. While there are many myths surrounding his so-called creation of the drink (named after the small town nearest his base of operations), I have a hard time believing that someone, somewhere wasn't sweetening up fiery rum with sugar and adding lime to tame the flavor at some point before Mr. Cox claimed the title of inventor. Because, really, it's so good, how could someone not have thought of it earlier?
But to make a quality sour the proportions must be right. I spent years searching for the perfect Daiquiri recipe until one day about five years ago, I stumbled upon my friend and London bar expert/researcher/writer Simon Difford's version. At first the ratios seemed a little unconventional to my classically trained eye—it's a lot stronger than your typical cocktail recipe. But the proof was in the mix, as DIfford's recipe is perfectly balanced while allowing the rum to shine through. Simon's recipe—and Daiquiri tradition—calls for white rum, although I must admit to having a weakness for aged rum in this drink. No matter which version I have in hand, the cocktail has been my most reliable summer companion for half a decade.
Shake with ice cubes until well chilled, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge, if desired.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique. Read more of his Playboy columns here.
Photo by David L. Reamer