Ernest Hemingway is well known as an author, widely considered as one of the greatest writers in American history. He wrote heavily for over thirty years, everything from sweeping works of fiction to hard hitting journalism. He won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 for his work, and his strong, understated style has influenced writers for decades. His books talked about such manly events as war, fishing, bullfighting, and African safaris. He was not only a heavy writer, he was a heavy drinker. As Prohibition was in its death throes, he went to Cuba to do some writing and escape some of his celebrity (and his wife at the time). It was there, while he was living in a hotel, he discovered the El Floridita bar, and the drink he would become best associated with, the daiquiri.
When you think about manly, strong drinks, the daiquiri is not the one that springs immediately to mind. You picture something with a fruity flavor, topped with whipped cream and fruit, resembling a slushie, not a drink a war journalist like Hemingway would drink. When Jennings Cox, an American miner working in Cuba, “created” the drink around 1905, it was a potent drink. It was rum, a squirt of lime juice, a little bit of sugar, all mixed and served over a new luxury, crushed ice. He was throwing a big party for his friends, and had run out of gin for the punch he was making. What he did have was an abundance of the local Cuban spirit, rum. He simply switched the six cups of gin in the punch with rum, and served it to his guests. They loved it. When they asked what the drink was named, Cox was stumped. They all decided to name it for the village that the mine was closest to, Daiquiri.
Many liquor historians, however, will dispute that this is actually an original drink. The British had been serving that particular mixture of rum, lime, and sugar since the 1740’s, mainly to cut the rum so that the sailors would not get drunk while on the ship. The only difference being that ice was not readily available, so water was added to the mix. Cox either lucked upon the recipe, or had heard about it in his travels and knew it would work. His creation was brought to the United States by Admiral Lucius Johnson, where he introduced it everywhere he went, but most notably the Army-Navy Club in Washington, D.C. It became so popular there in its original form that they designated July 19th of every year as National Daiquiri Day. While Hemingway was the cocktails most famous imbiber (rumored to have drank sixteen double daiquiris in one sitting), the first literary mention of it was in 1920 by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the book This Side of Paradise. The El Floridita in Cuba became THE place to get your daiquiris, and for a while this recipe held sway.
It was not until 1937, when the Waring Blender came out, that the daiquiri took the form we recognize now. The blender gave bartenders the ability to not just crush the ice, but to do it amazingly quickly. Constante Ribailagua, bartender at the El Floridita, made a special version of it for Hemingway, called the Papa Doble, which doubled the rum, removed the sugar, and added grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. He then blended the cocktail with ice, and strained out the ice before serving it. That step was lost in translation as it moved here, and so the drink became thick with the crushed ice. That is the way it has remained, with the original cocktail being lost to old recipe books and nerdy bartenders who love the classic drinks. It has been revived in this golden age of cocktails.
Jennings Cox’s Punch
6 cups of light rum
6 juiced limes
6 tsp sugar
2 small cups of water
Mix all of the ingredients in a punch bowl. Add the ice just before serving, to keep the punch cold but not too diluted.
The Original Daiquiri
2 oz. white rum
1 oz. fresh lime juice
.5 oz. simple syrup
Combine all of the ingredients into a mixing glass over ice. Shake well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If you want to make a frozen version, combine the ingredients with 1 cup of crushed ice into a blender. If you want a fruit flavor, add some of the fruit of your choice (a small handful of berries or slices of orange or banana) before you blend it, and remove the lime juice. Blend until smooth, and serve in a cocktail glass. Either version is garnished with a lime slice.
Papa Doble (Hemingway’s version)
4 oz. white rum
The juice of two limes
.5 oz of sweet grapefruit juice
.5 oz of maraschino liqueur
Hemingway did not like sugar, so Constante Ribailagua made a version just for him that got rid of sugar. Pour all of the ingredients into a mixing glass over ice. Stir, then strain into a cocktail glass.
Hemingway enjoyed the punch that the original cocktail had; we enjoy the punch-like flavors it has now. Either way you choose to enjoy a daiquiri, it is a perfect way to relax and cool off during the middle of the summer, when we celebrate this classic cocktail. Dust off a copy of Farewell to Arms or The Sun Also Rises, find a patio with a nice cool breeze, and celebrate the day. Cheers!