Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Daiquiri: From slick to slushy and back

Hemingway and cocktail
Hemingway and cocktail
  • Periodically, I like to browse through my archives to see if there are items that bear reposting. In light of our recent lifting of most embargoes against Cuba, and the allowance of carrying home more Cuban cigars and rum, here's one from 2005 that may be of interest.

“It's such a warm evening, I think a Daiquiri would be nice,'' said the lady of a certain age to the very young cocktail waitress.

“Oh, I'm sorry, we don't serve frozen drinks,'' was the reply.

“Young lady, a proper Daiquiri is not a frozen drink,'' the lady responded, icily.

And therein lies a tale.

The original Daiquiri, as created and nurtured in Cuba and named for a river, a village and an area on the east side of the island, was not a frozen drink. Served nicely chilled, yes. But resembling a slushy, no.

However, the Daiquiri has morphed over time to become one of those frou frou drinks that, while enjoyable in the right setting and with the right company, has perverted the original and upset purists worldwide with the introduction of various extra sweeteners, fruits and crushed ice into the mixture while under warp-speed in the blender.

Just as bullfighting (“Death in the Afternoon''), the Spanish Civil War (“For Whom the Bell Tolls'') and restless young Americans in Paris (“The Sun Also Rises'') were driven into the American pre-World War II consciousness by the writings of Ernest Hemingway, so was the Daiquiri pushed on to a very receptive palate.

The legendary hunter and fisherman, Nobel Prize-winning writer (“The Old Man and the Sea'') and world-class carouser lived in many places before taking his own life at the age of 61 in 1961. Cuba was one of his favorite haunts, and Cubans embraced “Papa,'' as he was called by intimates and admirers.

Hemingway came across the Daiquiri cocktail at La Floridita, a restaurant and nightclub in Havana that has been around since 1820 under several names but became world famous when he began frequenting it, and a love affair was born.

Papa hosted Hollywood friends at highly publicized parties there until Fidel Castro's forces came to power in 1959, and often made mention of the hot spot and its signature drink in his magazine pieces and short stories.

The classic Daiquiri is a deceptively simple delight made with two ounces of light rum, the juice of half a lemon (or a combination of lemon and lime juices) and a teaspoon of superfine sugar, shaken vigorously with ice to just approaching frothy, then poured through a strainer into a chilled cocktail glass and garnished with a lime wedge. Hemingway liked his formula a bit stronger, and the locals referred to his version as “Papa Doble,'' or double Papa.

Is that still the way it's done at La Floridita? Well, as noted before, many things change over time. At La Floridita, the basic Daiquiri now includes a teaspoon of grapefruit juice and a teaspoon of maraschino syrup along with the aforementioned ingredients.

The quality of the rum remains paramount. Light rum is the usual preference because it blends so well with so many other tastes. However, there is nothing to prevent you from selecting a dark rum if that is your preference. Many brand names offer consistent quality, mostly from Caribbean distillers that make fresh sugar cane into molasses then distill rum from it. Prominent among them are rums from other Caribbean islands such as Bacardi (whose Bacardi Limon version is, in a pinch, an alternative to fresh lemon juice), Grand Havana, Appleton, Myers's, Cruzan and Mount Gay.

Here are the base recipes for the three most popular and enduring Daiquiris. If you want to turn one into a frozen drink, slowly add one cup of crushed ice to the concoction and continue blending. In either case, always serve the drinks in a chilled glass with an appropriate fruit garnish:

Peach Daiquiri

1 cup frozen peaches
1/4 cup lime juice
1 1/2 ounces light rum
1 ounce peach schnapps
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
Dash of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon superfine sugar

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth, strain in to chilled cocktail glass and garnish.  

Strawberry Daiquiri

1 1/4 ounces light rum
splash of fresh or pureed strawberries
splash of grenadine syrup
splash of sour mix

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth, strain in to chilled cocktail glass and garnish.  

Banana Daiquiri

1 ounce light rum
3/4 ounce creme de banana
Dash of simple syrup
1 peeled banana

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth, strain in to chilled cocktail glass and garnish.

Note: Simple syrup, also called bar syrup and necessary for many cocktails, is simply equal parts sugar and water. You can make a supply by dissolving sugar in boiling water, then taking the pan off the heat to cool.

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