The Daiquiri Cocktail

The Minnesota winter has worn off, and the Daiquiri is gradually supplanting the whiskey sour in my cocktail rotation. I’ve never been much of a rum drinker in the past (I can’t explain that), so this turnabout is unexpected, and welcome. I’m chalking it up to education, broadened interests, and a fascination with classic cocktails.

The Daiquiri is certainly a classic, the first of the really great cocktails to be invented outside the United States. The story is that it was first mixed in 1896 by Jennings Cox, a steel company engineer in Daiquiri, Cuba, who had run out of gin.

The coincidence that Daiquiri, Cuba is only a few miles up the coast from Guantanamo Bay may help to explain how the recipe was quickly transported to the Army and Navy Club in Washington, DC, where there is reportedly a plaque commemorating Cox’s achievement.

Daiquiri cocktail in a Waterford Lismore cocktail glass,  photo © 2010 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Daiquiri

Joseph Lanza, in his 1995 history The Cocktail, declares that the earliest printed mention of the Daiquiri is from 1920, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise (English majors take note!) I checked the reference, and it isn’t just a Daiquiri—it was an order for a table full of doubles. Quite an entry onto the literary scene for an unknown foreigner.

The Daiquiri Cocktail

  • 2 oz. light rum (Cruzan, 10 Cane)
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. Demerara syrup

Shake all ingredients well with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Express and garnish with lime.

One other item from Lanza: he reports a drink called “la Creole”  in the 1892 The Flowing Bowl; he describes it as “a drag-queen relative to the Daiquiri,” and quotes the recipe thus: “Ornament with fruits in season, put a little scoop of ice cream on top, and serve.”

Another, better, way to dress up a Daiquiri is Jeff Berry’s Ancient Mariner—two kinds of rum, two juices, and the delightfully complex Allspice Dram.


18 thoughts on “The Daiquiri Cocktail

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  1. I found a great Speakeasy-style bar in Grand Rapids, MI, and after the bartendress successfully fielded my orders of an Americano, a Rob Roy, and a Champs-Elysees, I tried ordering a Daiquiri. I won’t even repeat what she told me, but it was to the effect that if I wanted a girly, blended drink, I could try up the street at TGIFridays. Obviously not an example of great service, but I am mostly saddened that the great classic Daiquiri has been brought so low that it’s denigrated at a place where I’m confident I could order a Last Word and not explain myself.

    Anyway, I took my friend home, squeezed a pair of limes, and made some Daiquiris. Cheers from Michigan.

    1. Ouch. That’s a sad story. It’s incongruous that a place that cares enough to serve the little-known Champs-Elysees would be confused about the Daiquiri. I’m not sure I could have taken that with a straight face.

      It makes me want to write another Daiquiri story, just to give it a little more PR. (Hmm… and while I’m at it, perhaps the Champs-Elysees, too…)

      Good story, thanks for the telling.

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