An Ode to the Classic Daiquiri (And 10 Brand-New Recipes)
To the average person, the word “daiquiri” might evoke thoughts of intensely sweet, frozen drinks that easily accomplish the mission of most young drinkers: to get drunk quickly. Yet industry professionals know that the daiquiri, like other cocktails, has its own unique history and evolution. They also recognize the daiquiri as a welcome, and worthy, addition to the ever-growing craft cocktail renaissance.
One of the six quintessential cocktails included in David A. Embury’s classic "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks," modern daiquiris fall into two categories: classic and frozen. The creation of the classic rum Daiquiri, served straight up, is frequently credited to American engineer Jennings Stockton Cox. After Theodore Roosevelt’s victory at the Battle of San Juan Hill, Cox led some of the initial explorations of Cuba’s iron ore mines, ultimately creating the original Daiquiri for entertainment purposes and establishing its three core elements: lime juice, rum, and simple syrup.
Since then, the classic daiquiri has undergone several changes—and spawned a distinctive variation of the drink, the frozen daiquiri. Practically synonymous with Louisiana and several of its cities, including Ruston, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, the frozen daiquiri is not Louisiana’s official state cocktail, but it is arguably one of its more popular and ubiquitous libations. (Incidentally, it also happened to be the official cocktail of Tales of the Cocktail 2015.)
During the late 1930s when blenders became readily available, blended daiquiris became fixtures on bar menus. Like countless other drinks before and since, the first frozen daiquiri was born out of necessity. In 1979, the owners of a Ruston, Louisiana package store found themselves unable to sell bottles of ‘Tequila Sunrise’ mix. So, they decided to combine the mix with shaved ice and offer it to customers as they were checking out at the register—sort of like candy, for grown-ups.
These icy alcoholic concoctions generated such huge local and regional business that the owners burned the motors out of the blenders they used. As such, they began using frozen slushie machines, which not only worked more efficiently, but kept business booming—so much so that the proprietors gained national attention in the 1980s. In accordance with the drink’s popularity and the state’s unique exception to open container laws (they are allowed, so long as the alcoholic drink is frozen and comes with a lid), you can order a frozen daiquiri at neighborhood or drive-through daiquiri shops, or any other bar with a daiquiri machine.
According to Jeremy Thompson, daiquiri expert and founder of the Defend the Daiquiri initiative and the New Orleans Daiquiri Festival, frozen daiquiris abide by their own fundamental elements. In New Orleans and across the state, these include the following essentials:
1. Daiquiris are made with copious amounts of alcohol.
2. The daiquiri’s consistency ranges from frozen to slushy.
3. Daiquiris are a to-go drink. As such, they are served in a Go Cup.
While these matchless attributes may draw a raised eyebrow in some craft cocktail circles, they are also, as Thompson and others argue, the very qualities that make the daiquiri worthy of celebration. The frozen daiquiri transcends socio-economic and political boundaries, and is one of the most iconic parts of Louisiana’s cultural and culinary history. As such, let’s raise our Go Cups to those who, like Thompson, work to maintain this heritage while also embracing its future incarnations.
Check out our top ten daiquiri recipes below:
1. The Desert Lily
The official cocktail of this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, the Desert Lily came to us from Spencer Warren at Pittburgh’s Butcher and the Rye. “Aloe and prickly are both warm climate plants that add a refreshing flavor to a hot summer day,” he says. “I wanted to add the hint of floral honey in the nose of Cana Brava Rum, so I added a few drops of Lavender Water.” Cooling and refreshing, like liquid air conditioning.
2. Hemingway’s Demise
“It's a shame only one drink was ever named for the man,” says Lucas Heckenberger, of Roar Social House in Allentown, Pa. He describes it as a spin-off on the classic, with similar measurements and a slightly more bitter finish. “It only felt appropriate, considering how he met his maker.”
3. Greenhouse Party
Cucumbers, strawberries, basil and black pepper all play supporting roles in this botanical riff from Robert Chacon of the Wild Duck Cafe. “I grew up gardening all of these ingredients (save for the black pepper!) with my mother and loved the idea of creating a concoction that embodied a large portion of my childhood,” he says. “My sisters, mother, and I grew up poor of money, but rich in gardens and happiness.” Happiness is definitely a side-effect of Robert’s Greenhouse Party.
4. CAPtain’s Vieux
The best garnish for this one? In creator Gillian White’s own words, only one thing will do: “a big-a** straw.” White, who tends and manages the bar at Cook and Brown Public House, lists the classic daiquiri as her favorite shaken beverage (and always has some version of it on her bar menu). This take involves a little extra warmth and spice, courtesy of an ounce and a half of pineapple rum.
5. Coffin Cutter
Jeremy Grannan of Three Muses concocted this frozen treat as a shout-out to his many days spent in a New Orleans East daiquiri shop. “I would play the arcade games and sip the cold concoction until I had spent my grass-cutting money and had a brain freeze,” he says. The Coffin Cutter is his tribute to New Orleans daiquiri culture (and to the rather morbid urban legend of painted devil crawfish sawing into coffins). “The ingredients in the Coffin Cutter Daiquiri echo some of the great treasures Louisiana and New Orleans has to offer,” he says. “Together they form a frozen dream to cool off any overheated native or tourist.”
6. Debutante Daiquiri
Part daiquiri, part piña colada, boozy, cold and quaffable at any time of year: that’s how Jason Snopkoski, bar trainee at Williams and Graham, describes his daiquiri riff, which was inspired by elegant-yet-excessive debutante balls. He uses rhum agricole, which he eloquently describes as both elegant and “rough, grassy, and terroir-driven,” to create an indulgent and, yes, excessive (in a good way) respite from the heat.
7. Clement Me Bro!
Andrew Auner, of Fairview Park, Ohio’s Porco Lounge and Tiki Bar, crafted this Polynesian take on the daiquiri as a shout-out to the tiki culture that he loves. “Drawing from classic daiquiri recipes, as well as utilizing integral tiki ingredients like ‘Don's Mix,’ this cocktail provides a well balanced, fully expected citrus forward, with a hint of unexpected cinnamon honey finish,” he says. “Much like New Orleans, you are drawn to it for one reason or another, your experience is completely unexpected, but always a sweet and pleasant memory.”
8. Date with the Night
A little tart, a little dry, and just the right amount of spice: this creation from Sable Kitchen and Bar’s Mony Bunni is a far cry from the cloyingly sweet daiquiris at your average shop. “I love the way the funky earthiness of the Clement mixes with the bright tropical notes of the Plantation Pineapple Rum,” she says. “I love Daiquiris but my palate tends to favor bitter and dry cocktails. I wanted to bring out the flavors of the tropical fruits while still keeping it dry and refreshing.”
9. It’s Pronounced “Mill-e-wah-que”
Honestly, we can’t do justice to this drink the way its creator, Williams and Graham’s Nicole Laurita, can. Allow her to explain: "It's summertime. The temperature has been in the triple digits for weeks. No breeze stirs the trees and your air conditioner has gone on strike. You're collapsed on the floor, in a puddle of your own sweat, contemplating selling your kidneys on the black market because at least you'd get an ice bath. You wonder how anyone could possibly tolerate this heat. In an attempt to escape the hot box that your landlord has the nerve to call a studio apartment, you imagine yourself on the beach. You feel the salt that dries on your skin after a dip in the ocean. You smell the funky scent of vegetation washed upon the shore. You taste the sweet tropical fruits that you've plucked off the hat of the Chiquita Banana Girl. In an attempt to recreate this landscape in a drink, you make a funky and earthy daiquiri that reminds you of a day on the beach. You want to capture the good land, which is ‘Milwaukee’ in Algonquin. (I'm really hoping that you're a Wayne's World fan.)" Enough said.
10. Flor de Ancho Daiquiri
This tropical, spicy, slushy daiquiri was inspired not by a place or a person or a fortuitous trip to the farmers market, but by a piece of glassware—specifically, a set of antique etched parfait glasses discovered at a Seattle thrift store. “Inexpensive antique glassware is hard to find in New York City, so I was excited to use them,” explains Emily Ross-Johnson, founder/operator at Astoria Whiskey Society. “But I was having trouble finding the right drink for them, since they hold about 10 ounces. I thought that a frozen style drink would be best, and I had just received some Flor de Caña as a gift from my boyfriend after he returned from a trip to Nicaragua.” Thus, the Flor de Ancho was born. (Finding the perfect vintage glassware to go with it is on you, though.)