If you’ve been interested in cocktails for any length of time, you know that there is a symbiotic relationship between the words “Hemingway” and “daiquiri.” Papa has become something of a shameful secret in literary circles; when I was in college studying for a degree in literature, there was nary a seminar available on him. Chaucer, Milton, Blake, Keats, literature of the Caribbean, of the Holocaust, of the South, seminars on Romantic and Victorian poetry, surveys of female writers, but no Hemingway. He (and many others) fell out of favor in light of certain changes in literary criticism that occurred in the middle of the twentieth century. I’ve been in many spirited disagreements over the years, as the predominant perception of Hemingway’s writing is that it is too “male,” too macho, too brash and unemotional. In short, despite his importance to the canon of American literature in the twentieth century, Hemingway as a writer is by and large forgotten or marginalized as the literary icon of the Hugh Hefner Playboy set.
All of which has nothing to do with this cocktail, but these are the things that I think about when considering Hemingway’s close ties to the daiquiri, a drink that not only contributed to his larger-than-life persona but to his lonely and unhappy death. Named for the bar in Havana where it was served, the daiquiri at La Floridita was Hemingway’s favorite drink—except of course for the mojitos from La Bodeguita. The common and popular face of the daiquiri is a brightly-hued, tropical frozen concoction mostly imbibed by drunken revelers on booze-soaked vacations—a reality which sadly parallels the drinking that so dissipated Hemingway’s life. For the rest of us who don’t drink solely for recreation in strange and foreign locations, a true daiquiri is a fine cocktail, another in the long line of drinks that have slowly evolved into something they distinctly were not in their inception.
Though many drinks have been successfully revived during the present cocktail renaissance—the Manhattan, Sazerac and Aviation come to mind—the daiquiri is still something of a sleeper hit. It appears to be the next big thing so far as concerted salvation goes, so here’s my contribution to the groundswell: the La Floridita Daiquiri, as reported in the now out of print Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by the inimitable Ted Haigh.
2 oz Cuban light rum*
juice of half a lime
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 tsp sugar or simple syrup
Blend just until mixed with three-to-four cubes worth of crushed ice. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
*For those of us who don’t have or have access to procure contraband Havana Club, Puerto Rican or Dominican light rum (like Brugal) is an acceptable substitute.
There is one very important thing to remember when making a daiquiri: it doesn’t have to be frozen. I happened to do this batch frozen because it photographed better, but this drink is exceptional when shaken until very cold and served straight up. Though the blended version is perfectly fine (drink fast or it dilutes quickly), the sharpness of the rum doesn’t shine unless you cut back on the ice.
This is also a little sneak peek of an upcoming post. I’ve gone a little garnish crazy lately, cranking out batches of various nibbles and liquids for the bar. Here you see a preview of a fresh batch of brandied cherries which I will be discussing formally in the near future.