Daiquiri Week: the 1896 Daiquiri Cocktail Recipe

Posted on Jul 10, 2017


Daiquiri Week: 1896 Daiquiri Cocktail Recipe

After a somewhat cool and wet May here in DC, summer came roaring back by mid-June. The occasional, and often elusive, thunderstorm being the only natural relief from the beating sun and the constant damp blanket of humidity, we’ve turned to summer drinks as a man-made form of respite. In his latest Daily Beast article, David Wondrich makes a compelling case for the Daiquiri as the purest form of liquid summer refreshment, so compelling that we’ve decided to spend a week indulging in the Daiquiri in various forms.

The Daiquiri had fallen on hard times, having devolved into artificial colors and artificial flavors being dispensed from a slushee machine. But that low point only came after a very long run as one of the very best of the classic cocktails. Recently, it’s returned to form, with the slushes being replaced by simpler, classier recipes along the lines of the one we posted during classics week. It turns out, though, that you can go back even further than that.

The Daiquiri is one of the few classic drinks for which we can come pretty close to an origin story: it was created by one of seven American mining engineers in the town of Daiquiri, Cuba, just before the Spanish-American War. Cut off from the wider world by the Cuban insurrection against the Spaniards that had taken over the countryside, these seven men had plenty of practice figuring out what they could do with the ingredients that were close at hand: rum, lime, and sugar. One of them, Jennings Cox, wrote down his recipe in 1896.

The only problem is that this isn’t the drink that made it out of Daiquiri and took the world by storm. We don’t know if it was one of the other miner’s recipe or, as Wondrich hypothesizes, the refining touch of professional bartenders, but the Daiquiri being served in Havana’s bars after the Spanish-American War lacked Cox’s club soda, and were served up instead of on the rocks. They also had considerably less sugar and lime than today’s ‘classic’ recipes. It’s this version of the Daiquiri that American sailors soon began to spread around the globe.

This rum-forward version of the Daiquiri is quite wonderful. Go to Wondrich’s article and give it a try. It’s like the dry martini version of the drink, in contrast to the modern classic recipe’s more margarita-like proportions. There’s just enough sugar to help it go down smooth, and just enough lime to make you pucker a little. I’ll probably be following Wondrich’s suit and drinking quite a few of these this summer.

Today, though, I think I’ll have my Daiquiri a la Cox as a salute to the crew who got the ball rolling.

1896 Daiquiri Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 oz good quality white rum
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 oz club soda

Instructions

  • Combine the lime juice and the sugar in a cocktail shaker.
  • Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add the rum and soda.
  • Fill the shaker with ice to above the level of the liquid.
  • Shake well.
  • Pour into a glass, ice and all–no matter what his fellow mining engineers thought, to Cox ice was too rare and precious a commodity to just discard it.