It can't be coincidence that National Daiquiri Day comes only two days before Ernest Hemingway's July 21st birthday. While many drinks have been linked to famous names, probably none is more iconic than Hemingway and his daiquiri. At its heart, the daiquiri is of the “sour” class of cocktails, blending a spirit — in this case rum — with sugar and lime. The combination is deceptively simple; the result sublime. Few other drinks invigorate the body and spirit in the sultry heat of summer as well as a daiquiri and, since today is National Daiquiri Day, there is no better reason to seek out the cocktail in all its sweetly sour permutations.
While Hemingway raised its popular profile, the drink had been around since 1896 when an American engineer named Jennings Cox improvised a citrusy rum-based concoction of rum, sugar and lime, shook it vigorously, and dubbed it a daiquiri after the mining town in which he worked. Another version of the tale credits military man William Shafter with adding ice to the shaker, which gave the drink its frosty chill.
The daiquiri might well have stayed put in the town of the same name if a little event called Prohibition hadn't occurred. America might have been dry, but, Hail Mary, Cuba wasn't. In fact, Cuba was a little bit like Paris West with its swanky nightclubs and sensual vibe; American jet-setters quickly made a beeline to the island for their infamous booze binges. And whose rum were the Cuban bartenders pouring? A fellow named Facundo Bacardi, that's who. Bacardi changed the pungent, funky face of the era's impure rum by filtering it into a lighter, smoother product. And it was this rum that made the early daiquiris so desirable and so different from any rum drink before them.
In the modern era, daiquiris are made with light and dark rums in a myriad of variations using alternative fruits and liqueurs. They are still, at heart, all sours. While the Hemingway Daiquiri may be one of the most famous, herewith is a list of some spots where Papa would have felt at home, sipping the drink that he helped enshrine in cocktail legend.
4. Caña Rum Bar
Riffing on the classic daiquiri recipe, bartender Erbin Garcia has taken the rum-sugar-lime motif and turned it inside out, yet remained true to the drink's soul. Plantation Three Star rum is infused subtly with cantaloupe which blends seamlessly with Crème de Peche and lemon (used instead of the standard lime). Dear Ernest might do a double take on this one, but it would perhaps appeal to his diabetic constitution as it has no added sugar. Lucky for us, you'd never know it. 714 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles; 213-745-7090.
Rivera may be best known for John Sedlar's tequila passion, but it still has a classic bar and a classic bar serves a daiquiri. If you crave tradition, the Floridita — a Maraschino-laced style created by Constantino Ribalaigua Vert at Hemingway's Cuban haunt El Floridita — is available bespoke, while currently on the happily-priced happy hour menu is the Party Daiq. This over-proof, but still reserved, flavor bomb substitutes Sirop JM, a cane sugar reduction, for the standard sugar and marries beautifully with the high octane Smith & Cross rum. It's a bit of an understatement when bartender Alex Barbatsis says that, with this drink, “we took it up a notch.” Smartly, they cut back on the usual two ounces of rum to 1 ½ to address the potency of the naval strength Smith & Cross. Hemingway might have quibbled there; after all, this is the man who liked what came to be called the Papa Doble, basically a Floridita with double the rum of the usual recipe. 1050 S. Flower St., Los Angeles; 213-749-1460.
Sure it's “members only,” but you're worth it. And, if your wallet says, maybe next year, then you can always find a friend who's a member, right? If not, make it one of your “musts,” so you can taste Creative Bar Director Chris Ojeda's classic daiquiri — just Bacardi Carta Blanca, sugar and lime, served up. “It's one of the four pillars of cocktails that we teach to all incoming bartenders,” says Ojeda. “The beauty is in the details, and it's a great drink to assess a bartender's skill at balancing sweet and sour.” 9200 West Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; 310-432-9200.
1. La Descarga
Hemingway's Daiquiri, a recipe known to all daiquiri fiends, couldn't have found a better place than La Descarga, whose Cuban motif seems to give the drink an extra dose of authenticity. In this evolved version of the Floridita, Plantation Three Star is shaken vigorously with fresh grapefruit juice, Maraschino and lime. Not overly sweet, with just enough tartness for that bracing flavor that makes a daiquiri — in the words of manager Joe Swifka, “the perfect summer refresher.” 1159 Western Ave., Los Angeles; 323-466-1324.
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book “Gin: A Global History.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.