The Daiquiri

The Daiquiri (2)

14 Mar. 2017
Who made the Daiquiri famous in Cuba?

Two months ago, we talked (at last!) about the origins of the Daiquiri. Its birth in or around Santiago de Cuba is undisputed. Equally undisputed is that it was made famous in Havana. Who took it there? Well, that, friends, is a tricky question: there are no trustworthy first-hand accounts.
However, many sources credit legendary bartender Emilio Gonzalez, better known as ‘Maragato’. Indeed, upon his passing in 1940, the press called him the inventor of the Daiquiri. That, he most certainly was not. But as the dean of Havana’s bartenders, he is thought to have been responsible for its introduction in town. Whether he discovered it in Santiago de Cuba or when mine engineers visited his bar, we do not know. What is undeniable is that in 1910, the Daiquiri was already widely known “in bars around the Prado”, according to an American journalist, but its formula a secret.

La cuna del daiquiri
All the roads lead to Constantino Ribalaigua. If Maragato brought the Daiquiri to Havana and made it popular, it’s in the hands of Constante that it became legendary. Floridita, as you all know, is the Cradle of the Daiquiri: it’s not where it was born, its where it grew up. Constante, considered by some the greatest bartender of the 20th century, took what Maragato had brought and built its reputation by declining the original recipe in four variants. Each followed the same base pattern of light rum, sugar and lime but this formula was then deftly and subtly modified with additional ingredients and, sometimes, variations in preparation methods.

Daiquiri #1:
2 ounces of rum, 1 barspoon of sugar, the juice of half a lime shaken with cracked ice and served up in a cocktail glass. This is the classic, the gold standard, the pinnacle of the art of the early cantineros.

Daiquiri #2:
Add to the above a barspoon of orange juice and a few dashes of curaçao, and that’s it. It doesn’t seem fancy and it remains ‘just’ a Daiquiri but the tiny additions manage to alter the drink in a most satisfactory way.

Daiquiri #3:
Take the #1, add a little more sugar, a barspoon of grapefruit juice, a barspoon of maraschino and shake with crushed ice. Serve unstrained in cocktail glass. This, of course, is the basis of the Hemingway Special (same recipe, no sugar), known to many as the Papa Doble. A much more striking twist than #2 thanks to the grapefruit (more acid and bitter than orange).

Daiquiri #4 (Florida Style):
What you’d call the Frozen Daiquiri. It’s the #1 with a barspoon of maraschino, made in a blender with snow ice and served unstrained in a cocktail glass. This is what you will get if your order a Daiquiri at Floridita. This much-maligned drink makes total sense on a Cuban evening – or anywhere warm and humid.

Daiquiri #5:
#4 with a bit of grenadine. By far the least interesting of the 5 Daiquiris, but, we admit, quite pretty. Appeared first in 1939.

A quick survey of Floridita’s menu on the EUVS website will tell you that type of ice and even preparation method was liable to change over the years. Constante probably never stopped perfecting his drinks – a practice good bartenders follow to this day, hopefully. In the coming months, we hope to look at ways YOU ‘improved’ (you get what we mean) the Daiquiri.

François Monti