Well-Stirred

How to Make a Daiquiri and Riff On it Like a Pro

If a bartender is able to deliver a good daiquiri to you, the likelihood that everything else to follow will be good is high. Here’s how to make one that tastes like it was made in your favorite bar at home.

It’s an open secret that the daiquiri is my year-round go-to drink, running neck to neck with bubbly wine of some sort. I have a “prosecco problem” and have no problem admitting it, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Why? Kindly allow me to explain:

  • It’s the best showcase for great rum, a category I fell head over heels for when I built the bar program at Glady’s.
  • It’s one of the industry’s “acid tests” for bars: if a bartender is able to deliver a good one to you, the likelihood that everything else to follow will be good is high (the implication here is that a 3 ingredient cocktail means that poor ingredients, technique, or intentions/lack thereof have nowhere to hide).
  • It’s freaking delicious and dangerously quaffable. I don’t think it’s coincidental that the Daiquiri was Ernest Hemingwa’s poison of choice, between his devotion to the cocktail and the bar best known for serving it. Havana’s Bar El Floridita created a variation per his request that bears his moniker. Just saying.

Enough of the hype. Try it for yourself and determine if this timeless classic is for you. The bar El Floridita’s flagship verizon is a delicate frappe, which has a finer texture. It’s closer to shaved ice and has a lighter mouthfeel over a frozen or cocktail blended to medium consistency. It’s mixed in a chef-grade blender rather than the Bourbon Street style industrial dispensers that many of us, for better or worse, may be more familiar with.
 
Keep in mind that when opting for a blender -- meticulous attention to detail in regards to the amount of ice used in this scenario comes with higher stakes over shaking -- 2 seconds can make the difference between vibrant or lackluster. You’ve been warned and encouraged. When it’s done properly, bliss ensues.
 
With that said, see the classic Bar El Floridita recipe below, along with a few of my go-to easy riffs that are by the two of the most influential figures in the history of tropical cocktails.

First, there’s Bar El Floridita's recipe, which is the best of the best. Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, who owned and worked as the head bartender there from 1918-1952, invented countless versions, demonstrating how to approach the cocktail from every possible angle. This one, his simplest, is analogous to a "Perfect" Manhattan.

El Floridita Daiquiri

2 oz Aged White Rum (Denizen 3 Year or Diplomatico Planas)
1 bar spoon granulated sugar
¾ oz fresh pressed lime juice
 
Combine the sugar and line in a cocktail shaker, and stir to dissolve. Add the rum and ice, shake to chill. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass, then serve.
 
Okay. Practice this a few times, and then you will be ready to rock the following: the ingredients differ, but the method of preparation is the same. That said, here’s a pro tip: start by putting the lime sweeteners and liqueurs in the tin: the rum goes in last. Why? Should you flub and realize that you need to adjust the sweet/sour balance, since citrus varies day to day and palates differ, you can check this prior to adding the spirit.

Trust me, you will be glad that you did.

My favorite riffs:

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club - Trader Vic, c 1947

2 oz Aged Rum
¾ oz Orange Curacao
¾ oz Falernum
¾ oz lime juice
 
Isle of Martinique - Don The Beachcomber, 1960

Don the Beachcomber - Ernest Beaumont Gant, is credited with inventing tiki cocktails, and being one of the only bartenders to use rhum agricole, a funky, vegetal style of rum distilled from fresh cane juice.

2 oz Rhum Agricole Ambre
½ oz honey syrup
¼ oz orgeat
¾ oz lime juice
 
Parasol - my original
I created the Parasol on the fly, at my bar away from home, King Tai. I launched my book tour for Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails there. A friend came in one night and gifted me with a jar of homemade jam, which I passed to the bartender with a recipe. It worked.

2 oz aged white rum
¾ oz banana liqueur
½ oz pineapple juice
¾ oz lime juice
 
Would love to know which one rocks your world. It will vary by day to day, by your mood, by the weather. That said, cheers!

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Shannon Mustipher is a spirits educator, consultant, and author of Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails. She is the Beverage Director at Glady's Caribbean, and was named one Imbibe Magazine's People To Watch in 2019.