Rum, Sugar, Lime—It’s Daiquiri Time

The humble daiquiri is one of the simplest classic cocktails—and one of the most important.

Nevermind the cocktail dark-ages of the 80’s and 90’s when the term was bandied and butchered and blended with chemical saccharine nonsense...

Here’s what you need to know about the real daiquiri. The simple drink named for a Cuban beach and brought to New York by mining magnates at the turn of the last century.

Balance is everything: heat, acid, sweet...rum, lime, sugar. Beyond that it’s personal preference and tweaking to taste.

Bartenders like Ben Nelson at Laura Lee’s regard understanding the daiquiri as a basis for understanding the principles of mixology and balance. The daiquiri is not so much a drink as an archetype. And it starts with the rum.

Essential rum options for daiquiris:

  • White rum

  • Aged rum

  • Rhum agricole

  • Infused rums (see recipe online)

  • Rum-like spirits

Every region in the world’s sugarcane belt makes some version of rum. In Brazil it’s cachaça. Indonesia has arrack. Farther from the equator it’s made with molasses instead of fresh cane juice; for a more mineraly, less grassy flavor. Sometimes it’s aged in barrels or blended from different distillates.

For Zach Angel, bar manager of Shagbark, the daiquiri was love at first sip. At a beach gathering someone brought a big batch using Stiggin’s Fancy pineapple rum. Now he often reaches for something local and interesting like locally distilled Jackson & James pawpaw rum.

At Southbound, bartender Jess Bevenour likes to use aged Jamaican rum for its distinctive funky notes of wild rhythms and wooden barrels.

Wherever it comes from, a daiquiri showcases the rum. Everything else should be complimentary.

Daiquiri variations to try at home

The daiquiri is endlessly adjustable. Blending different rums, muddling fresh strawberries, infusing syrups, adding a liqueur for effect...wherever thirsty creativity takes you. Here are a couple recipes to play with and make your own.

Typical daiquiri ratios (tart to sweet)

  • 2 oz rum, 1 oz lime, .5 oz simple

  • 2 oz rum, .75 oz lime, .5 oz simple

  • 2 oz rum, 1 oz lime, .75 oz simple

  • 2 oz rum, .75 oz lime, .75 oz simple

  • 2 oz rum, .75 oz lime, 1 oz simple

Daiquiri sugar options

  • Simple syrup 1:1 (sugar & water)

  • Turbinado syrup (raw cane sugar)

  • Infusions—make syrup and while it’s hot, add fun stuff:

  • Toasted coconut

  • Fruit

  • Cinnamon

  • Hot peppers

  • Edible flowers & herbs (for delicates like mint, wait til syrup cools)

My personal favorite daiquiri uses grassier, richer turbinado syrup to stand up to overproof Jamaican white rum and Martinique rhum agricole—for a punchy, jazzy pick-me-up during the dog days of summer service. Developed to fuel us through a tough time. And served in a rocks glass to pass as innocent lemonade...if anyone should ask.

Sunday Lemonade daiquiri

1 oz Clement rhum agricole

1 oz J. Wray & Nephew overproof rum

.75 oz lime juice

.5 oz turbinado syrup 1:1

  • Short shake with ice and strain over fresh rocks.

Important note: a double fits neatly in a pint glass.

Hemingway’s Daisy

A classic variation you may have heard of is the Hemingway Daiquiri, a diabetes-friendly versi0n of the classic cocktail made with maraschino liqueur instead of simple syrup and adding grapefruit juice.

Cocktail Nerd Alert: Technically a daiquiri is a sour with rum and lime—and a sour sweetened with liqueur instead of sugar is a daisy. So Hemingway’s tropical tipple beguiled under false pretenses. One wonders whether he’d be mortified or tickled.

Regardless, the original recipe is quite disgusting—bitingly acerbic and out of balance...and the health claims are dubious at best: Luxardo Maraschino has plenty of added sugar. But with some modern adjustments the drink can be worth trying.

Hemingway Daiquiri (adjusted)

2 oz white cuban rum (or Plantation 3-Star)

.5 oz grapefruit juice

.25 oz lime juice

.5 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

.25 oz simple syrup 1:1

  • Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.

Daiquiris round Richmond

For Zach Angel, the daiquiri is all about playing with fruit. Whatever’s local and in season—and goes well with the rums he keeps at Shagbark. Here’s one of his favorite recipes:

Blackberry basil daiquiri – Zach Angel, @ShagbarkRVA

1 oz blackberry basil rum

1 oz Plantation 3-star rum

.75 oz lime juice

.5 oz simple syrup

  • Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish: blackberry

Blackberry basil rum (serves 12)

1.5 cups overproof white rum

1.5 cups blackberries

10 basil leaves

Zest of 1/2 lime

  • Mix ingredients and seal in a mason jar for 3-5 days, agitating periodically.

  • Strain through cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.

Far across the other side of town at Laura Lee’s, bar manager Ben Nelson plays a similar theme in a different way, using aged rum to stand up to the powerful peach flavor. Use fresh local peaches; the sweeter the better. Don’t ask about the name: it was a...different time.

Got a lot of peaches? Make a puree with a touch of lemon juice to keep the color.

Im-Peach-Mint Daiquiri – Ben Nelson, @LauraLeesRVA

Half a sweet peach, skinned (or 1 oz puree)

2 oz Virago 4-port rum

.5 oz Aperol

.75 oz lime juice

.25-.5 oz simple syrup (depending on peach sweetness)

Sprig mint leaves

  • Muddle peach and add other ingredients.

  • Add ice and shake hard.

  • Strain into a chilled coupe.

  • Garnish with a mint sprig

Jess Bevenour of Southbound leans toward tart and wild, funking it up with some Jamaican navy-strength rum she tempers with cinnamon syrup. Simple and down to earth yet bold and alive, this is a good one for experienced daiquiri drinkers wanting to spice things up. Careful goes down easy and that 57% can sneak up on you.

Her exact recipes are secret, but she allowed me to share this much with you:

Cinnamon Daiquiri – Jess Bevenour, @SouthboundRVA

≥1.5 oz Plantation 3-Star rum

≤1 oz Smith & Cross navy strength rum

1 oz lime juice

.5 oz cinnamon syrup

Cinnamon syrup

  • Boil 1 qt water

  • Add 4-5 cinnamon sticks, cracked

  • Store overnight and strain out cinnamon

  • Add to a blender with an equal part sugar (946 grams) until clear

As always, share your attempts and experiments with us in the comments—let us know what you think!