If you're into thinkin' and drinkin'

Episode 10: Papa’s Poison – The Daiquiri (and its kin)


Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares. If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.
— Ernest Hemingway

  When we did this episode originally we focused on the Hemingway Daiquiri. In our book “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails” there is a La Floridita Daiquiri, which apparently was also served at Hemingway’s favorite hangout in Cuba, but then we needed to look into the origin of daiquiris in general.

Basically a daiquiri is rum, sugar and lime juice and lots of cracked ice. Once again, here is a recipe that is not amazing in itself…it seems kind of obvious especially in Cuba, but it does have a definite origin that we were able to trace back at least circumstantially.  It doesn’t appear in many cocktail books and the ones that did feature it were later in the era, but we think it traveled to the U.S. just after the Spanish-American War. One of the characters in the story is Jennings Cox, a mining engineer and manager for Bethlehem Steel in the mining town of Daiquiri, Cuba. He arrived in 1897 for mines owned by William Astor Chandler of New York. Both men spent large amounts of time in Cuba and made frequent forays back home to New York and Jay discovered a news article from 1914 that described the bartender at the Hotel Astor was serving daiquiris.

The challenge we had in accepting this story outright is that no Cuban cocktail books feature this drink until 1915, which is strange that it appears potentially in 1902 in the U.S. but isn’t put in print in Cuba until 15 years later.

We think the daiquiri was a popular drink in Cuba long before Cox and Chandler were there and it was slowly making its way to the U.S.; Cox and Chandler sped up its arrival and made it a popular cocktail in New York as they were seen ordering it. We aren’t sure of this version, but based on the dates and publications and what we’ve seen with other cocktails this is our guess.

The La Florida was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar in Cuba and it features the La Floridita Daiquiri. Hemingway’s version of that daiquiri was a double…less sugar, more rum. The popular story of Hemingway’s love for his daiquiris tells of him drinking a dozen in one night. The rest of the show goes into much more depth of Hemingway’s life and his time in Cuba where he worked secretly for the U.S. government hunting German submarines in the Caribbean.

Here is the recipe for the La Floridita Daiquiri:

  • 2 oz rum
  • juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of maraschino

By and large the Black Liver team all considered the daiquiri a fruity, fancy drink being more familiar with garish pink strawberry daiquiris our parents drank in the 80s. But the actual daiquiri does seem like a Cuban original…a cocktail that just makes sense for that island. We had the drinks made at Ward 8 in Evanston near Chicago and they were really damned good. Putting simple ingredients together in this case really make something bigger than the sum of its ingredients.

We thought each daiquiri brought something, but generally we preferred the basic, lime daiquiri. Nicole even has learned to appreciate rum through this cocktail. I love it when we can open doors for people.


Transition music: Cephalopod by Kevin MacLeod
Closing Music: Daiquiri Night by Laszlo Harsanyi

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