Cuba's Cocktail

Drink in a taste of the tropics with a classic daiquiri 

For a small country, Cuba has given birth to a prestigious list of classic cocktails including the mojito, the Cuba libre, the El Presidente and the daiquiri. All are made with rum, but only one manages to embody the lightness called for in an oppressively humid climate, with both elegance and simplicity: the daiquiri.

American mining engineer Jennings Cox is credited with inventing this tart and refreshing libation while working in Cuba in the 1890s. The story goes that Cox combined lemon juice, sugar and rum—only because he was out of gin, his preferred spirit—and served it to guests. It was a hit, and he named his creation a “daiquiri” after the iron mine where he worked. 

The drink became popular in Havana bars and morphed to include the juice of locally grown limes, granulated cane sugar and, always, Havana Club rum. “It’s the proper rum for a daiquiri,” says Havana Club ambassador Donnie Wheeler. “It’s made in Cuba, aged in Cuba, bottled in Cuba and it employs Cubans.” 

The daiquiris served at Havana’s El Floridita bar drew the attention of American novelist Ernest Hemingway, and his loyalty to rum with lime juice helped popularize the cocktail outside of Cuba. 

Most people associate daiquiris with beach vacations, but they are not just for sipping on hot, sunny days. If you find yourself snowbound in northern climes craving a taste of the tropics, shake up an original daiquiri, serve it straight up and travel vicariously to Cuba. Or, if you’re craving something a little different, try one of the variations.

A Farewell to Sober

While it’s true Hemingway started off drinking “original” daiquiris, his lips soon puckered in favour of grapefruit juice, and the Hemingway Daiquiri was born. Cleaver in Calgary shakes up its version of the Hem using rum, maraschino liqueur, a splash of honey and a balance of grapefruit juice and lime juice. It’s aptly called A Farewell to Sober.

Drifter’s Daiquiri

Velvet Falernum liqueur adds the Caribbean flavours of cloves, allspice and ginger to the Drifter’s Daiquiri, available at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails in Phoenix. Head mixologist Stephanie Teslar was inspired by the grassy and funky flavour of Rhum Clement, which is an “agricole” rum (a specific style of rum made with sugarcane juice) from Martinique. One sip and your thoughts and cares will drift south.

El Floridita Daiquiri

Although it’s known as the “Cradle of the Daiquiri,” even Havana’s El Floridita bar isn’t afraid to shake things up a little. The El Floridita version takes lime juice, sugar and Havana Club three-year-old rum, and then blends in a splash of maraschino liqueur with a cup of crushed ice to create a frozen daiquiri. Don’t pooh-pooh this boozy blended bevvy—it’s a perfect antidote to the assault of the Cuban capital’s steamy streets.