While New Orleans can lay claim to being the birthplace of many highly revered cocktails—like the Sazerac, the Ramos Gin Fizz, and Brandy Milk Punch—the daiquiri was actually imported from Cuba. "The daiquiri became a bizarre aberration of itself in New Orleans and in the South," says bartender Nick Detrich of Cane & Table, explaining why you'll find syrupy, frozen versions of the drink sipped from styrofoam cups just about everywhere—even ordered from drive-thru windows.
But the classic version, upheld by bartenders like Detrich, was popularized in New Orleans around the 1920s and '30s, when the city shared a strong bond with Havana. "There was a direct flight from Havana to New Orleans for many years ," explains Detrich. The original daiquiri, which only calls for white rum, sugar, and lime juice, is believed to have been invented in southern Cuba by copper miners before becoming the signature drink at legendary Havana bars like Floridita and the bar in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
"Havana became a very fashionable destination in the '20s and '30s. You had a lot of Hollywood types and writers who loved hanging out at places like Floridita and the Hotel Nacional," says Detrich. It was those very people—like Mary Pickford, one of the founders of United Artists and a famous actress of her day, and larger-than-life author Ernest Hemingway—who helped with the drink's proliferation.
The beauty of the classic daiquiri lies in its simplicity: it's a study in balancing sweet and tart. There's also a lot of room for interpretation. "You can add any modifier into that basic formula of rum, lime, and sugar, and it's a new variation on the daiquiri," says Detrich "But the best sort of rum to use is typically a clean white rum that's somewhat floral and bright."
Here, Detrich shares the recipe for the Daiquiri No.4, one of the five iterations included by Floridita in their first cocktail book, originally published in 1935.
2 ounces white rum, like Don Q Cristal¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice½ ounce simple syrupBarspoon of Maraschino liqueur
How to Make It
Combine the ingredients in a shaker tin and shake 20 times.
Fine strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Float the Maraschino liqueur around the top of the drink by pouring it over the back of a spoon.