You Should Judge a Bar by How They Make a Daiquiri

It’s one of six basic cocktails — and the one most likely to get screwed up.

Hemingway Daiquiri
The Hemingway Daiquiri, a simple grapefruit variation on the classic cocktail
The Rum House
By Kirk Miller / July 19, 2019 11:55 am

Picture a daiquiri, and some frozen sugar bomb monstrosity probably pops into your head. You’d be wrong (but forgiven) for avoiding one at a high-end cocktail bar and saving it for your beach/resort holidays.

Yet the cocktail is, at heart, a very simple (rum, lime juice, simple syrup) and delicious non-frozen tipple, and one that a mixologist would love to make for you. Correctly. 

The daiquiri in its classic form is a bar standard; in David A. Embury’s highly influential 1948 cocktail book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the daiquiri is listed as one of the six “basic” drinks (the others are the Jack Rose, the Manhattan, the Martini, the Old Fashioned and the Sidecar). That sentiment is repeated in Cocktail Codex, last year’s excellent cocktail tome from the team behind NYC’s Death & Co., which equates the daiquiri as one of six “templates” that all other cocktails follow (the others being the Old Fashioned, martini, sidecar, whisky highball and flip).

To get a better idea of what you can do with a daiquiri, we spoke with Kenneth McCoy, Chief Creative Officer of New York’s The Rum House (aka the one bar that’s worth a trek through Times Square). This week, McCoy and his team have put together seven variations of the daiquiri to celebrate National Daiquiri Day (July 19), with some of the proceeds earmarked for the nonprofit World Central Kitchen. 

InsideHook: Why do people have the wrong idea about constitutes a daiquiri? 

Kenneth McCoy: I think people get intimidated about making Daiquiris at home because they think it involves some sort of blender. It’s honestly easy to make but even easier to f— up if you don’t know what you’re doing. it’s a basic drink because it only involves three ingredients, but you’d be surprised [by] how you use those three ingredients can really affect it. To put it plainly, it’s a wonderfully simple cocktail when executed by the right person. 

What’s your preferred recipe for a classic daiquiri?

2 oz rum  .75 lime .75 sugar. With this Banks rum.

Is it easy to do a (good) riff on a daiquiri?

That’s what is so wonderful about a daiquiri — you can riff on it in so many ways. Dark rum, light rum, golden rum , Demerara sugar, a pineapple rum like Plantation is wonderful to play with, or even an Agricole Rhum like JM.

What’s your favorite take on a daiquiri? 

.75 Plantation Dark Plantation 
.75 Plantation Pineapple 
.25 Plantation OFTD 
.75 Lime 
.50 Demerara 

Shaken like hell, poured into chilled coupe, garnish with a lime wheel. 

There are two drinks I judge a bartender on when I enter a bar: an Old Fashioned and a daiquiri. Is a daiquiri a good choice for judging a bar’s expertise?

Those are two of my yardsticks for judging bartenders. If you can’t make those, how are you going to create your own cocktails? Master the classics, then we can talk bespoke.