Why is it so good?
The art of a great hand-shaken daiquiri is in the balancing of acidity (lime juice) and sweetness (simple syrup). Too much lime and the drink can become astringent. Not enough and it feels heavy. The goal is to create a refreshing cocktail that brings the rum to life. However, proper balance is always determined by the imbiber; some enjoy their drinks on the sweeter side while others crave acid. Also, some rums are sweetened to represent a style, so adjustments need to be made accordingly.
Fresh is best. I have yet to find a substitute that can compare. Squeeze your limes the same day you plan on using them, preferably a few hours before you start making drinks. The juice can be a bit overpowering at first. I also prefer to use a mechanical juicer. If you are using a hand press, know that the oil from the peels can add a lot of flavor, which is not always a good thing.
Simple syrup is easy enough to make and can be ready in minutes. Slowly heat white sugar and water in equal parts until the sugar is completely dissolved. Substituting a less refined cane sugar will add a lot of complexity and depth but could overpower your white rum. Make syrup from both and judge for yourself.
White rum is commonly used and makes for a lovely poolside sipper, or the first cocktail of the day. Pick your favorite and try it out. Then, get weird and try something like an unaged agricole rhum from Martinique for a full-flavored adventure. Pot-distilled options from Jamaica are sure to wake up the senses with their higher proofs (upward of 60% ABV), but I can only handle one of those per sitting.
Here is where the fun begins! The barrel-aging process brings with it a full range of flavors that beautifully contrast the bright lime juice. I will call out a few names here. Appleton Estate rums are incredibly rich and decadent in a daiquiri. My favorite of the moment is Hamilton 86 Demerara rum, if you can find it, for a dry, spicy variation. Don’t be afraid to upgrade your spirit to find your favorite. Barbancourt 15-Year from Haiti is delicious on its own and makes a truly remarkable daiquiri.
Seriously! The margarita and the daiquiri are kissing cousins. The classic margarita has orange liqueur in it but without, it’s known as Tommy’s Margarita, made famous by Julio Bermejo at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco. They are absolutely delicious. Again, the quality of the base spirit is key, so pick a good blanco tequila and start enjoying.
¾ oz Lime Juice
¾ oz Simple Syrup
1½ oz Rum
Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin. Add ice, cover and shake. Strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.
By Dean Hurst, R&D Hospitality