The fascinating story of the daiquiri, Hemingway's favourite drink

A blend of rum, lime and sugar, the daiquiri was Hemingway’s top tipple.

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

What should we drink?

Well, 2023 marks 100 years since Ernest Hemingway’s work was first published. So let’s go with his favourite cocktail — the daiquiri. Made with the tasty trinity of rum, lime and sugar (with ice), it deftly dovetails strength, sourness and sweetness. What’s more, this year is the 125th anniversary of its invention.

What’s its story?

Back in 1898, a US engineer named Jennings Stockton Cox Jr was stationed in the southern Cuban town of Daiquiri, working for the Pennsylvania Steel Company. Having to contend with the Spanish-American War and rampant cases of yellow fever, Cox needed a drink. He turned to the local rum and jazzed it up with easily accessible ingredients — namely lime juice and sugar. That said, if it hadn’t been Cox, someone else would surely have created something similar — locals had been mixing the three ingredients for some time.

What rum should I use?

The original rum used was Bacardi Carta Blanca, while other, lighter white rums, such as Diplomático Planas, work well. For an alternative Cuban spirit, try Eminente Reserva, a darker, more robust rum with a hint of tobacco, which Hemingway would surely have approved of.

And how should it be drunk?

The classic approach of eight parts rum, two parts lime juice and one part sugar syrup is the most authentic but kicks like a mule. However, with just three ingredients, it’s easy to experiment to achieve the desired balance of sourness, sweetness and strength. But whatever your preference, be sure to use fresh lime juice, superior rum and loads of ice — and shake well before straining into a frozen glass. 

As Hemingway is reputed to have said about his favourite drink: “It shouldn’t taste of rum, it shouldn’t taste of lime and it shouldn’t taste of sugar. It should just taste of daiquiri.”

Where to drink it

El Floridita, Havana: Known as ‘la cuna del daiquiri’, this international imbibing institution is where Hemingway drank and where bartender Constante Ribalaigua Vert first served up the frozen daiquiri in the 1930s. 

Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco: Don’t be fooled by this bar’s humdrum exterior, as things get rather tiki-tastic inside. Expect a roaring rum selection plus great cocktails, including a well-made daiquiri. 

Schofield’s Bar, Manchester: The daiquiri is seen as a barometer of a mixologist’s skill — and this cocktail venue, run by two brothers, is a genuine bartender’s bar that does a quality, classic version. 

Classic daiquiri recipe

This simple recipe for a classic daiquiri is crisp, light and refreshing with balanced flavours.

Ingredients
50ml light white rum (charcoal-filtered, 1-4 years old)
15ml lime juice (freshly squeezed)
10ml Monin Pure Cane Sugar Syrup
10ml chilled water

Method

Cut zest from your lime for garnish prior to squeezing for juice. 
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled.

Published in Issue 20 (summer 2023) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

To subscribe to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine click here. (Available in select countries only).

Read This Next

Omega-3s are more critical for your health than we thought
New museum reckons with Charleston’s role in the slave trade
How Barbie’s signature pink took over the world

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet