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Mon, Aug 29, 22
British Sailors Toasting with Rum…1948, Chatham, Kent, England, UK — British sailors toast the birth of a child to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh with glasses of rum. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

How did we get from the British sailors’ “daily tot” of rum to the summery, beachy confection known as the Strawberry Daiquiri?

It is true that the foundations of the daiquiri are to be found in British sailors’ daily ration of beer. Yes, beer. Early ocean travelers tended to drink low-alcohol beer during their voyages, as the water was not very pure and would be prone to harbor dangerous molds and bacteria. The sailors were provided a gallon of beer a day through a law passed in the 17th century. Due to the massive amount of beer they had to supply to a military force 4,500 miles away, a pint of rum was considered a fair substitute. It was easier to get but far more potent. On August 21, 1740 Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon issued his infamous Order No. 349 to captains, stating: “[The rum should] be every day mixed with the proportion of a quart of water to a half pint of rum, to be mixed in a scuttled butt kept for that purpose, and to be done upon the deck, and in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Watch who is to take particular care to see that the men are not defrauded in having their full allowance of rum … and let those that are good husband men receive extra lime juice and sugar that it be made more palatable to them.” This is one of the earliest known instances of the combination of lime juice, water, sugar, and rum: the base of what would become the Daiquiri.

 It is thankfully beyond the scope of this little blog to cover the dynamics of the Triangular Trade Route, but if you want to have your hair stand on end go to YouTube and check out John Cullum’s breathtaking performance of “Molasses to Rum” in the musical 1776.

Flash-forward to 1898, when The U.S. declared war on Spain and troops landed on a Cuban beach named Daiquiri, just a short distance away from an iron mine in Santiago. This “splendid little war” allowed the United States to occupy Cuba and do what Spain had done for centuries before: profit from the vast resources of the island. One of the people making a healthy profit was Jennings Cox. He was one of the first iron miners on the island and generally credited with creating the original Daiquiri. The story goes that while he was entertaining guests one night, he ran out of the gin everyone was enjoying. He went out and purchased the easiest liquor he could find, which was rum. Adding lemons, sugar, mineral water, and ice to the rum, he turned it into a punch for his guests. They loved it and wanted to know what the name of it was. While it should have been called a rum sour according to the conventions of the day (“One sour, two sweet, three strong, four weak”), Cox did not feel that was good enough for such a fine drink, so he named it for the nearby beach and called it a Daiquiri. Although this recipe calls for lemons, it’s unclear what citrus Cox may actually have used. Lemons and limes in Latin America vary quite a bit from their North American counterparts and both can be called “limons” depending on where you are.

Two events occurred during the 1930’s that changed the future of the Daiquiri forever. In one event, or perhaps more accurately a force of nature, Ernest Hemmingway stopped into Havana’s El Floridita bar, not far from the hotel where he lived during much of the 1930s. On his way out, he noticed the bartender setting up Daiquiris. Never one to walk past a drink, Hemingway took a sip. Not bad, he said, but he preferred them with no sugar and double the rum. The bartender made one as specified, and then named the drink after him.


A bar. A man. A drink. “Those are the facts,” writes drink historian Ted Haigh in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, “and from there the story goes straight to hell.” The bartender may have called this drink the Papa Doble, which, with some ingredient additions, morphed into the Hemingway Daiquiri (or possibly the Hemingway Special or El Floridita #4). The exact history is a matter of considerable contention among cocktail sleuths, who have been poring over the clues ever since Hemingway walked out of the bathroom.

The second event was perhaps even more earthshaking: the invention of the Waring blender. At first, the blender was utilized in the bars for crushing ice and mixing drinks, but from there, well, we all know what happened…

Now we at Rollers do not judge, and if you want your strawberry-mango slushee rum soda pop and want to call it a daiquiri, by all means be our guest, but when you do, take a brief moment and honor the heritage of one of the greatest drinks in the cocktail cannon.

The Classic Daiquiri

  • 2 1/2 ounces light rum
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup or superfine sugar

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass with ice or serve up

The Hemingway Daiquiri

  • 3 oz./90 ml of White Rum
  • 1 oz./30 ml of Lime juice
  • .5 oz/ 15 ml of Grapefruit juice
  • .25 oz/ 8 ml of Maraschino liqueur

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass with ice or serve up