Vintage Cocktails: The Fine Art of the Daiquiri

Categories: Booze

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It's a fine art indeed.
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks is a hard-to-find but indispensable cocktail manual first published in 1948. My barstained copy (it was stained before I got to it) came from a southside Houston thrift store and was marked down to $9.95. The out-of-print book now goes on Amazon and eBay for around $50.

The book is a charming read for anyone who's interested in mixology, thanks to Embury's coy sense of humor, but it became indispensable due to the inclusion of Embury's golden ratio for sours: 1:2:8. That is 1 part sweet, 2 parts sour, 8 parts liquor.

My all-time favorite cocktail is the daiquiri, which is really just a rum sour. Not the frozen kind you can get in yardsticks in the French Quarter, though there is some debate over which daiquiri was the original, the frozen kind, or the kind I like to drink, shaken over ice like a martini. There is also some confusion over the drink's inventor. The most famous connoisseur of the daiquiri was Ernest Hemingway, at least according to the La Florida bar in Havana, which continues to claim one of their bartenders made the drink up for him.

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Even Hemingway knew the daiquiri was no girly drink.
But I like the daiquiri because of its simplicity and versatility. In his book, Embury lists the drink as one of the six classic cocktails, states that the original recipe was for a shaken drink, not a frozen one, and gives some options for altering it.

The original and correct recipe for the Daiquiri is stated in terms of a single cocktail as 1/2 teaspoonful of sugar, juice of half a lime, and 1 jigger of white label rum. This is a cocktail that is difficult to improve upon. It is dry, yet smooth. The reaction time is short. The lime and rum blend perfectly. The Daiquiri, like the Old-Fashioned, deserves an even greater popularity than it now enjoys. For example, it is, in my opinion, a vastly superior cocktail to the Manhattan...

Even altering the rums within can drastically change the taste of a daiquiri. Replace a portion of the sour or sweet component with different fruit juices or cordials and you have dozens of combinations without losing the simplicity and sweet-tart balance that makes the drink so refreshing. Hemingway liked his with grapefruit juice and maraschino liquor. I have many favorite versions, but today it's the Royal Daiquiri.

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Parfait amour makes the perfect daiquiri.
This "royal" version uses parfait amour, a violet-colored liqueur that's actually made with either vanilla or rose and citrus. The only other drink I know of that uses this ingredient is the technicolor monstrosity known as the pousse-café, but I always keep a bottle in my bamboo bar for when I'm feeling regal. The liqueur adds a subtle lilac color to an already lovely drink, and the slightest hint of sweet floral flavor. This recipe comes from Don the Beachcomber, circa 1950s.

  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz parfait amour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz light Puerto Rican rum
  • 4 oz or 1/2 cup crushed ice

Put everything in a blender. Blend at high speed for five seconds. Strain through a fine-mesh wire sieve into a chilled cocktail glass.

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