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The best rums for a Daiquiri

This Cuban cocktail is a classic mix. Julie Sheppard reveals the history of the recipe and recommends eight great rums to try at home. 

Unlike many cocktail recipes, whose origins are debated or simply lost in the mists of time, the invention of the Daiquiri is well documented and undisputed. This deliciously simple mix of rum, lime juice and sugar was invented in Cuba by the American engineer Jennings Stockton Cox in 1898.

At the time Cox was living in the small harbour town of Daiquiri on the east coast of Cuba. As head of John D Rockerfeller’s Spanish-American Iron Company, he was overseeing local iron-ore mining operations in the area.

Like the other workers for the company, Cox received a monthly ration of Bacardí Carta Blanca rum, produced at a distillery in Santiago de Cuba, 45km away. According to Cox’s granddaughter, he mixed this with lime juice and sugar to serve to some American visitors when he ran out of gin.

Admittedly locals in the Caribbean had been drinking the same mix for as long as anyone could remember. But Cox was the first to write the recipe down: recording it in his personal diary. And he was the first to give it a name.

According to When it’s Cocktail Time in Cuba, written by Basil Woon in 1928, Cox used to meet other workers from the Daiquiri mines at the Venus bar in Santiago de Cuba at 8am each morning. The group would enjoy three or four of Cox’s rum-and-lime drinks every day.

‘One morning in the Venus bar, Cox said: “Boys, we’ve been drinking this delicious little drink for some time now, but we’ve never named it. Let’s christen it now!” The boys milled around a bit and finally Cox said: “I’ll tell you what lads – we all work at Daiquiri and we all drank this drink first there. Let’s call it a Daiquiri.”’

Bartenders and customers chat on a street corner outside a bar in Cuba

El Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba Credit: Julie Sheppard

Gaining popularity

The Daiquiri was soon served in bars across Cuba, where bartenders in Havana refined the recipe, using cocktail shakers to mix the drink and serving it in a coupe glass. This ensured its popularity with drinkers seeking to avoid Prohibition in the US in the 1920s.

Meanwhile US navy doctor Lucius Johnson had taken the recipe back to the States, after drinking Daiquiris with Cox in Cuba. He introduced it to The Army and Navy Club in Washington DC in 1909, a date that’s commemorated on a plaque in the club’s Daiquiri Bar & Lounge to this day.

Later the Daiquiri also found a fan in author Ernest Hemingway, who first visited Cuba in 1928. He lived on the island, on and off, for 30 years and wrote some of his most famous novels there, including The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Hemingway discovered the Daiquiri when he dropped into El Floridita bar in Havana to use the toilet. Head bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert served him the bar’s standard frozen Daiquiri. Hemingway commented: ‘That’s good but I prefer it without sugar and with double rum.’ From then on the bar served him the Hemingway Special Daiquiri or ‘Papa Doble’ – Papa was Hemingway’s nickname and his new cocktail was double the size of the original.

Later, when Antonio Meilan took over as head bartender at El Floridita, he adapted the recipe for a Hemingway Special, adding maraschino cherry liqueur and grapefruit juice (see below).

How to make a Daiquiri

Glass: Coupe
Garnish: Lime wedge
Method: Put the rum, lime juice and sugar syrup into a cocktail shaker. Half fill with ice and shake until your hands are cold. Strain into a chilled coupe, garnished with a lime wedge on the rim.

50ml white rum
15ml freshly squeezed lime juice
10ml sugar syrup

How to make a Hemingway Special Daiquiri

Glass: Coupe
Garnish: Lime wedge
Method: Put all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Half fill with ice and shake until your hands are cold. Strain into a chilled coupe, garnished with a lime wedge on the rim.

105ml white rum
30ml freshly squeezed lime juice
30ml freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
22.5ml Luxardo Maraschino cherry liqueur
15ml sugar syrup

Best rums for a Daiquiri

Bacardí Carta Blanca

Bacardí is the original Daiquiri rum. The classic cocktail is named after the Cuban town where American engineer Jennings Stockton  Cox first combined Carta Blanca, lime juice and sugar in 1898. Although Bacardi was founded in Cuba in 1862, its rums are now made in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Carta Blanca has sweet tropical aromas with banana and coconut and a touch of peppery spice, leading to a light, creamy palate with notes of tropical fruit, and a vanilla toffee edge. Lingering spiciness on the finish. Alcohol 37.5%

Diplomático Planas

This delicious Venezuelan rum is aged in barrels for six years and then charcoal-filtered. It means you get more complexity in your glass, with the evolved toffee, spice and creamy vanilla notes of a dark rum alongside the fresher grassy notes of a white rum. Coconut, fresh lemon, green chilli, tropical and stone fruit notes also feature. Smooth enough to sip over ice or use it to upgrade your Daiquiri for a sophisticated sip. Alc 47%

Don Q Cristal

Made in Puerto Rico by the Serrallés family, who established their distillery back in 1865. Don Q is named after Don Quixote, protagonist in the classic Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes, which was a favourite family read. This light rum spends 18 months in American oak and is then carbon filtered. It’s a fruity little number: expect lively notes of pineapple, citrus and banana, with gentle hints of brown spices: cinnamon and nutmeg. Alc 40%

El Dorado 3 Year Old

El Dorado is a range of demerara rums made in Guyana. The Diamond Distillery is located on the banks of the Demerara River, just six degrees away from the equator in South America. This is the youngest rum in the range, which is better known for its aged expressions, including 5-, 8-, 12-, 15- and 21-year-old rums. It spends three years in cask and is charcoal-filtered. This has an appealing nutty-toffee-brown sugar character alongside coconut, light spice and grassy notes. Alc 40%

Havana Club Original Añejo 3 Años

The leading Cuban rum brand, Havana Club’s light rum is aged in ex-bourbon casks for three years and then filtered to remove the colour. Sweet and fresh aromas, with tropical fruit notes – lots of pineapple, mango, banana and some fudge. The palate is grassy and spicy, with a refreshing fruitiness and honeyed sweetness. Pineapple, green apple, plus vanilla and lemon Bonbons. A touch of the florality on the finish, plus lots of green chilli spice and some toffee. Alc 40%

Plantation 3 Stars

The three stars are Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad: top sites for rum production in the Caribbean. This engaging blend mixes unaged spirits from Barbados and Jamaica with two- to three-year-old spirit from Trinidad, then adds a dash of Jamaican 10-year-old for good measure. A bartender favourite, 3 Stars is crisp and fresh, with plenty of spice and a grassy, almost agave-like note on the palate that’s balanced by honeyed sweetness and a creamy custard note. Great choice for Daiquiris. Alc 41.2%

Ron Santiago de Cuba Carta Blanca

This Cuban molasses-based rum is aged in white oak barrels for three years and filtered. The fresh, grassy nose is laced with banana, fudge and tropical fruit. While the palate is smooth, fresh and creamy, with banana toffee, vanilla and spice balanced by fresh green grassy notes too. A well rounded cocktail rum. Alc 38%


The Latin word ‘veritas’ means truth – and this is a truly delicious rum. It’s an unusual collaboration between Foursquare Distillery in Barbados and Hampden in Jamaica, blending unaged Coffey column still rum from the former with pot still rum from the latter. Aromas of creamy toffee and vanilla, with tropical fruit and some grassy vegetal notes. The palate is full-bodied: creamy and spicy with pineapple, toffee and bananas and custard, balanced by fresh grassiness. My favourite choice for a Daiquiri. Alc 47%

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