See how the daiquiri came to be and how it’s evolved into the delicious frosty drink we enjoy today
Sugar, lime, and rum shaken over ice and served in a coupe glass – These ingredients make up a classic daiquiri. The gallon-sized sugary slushies sold “to-go” from neighborhood stores like Daiquiri Depot are also referred to as “daiquiris” and have their own place in history.
A Drink Discovered by War
The origin of the daiquiri comes from the United States intervening in the Cuban War of Independence by blockading the island on April 21st, 1898. Yup. A war that started it all.
Then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders landed at Daiquiri beach in southeastern Cuba. The Americans succeeded in driving the Spanish from the country and after the war, the Platt Amendment was passed, giving the US enormous authority over Cuban affairs. As a result, American corporations flocked there to seize the economic advantages that the Spanish had abandoned.
There were many farmers, engineers, and other professionals moving to the island due to the rapid rush of American investment into Cuban mining and agricultural ventures. Jennings S. Cox, a mining engineer, unintentionally stumbled into the history of the drink. While entertaining guests at his home near the village of Daiquiri, Cox ran out of gin. He ran to the local market to get more, but only found rum.
Evidently concerned about his American guests’ delicate palates, Cox made the decision to combine the rum with sugar, lemon juice, and other ingredients to make a punch. And thus, the Daiquiri was born.
However, since rum was first introduced to the Caribbean, people have been diluting it with citrus juice and sugar, primarily to lessen the potency of what was effectively the bathtub booze of its era. Cox, not being a native, was probably oblivious to this notion, had simply added sugar and ice to a local favorite and renamed it, and received recognition.
A Place in America
While visiting Cuba in 1909, US Navy medical officer Rear Admiral Lucius W. Johnson encountered the Daiquiri. He was so enamored with the drink that when he returned to the United States, he shared it with his pals at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C., and it quickly caught on.
Because word spread a lot slower back in that day, it wasn’t until the Prohibition era that the daiquiri appeared in American literature in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise in 1920. Hemingway was also notorious for imbibing daiquiris in Havanah who invented his own version The Hemingway Daiquiri (which leaves out the sugar as he was diabetic and adds a twist of grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur.) Some 50 years later, the Kennedys made it their go-to drink for sailing.
The beverage had some changes as it became more and more well-known. Crushed ice was first added to a daiquiri by renowned Cuban bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert at El Floridita in the 1930s when refrigeration technology advancements made it easier to find on the island. The frozen daiquiri ultimately made it to Middle America thanks to the popularity of Waring and Vitamix blenders in the second half of the decade.
Tropical beverages and tiki bars were extremely popular in the 1940s and 1950s and the frozen daiquiri (especially the strawberry daiquiri) was among them. But throwing fruit and booze into a blender wasn’t the best way to make a balanced cocktail. So in the 1990s, people started taking the drink seriously again as historians and bartenders started working together to dig up original recipes for classics that hadn’t been seen in years.
The word “daiquiri” is more of an umbrella term in modern New Orleans society, referring to any frosty mixture of alcohol and different fruity flavors. Popularity of the daiquiri rose in Louisianna during the disco era with its sweet, colorful, and often imbalanced cocktails that defined drinking culture in the 1970s. The timely invention of the first frozen margarita machine in neighboring Texas set the framework for the frosty boozy drink boom in the decade that followed.
A historian traced the roots of the daiquiri craze to a tiny mom ‘n’ pop liquor shop on the outskirts of Ruston, LA (a town nearly 300 miles from New Orleans). Proprietors Red and Hazel Williams combined unused bottles of “Tequila Sunrise” mix with ice and sold the resulting cocktail as a form of “impulse purchase” at the counter of their store in 1979.
Due to the high demand, the family switched from traditional blenders to frozen slush machines made in Italy. Later, Dolph Williams, the couple’s son, started building his own line of machines that could handle even more capacity. His company, Frosty Factory of America, would go on to equip numerous shops in Louisiana and beyond.
David Briggs Jr., a real estate entrepreneur from Houston, read about Wilmart, this little liquor store in Ruston that was revolutionizing the state by selling frozen drinks made with slush machines. Seeing the Williams’ family’s success, Briggs moved his family to New Orleans and opened the first New Orleans Original Daiquiris in Hammond, Louisiana, in 1983. This latest version of the daiquiri cocktail blended very well with the local way of life in New Orleans.
We’ll Drink To That!
Today, people experiment with flavors beyond the classic daiquiri recipe making it the ultimate adult version of a snowcone. There are whole festivals that revolve around this frosty drink. Every now and then, a mixologist comes up with a new flavor to share with the world, carrying on the tradition of ever-changing recipes.
From the ever-famous strawberry daiquiri to hearty white Russian, find your favorite flavor at Daiquiri Depot!