When Scientists Drink

Hemingway Daiquiris

M here. We’ll kick this one off with a bit of rhetorical stroll. It begins when I received And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis as a birthday gift from our friends the Bob and Nancy. It’s an easy and informative read on a subject that the author is clearly both passionate and well informed (I don’t think people appreciated the amount of dry academic background research that goes into writing). Mr. Curtis traces rum from a recipe for blindness derived from industrial waste sludge on sugar plantations through the modern sophisticated age of the mojito. In the chapter on the daiquiri, he talks at length about Ernest Hemingway, Havana, and El Floridita Bar. In the collection of recipes in the back, he provides a recipe for the Hemingway Daiquiri (which was developed at El Floridita). His recipe is 1 1/2 oz. rum (light rum–it’s Cuba after all), 1/4 oz. maraschino liqueur, 3/4 oz. simple syrup, 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice and 3/4 oz. lime juice. Shake it all up with ice and strain it into a cocktail glass.

Recipes for the Hemingway Daiquiri seem to vary in terms of the amount of simple syrup, from about the 3/4 oz here down to none. We made the recipe here and decided that it was much too sweet for our taste (the sweetness is what you notice). The next time I made the recipe I used 1/2 oz of simple syrup and we decided this was a distinct improvement, thought it was still sweet (maraschino is very sweet itself).

So, this all gets my little scientist brain going and out pops an experiment (B agreed to try this, although she didn’t want her cocktail drinking made complicated). I decided to quadruple the recipe (there’s two of us, right? What’s the harm?). Based on this, I need 6 oz. Rum (Bacardi silver in this case. I figure it’s as close to a Cuban rum as I can legally get, and besides, I had it), 1 oz. maraschino, 3 oz. lime juice and 2 oz. grapefruit juice. Now, before, I figured out that 2 ounces would be the most syrup that I would want to add, so I chilled four cocktail glasses and shook the cocktail mix (without syrup at this point) with ice and strained just a little into the first glass. I then added 1/2 oz (1 tablespoon) of simple syrup into the cocktail shaker, gave it a shake and strained a little into the next cocktail glass. I repeated this for the next two glasses and then added another tablespoon of syrup to the shaker. Now I have four cocktail glasses with 0, 1/2 oz, 1 oz, and 1 1/2 oz of simple syrup daiquiris and the cocktail shaker has the 2 oz. simple syrup daiquiri. We then started tasting with the no syrup daiquiri and moving up the sugar scale.

The no syrup daiquiri was definitely too sour. All you taste is the lime juice and it’s clearly missing something. The 1/2 oz syrup one was noticeably better, but remained too sour and still seemed to be missing something. The 1 oz. syrup Hemingway Daiquiri hit that magic spot. Flavors of both the maraschino and the grapefruit juice became subtly noticeable, the lime juice just seemed balanced and the drink not too sweet. Both the 1 1/2 oz and 2 oz syrup drinks drifted progressively into the sweet category and the subtlety of the juices was lost. We both agreed on the amount of simple syrup to get the best daquiri, which for us is something of a little miracle. So, after much academic rambling, the Cocktails with M version is:

The Hemingway Daiquiri

  • 3 oz. rum
  • 1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
  • 1 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup

Add ice. Shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. This recipe makes two drinks or a double, depending on the extent of your thirst.

As a postscript…

Simple syrup is made by adding 1 cup of table sugar to 1 cup of water and bringing to a boil to dissolve. Transfer it to a bottle after it’s cooled a bit and store in the refrigerator until it’s needed or it grows mold (typically three or four months anyway). Some recipes call for 2 cups sugar to 1 cup of water, but this tends to crystallize out over time. I suspect if you add a tablespoon or so of corn syrup, it would prevent this, but I haven’t tried. All of our recipes call for the 1:1 simple syrup.

8 thoughts on “When Scientists Drink

  1. Mmmmm…sounds great. Do you think the sweetness will also depend on the sweetness of the citrus? Maybe not the lime so much, but the grapefruit? They can vary by variety and by individual. Also, whether the grapefruit juice is fresh-squeezed (directly from the fruit) or from a container which may have been sweetened.

    This is definitely a cool new blog.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I would suspect that it certainly could make a difference as to the citrus. We used fresh juice (have to love having a produce place on the way home from work). I will have to play around with the recipe to see if from time to time it does change. I am thinking I will put in about a tablespoon less syrup than I think I need, give it a shake and taste a little. Might be a reason for a follow up post (we really are cocktail geeks).

  3. I admire your curiuosity, and applaud your experiments. We went through about 60 cocktail books and a bunch of websites and came up with 8 sets of ratios of the same ingredients, and tried them all. Except, there are two or three recipes that start “take the juice of half a grapefruit” – we’ll do those later this summer.

    We found the original La Floridita recipe way too dry, like you we found there was a point where both the grapefruit and maraschino liqueur (luxardo) were both there but not overwhelming.

    We recently shifted to using Flor De Cana white rum, which has more flavor than certain other famous white rums, so we may have to do the experiment over again (smile).

    We settled on
    * White Rum 1.5 oz
    * Maraschino Liqueur .75
    * Lime juice .75 oz
    * ruby (red) grapefruit juice .25

    You can read about your research if you click on my name.

    1. Thanks for the tip about Flor de Cana. I made a regular daiquiri this weekend to try it out and I think we have a new standard light rum. It looks like your El Floridita daiquiri looks similar to the one I cam up with, except that there is a bit more Maraschino and the simple syrup is omitted, which probably makes more sense. I have also been thinking about tinkering with fresh grapefruit juice (my wife always has the boxed version for breakfast, so that’s always on hand). It’s funny that grapefruit juice is the only citrus that I don’t squeeze fresh. You seem to be pretty interesting in Rum. Have you read And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis? It’s a pretty good read.

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