In loose fitting white linen and colorful espadrilles, you enter the darkened room. So much different than the bright tropical paradise outside. Sitting at a small table, a dashing young waiter asks if you would care for something to refresh with.
“A Daiquiri, thank you.”
He knows not to ask if you want Frozen Strawberry or Kiwi Kumquat, for there is only one Daiquiri served here.
Welcome to the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, and grand hotel perfectly designed by the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White in a mix of styles including Sevillian, Roman, Moorish and Art Deco, and situated on the Malecón in the middle of Vedado, Havana, Cuba. It stands on Taganana Hill a few meters from the sea, and offers a view of Havana Harbor, the seawall and the city.
Ernest Hemingway drank there, as well as Nat King Cole, Eartha Kitt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Jimmy Carter, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Keaton, Jorge Negrete, Agustín Lara, Rocky Marciano, Tyrone Power, Alberto Simões, Rómulo Gallegos, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Jean-Paul Sartre, Yuri Gagarin, scientist Alexander Fleming, Minnesota (United States) Governor Jesse Ventura, and innumerable Ibero-American Heads of State and European monarchs. In 2011, Cuban-American Pop Icon Gloria Estefan released her second single "Hotel Nacional" from her album Miss Little Havana, the song it's mainly inspired on the Cuban Golden-Era of Entertainment and the international appeal of the building through the world.
However glamorous it was, it was not the origin of the Daiquiri, darn it!
The classic Daiquiri, made from nothing more than rum, lime juice and sugar shaken with cracked ice and strained, takes its name from the place it was invented, the mining town of Daiquiri on the southeastern tip of Cuba.
During the time of the Spanish-American War, in 1898, an American mining engineer by the name of Jennings Cox created the drink to protect his workers from yellow fever. According to Bacardi archivist Juan Bergaz Pessino, both the lime and alcohol were thought to protect against the deadly disease, although there are also rumors that Cox invented the drink when he ran out of gin at a party and began shaking rum cocktails instead.
Several decades later, a veteran of the War for Cuban Independence, P.D. Pagliuchi, laid claim to the name, stating: “On the sideboard of the mine’s dining room, there was no gin or vermouth; all we could find was Bacardi rum, limes, sugar and ice.… With this material, Mr. Cox made up a cocktail, which was so shaken as to be very cold. It tasted fine, and I asked Cox, ‘What are you going to call it?’ ‘Rum Sour,’ he said. (In the U.S., a drink made up of whiskey, lemon juice, sugar and ice is called Whiskey Sour.) I answered him, ‘This is too long a name; it was invented at Daiquiri, so why not call it ‘Daiquiri’?”
The cocktail was further made famous at Hotel Venus in Santiago de Cuba, where it was christened in 1932, and Feliza Bar in Havana, where Spain-born owner Constante Ribalaigua created variations on the cocktail (the #2, #4 and Hemingway Daiquiris), all made with Bacardi rum.
The Daiquiri was introduced to the United States in 1908, when a U.S. Navy medical officer brought the recipe from Cuba back to the Army Navy Club in Washington, D.C. It experienced a rash of popularity from the 1940s through 1960s.
Despite its many modern variations, the Daiquiri remains one of the classics for a reason: its three-ingredient simplicity.
THE PERFECT DAIQUIRI
2 parts Bacardi Superior Rum
1 part fresh lime juice
2 tsp of sugar
How to Prepare
Place sugar and freshly pressed lime juice into a cocktail shaker and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour in the BACARDÍ Superior rum and fill the shaker with half-cubed ice, followed by some half-crushed ice. Place the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled. Finally, strain through a fine tea strainer into a chilled coupette. Garnish with a mint leaf.