It may not be easy (or even possible) to visit an oceanside bar and enjoy a tropical cocktail nowadays, but a bit of DIY determination and expert advice can give you all the tools you need to bring the beach-party libations to your own backyard. When it comes to the daiquiri, a warm-weather rum-and-citrus beverage developed in Cuba and made famous by its biggest fan, author Ernest Hemingway, at-home bartenders need to carefully consider their rums of choice. Light rums, dark rums, and aged rums can all create delicious daiquiris, depending on your personal flavor preferences. The following 10 bottles — all recommended by pro mixologists — cover a wide array of rum styles, giving you plenty of options for crafting the daiquiri of your dreams.
Dark rum lends a welcome richness to the otherwise bright flavors of the daiquiri, and bar manager Sarah Clark of The Dearborn in Chicago especially enjoys the version made by Plantation. “I find that dark rums are ideal for daiquiris and most other tropical drinks. I recommend using Plantation Original Dark Rum. It is a rum distilled partially in Jamaica (aged for 10-15 years) and partially in Barbados (aged for 1-3 years). It is then blended in the south of France, then aged in wooden vats for 3 to 6 months. This staggered distillation and blending process produces really excellent layers of flavor and viscosity. You will find flavors of fruity white raisin and dried pineapple and notes of cinnamon, spices, black pepper, and molasses. It finishes nice and dry to keep you wanting more!” Clark tells The Manual.
A Venezuelan rum aged in bourbon barrels, Santa Teresa 1796 Solera Rum is a daiquiri must-have for wine director Paul Sanchez of Alma Cocina Latina in Baltimore, who explains that, “We are a Venezuelan restaurant located in Baltimore City, so choosing a rum best suited for a daiquiri is a no-brainer [for us]. Our bar features over 57 rums from all over the world, and my favorite for a daiquiri would be The Santa Teresa 1796 Solera Rum. This rum is bold as much as it is balanced, making it a very smooth rum to re-create the classic daiquiri from the early 1900s. Jennings Cox [an American engineer rumored to be the inventor of the daiquiri while working in Cuba at the turn of the last century] only used one spirit in his recipe, so why not make it a great one?”
Speaking of Jennings Cox, the “one spirit” used in his original daiquiri recipe allegedly came from a shipment of Bacardi rums from Puerto Rico … so, according to bartender and brand ambassador Ramon Diaz of Rums of Puerto Rico, the Platonic ideal of a daiquiri must include Bacardi Superior White Rum. “The daiquiri’s history dates back to 1898, when North Americans arrived in Cuba and started exploiting the iron mines. General Jennings Cox used to drink Bacardi rum [with] lime and sugar. He shared this drink with a group of miners [from the mining town of] Daiquiri. One day, they decided to name this cocktail after the mines. From that day forward, the cocktail was known as a daiquiri. Because of this, I believe that there definitely is no better rum for a daiquiri than Bacardi [White] Rum, just as it was originally created,” says Diaz.
When head bartender Nils Schabert of Fairview Bar & Restaurant in Alberta, Canada makes a daiquiri, he reaches for El Dorado 3 Year Old White Rum, “a fantastic English-style white rum from Guyana [ideal] to use in daiquiris and all sour-style cocktails. Its aged vanilla notes and modest personality shine through in a daiquiri without overwhelming the drink’s citrusy bite. The best choice if you’re looking for a very classic daiquiri.”
Ten To One Caribbean White Rum from Trinidad offers up both the appealingly delicate texture expected of white rums and a nuanced depth of flavor that makes it a prime addition to a classic daiquiri … or any other rum-based tropical cocktail. According to head bartender Dylan Shuey of Wayan in New York City, “Ten to One is a new favorite of mine. The white rum has a nice touch of pot-still funk and proof, allowing it to really show up and shine, instead of fading into the mix. The flavors play especially well in a classic daiquiri, which is always the first (and most important) test any rum is put through. At Wayan, it even plays well against a decadent house-made coconut milk syrup in our ‘Iñdo Colada’ cocktail, which employs ginger and cinnamon to elongate the grassy, citrus, pepper notes found in Ten to One.”
At her Aventura, Florida restaurant Bartaco, beverage director Nicole Quist says that “we love Flor de Caña 4 Year Rum Extra Seco out of Nicaragua. [It’s] a Spanish-style rum, and we are proud to partner with a fair trade-certified & sustainably produced naturally aged rum. The daiquiri is all about highlighting strong, sweet and sour [flavors], with a straight spirit, a sweetener, and fresh citrus. The result is a pure, refreshing cocktail where the natural vanilla & clean citrus notes of the rum itself shine.”
Ernest Hemingway’s preferred spin on the daiquiri featured two shots of rum (hence its alternative name, the “Papa Doble”) and no sugar, since Hemingway liked a strong rum presence in his cocktails. General manager Neal Neumann of Bar Biscay in Chicago agrees with Hemingway’s rum-dominant daiquiri philosophy, telling us that “I like spirit-forward drinks, and at 126 proof, Wray & Nephew cuts through the lime juice and simple syrup in a classic daiquiri. The specific ‘hogo’ or ‘funk’ delivered by the proprietary yeast is rich with overripe bananas. The spirit stands out, but still complements the flavors and vibe of the daiquiri.”
Bar manager Camille Cavan of Quaintrelle in Portland, Oregon also loves to use Wray & Nephew in her daiquiris, but “I’m a huge fan of splits [in cocktails], like [using] half Reposado and half Blanco [tequila] in margaritas and half vermouth and half whiskey in Manhattans. For daiquiris, [I use] a split between aged rum and light Jamaican rum.” For her light Jamaican rum, she goes with Wray & Nephew, but for her aged rum, she chooses “Don Pancho 8 Year Rum,” a medium-bodied Panamanian spirit with notes of leather, caramel, vanilla, and oak.
A style of rum originating in the French Caribbean, rhum agricole is distilled directly from sugarcane juice rather than from molasses, and the resulting spirit has a uniquely grassy, almost vegetal profile. Rhum agricole’s popularity continues to grow among inquisitive drinkers, leading distilleries located outside of the Caribbean to dabble in this type of rum-making. One such distillery is Kō Hana, located in Hawaii. Lead bartender Alicia Yamachika of Nobu Honolulu explains her affinity for Kō Hana Koho Hawaiian Agricole Rum in a daiquiri as follows: “For me, a cocktail experience is about aroma and texture as much as it is [about] taste. Kō Hana Koho Hawaiian Rum Agricole, made from the ancient Hawaiian sugarcane variety – Kea – lends a [flavor] of baking spices from its chardonnay and Maker’s Mark cask-resting, along with Kea’s tropical aromas of overripe banana. [Also,] the O’ahu terroir’s sea-level imposed brininess gives Kō Hana Koho its full-bodied mouthfeel. When shaken over ice with fresh lime juice and a little house-made simple syrup, [this rum yields] not only a beautiful, flavorful daiquiri, but also the perfect homage to French Caribbean rum heritage, local Hawaiian culture, and culinary artistry.”
Another agricole-style rum made outside of the French Caribbean, Cañada Rum hails from Oaxaca, Mexico, and it delivers a rum sure to appeal to those who prefer brown liquors in their cocktails, like beverage director Nika Theil of Papa Cenar, Topaz, and Citrine in Chicago. “I’m a whiskey drinker and am very particular about my rum. I like something I can mix or drink with just an ice cube, and that’s where Cañada Rum from Oaxaca comes in. It has a great barrel taste that isn’t overpowering, but also enough of the agricole flavor to let you know you have a rum in your glass. If you want to switch up your daiquiri experience [by using] this rum, sub orange [in place of] the lime. In times like these when you can’t go to the beach, you’ll feel a bit of vacation at home,” Theil recommends.
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