"The 1980s ruined the reputation of the daiquiri," says veteran bartender Shawn Moriarty, currently the featured mixologist at the Majestic Restaurant. "Before they became known as a fruity blender drink, the original daiquiri was a very light, simple cocktail of sugar, rum and lime juice. Very refreshing for hot climates, like Cuba."
Or Kansas City during a blistering hot July, as it turns out. The first daiquiri was concocted in Cuba in the 1890s, reportedly by an American mining engineer then living near the town of Daiquiri. This true daiquiri cocktail bore absolutely no resemblence to the mushy, slushy, sweet concoction that now bears that name. Although the daiquiri was considered a sophisticated summer cocktail in the 1930s — it was a favorite of many hard-drinking celebrities, including Ernest Hemingway — its real heyday was in the 1960s. During that decade, my mother ordered daiquiri cocktails in lounges and restaurants and, more often than not, took a sip and sent it right back to the bartender.
"It was not a daiquiri," she would say, pouting. "It was an ersatz margarita."
"It's so simple, you wouldn't think a bartender could mess it up, but they can," says Ryan Maybee of the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange. "Like a lot of classic cocktails, it has a very specific recipe."
That recipe, Maybee says, requires 2 ounces of a good light rum, a half-ounce of fresh-squeezed lime juice ("It has to be freshly squeezed," Maybee says. "In the 1980s, many bars had moved away from fresh juices") and sugar. I use powdered sugar. Then you shake the hell out of it. I love a good daiquiri. It's a great hot-weather cocktail."
"We rarely get requests for a daiquiri," Moriarty says. "I don't think I've made one since I started here. Too bad, it's a wonderful cocktail if you follow the original recipe. But people get funny ideas about what they think a cocktail is supposed to be. Like a bloody mary is not a spicy concoction with lots of stuff in it and a big bush coming out of the top of the glass."
Maybee says he hasn't gotten many requests for the original daiquiri either. (Neither the Rieger nor the Majestic has blenders at the bar to make the fruity kind.) "But it's a perfect cocktail for a really hot night," he says. "Strong, but fresh and delicious."