The classic daiquiri – which consists of just rum, lime, and sweetener – originated in Cuba, which is probably why it conjures images of palm trees and sand. But New England’s coldest months are also prime time for citrus, when farm fresh produce can be hard to get. Limes and lemons travel well and are relatively long lasting, which means they taste like they should when they land in our northern markets.
In the 18th century, when shipping and conquering happened under sail, those same qualities made the fruits excellent staples on sea-faring voyages, and the British Navy provided daily citrus and rum rations to its sailors. The grog – made from rum, water, citrus, and sugar – helped prevent scurvy. Later recipes called specifically for lime; it wasn’t far off from the daiquiri we know today.
Luckily for us, we don’t need grog to get our vitamin C, but daiquiris still make a great winter cocktail. You can almost always bank on fresh citrus from December through March – a time when other fruit is unreliable. Plus, limes provides a bright flavor that wakes up the senses and pleasantly hints at the coming of spring.
Daiquiris are best made from a white rum with grassy sugarcane notes. Their light-bodied texture relies on the brightness of the lime juice and the quality of the rum, and my favorite for this recipe is Clément Agricole Rhum, which is complex and clean.
In this updated recipe, I’ve used local honey to make a syrup, which adds an earthy, caramel complexity to the drink (and lends it the “queen bee” moniker). Feel free to experiment with different honeys – such as orange, wildflower, or clover – which will yield remarkably different flavor profiles.
Simple, efficient, and accessible, the classic daiquiri – no blender required – is a classic sour and a perfect cocktail. No wonder why it was a favorite drink of no-nonsense macho men like Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy – not to mention countless 18th-century British sailors across the globe. Mix one up tonight and you may find it ending up on your short list, too.
The Queen Bee daiquiri
yields 1 cocktail
2 ounces Clément Agricole Rhum (or other white rum)
½ ounce native honey syrup (recipe below)
½ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1 lime wheel for garnish
To make the honey syrup:
Combine equal parts warm water and honey (I used Aquidneck Honey) in a pitcher, such as a Pyrex measuring cup. Stir with a whisk to make a solution, allowing all honey to dissolve.
To make the daiquiri:
Pour liquid ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker, shake for 10 seconds, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel. Cheers!
All photos by Willa Van Nostrand and Glenna Van Nostrand.