The spirit of the season

Most of us rarely consider proportions when crafting and consuming mixed drinks: We often think of them as being more akin to tossing together a stir fry than to baking a delicate bread. Even though my time as a bartender reminds me that measuring and consistency are key, at home I am routinely guilty of hastily dumping ingredients together without any regard for proportion, especially after the second or third drink of the night. We might have a preference for a liquor-to-mix ratio, but surely there can’t be that much difference between 1:2 and 2:3?

Enter the Daiquiri, a cocktail whose few ingredients – white rum, simple syrup, ice and lime juice – might give the impression of flexibility, but in reality, its temperamental proportions greatly affect its overall taste. There are many variations of this drink, but shake it a little too long or add a bit too much citrus and you may find yourself faced with an unhappy drinker—even if that drinker is you.

Last summer, I conducted a little mixology experiment: How many ways can one make a Daiquiri? With the help of a few Sackville pals who enlisted as guinea pigs, we pooled our cash and collectively tested out five different recipes of the Caribbean cocktail.

First, we started with two basic Daiquiris: David Embury’s 1948 formula and a more contemporary version, with liquor-lime-syrup ratios of 8:2:1 and 10:3:2, respectively. Both were shaken with ice and a few strips of lime zest, in order to chill and dilute the strong cocktail while extracting the bitter oils of the citrus peel. The first drink, which some folks loved for its simplicity, was far too tart for my taste. The second, however, deliciously accentuated the rum’s natural sweetness, balanced by a slight citric contrast.

Next, we expanded upon the Daiquiri formula with additional liqueurs and flavours. The Casablanca, which uses a half-ounce of triple sec and a drizzle of maraschino liqueur in place of sugar syrup, adds a welcome layer of tangy and fruity to the base drink. After this, we tested out the Charles Daiquiri, a more rich and complex iteration which features both white and aged amber rums alongside triple sec and lime juice. For this drink, I used sugar syrup made from brown sugar rather than white, giving the drink a gorgeous golden-bronze colour and coaxing out the caramel flavours of the rum.

Lastly, we guaranteed our hangovers with the “Papa doble” Daiquiri, a robust and grapefruit-infused variation famously adored by Ernest Hemingway. Comprising 3½ ounces of Bacardi Carta Blanca tempered with lime juice, syrup, maraschino and a few dashes of grapefruit bitters, this satisfyingly sour drink was a clear crowd favourite. After juicing an ungodly number of limes and consuming an impressive amount of rum, it was clear that, at least with the Daiquiri, tweaking the proportions of a few ingredients can yield an entire spectrum of cocktails—though maybe think twice before sampling them all in a single sitting.

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