Frozen Daiquiris

The Daiquiri is a foundation for a huge number of cocktails, referred to at times as the Caribbean Trinity of rum, lime and sugar, originally named after a beach east of Santiago, Cuba just before the Spanish-American War.  Although lime, sugar and rum have been mixed long before throughout the Caribbean, the specific proportions in the recipe came together at this time.  It is one of my favorites, relying on the quality of the rum, and freshly squeezed limes.  Sweet frozen daiquiri drinkers may not realize how their favorite drink does not need to come out of a bottle of swill (AKA mix).  If you are reading this and normally buy a bottle of mix for any flavored daiquiri, please understand – nothing in that bottle is pure, and likely isn’t even real – that is to say no fruit – no lime juice, and sweeter than a fistful of candy bars.

I read an interesting story about the Strawberry Daiquiri (1863), Christian Zacharias haphazardly threw together the first Strawberry Daiquiri from his wife’s strawberry patch for a party during the American Civil War. The recipe would have been lost if not for a Confederate spy named James Welty, whose codename was Daiquiri.  He failed to remember vital intelligence concerning Union troop positions before the battle of Gettysburg due to too much of the strawberry overindulgence, leaving General Lee blind in his advancements. After the backbreaking battle was lost, General Lee’s only response to Welty was:  “Gettysburg, the war, all lost because of strawberries, Daiquiri?”

There is a reason for frozen drinks, why creating ice so densely fine is a tool for consuming alcohol – chilling liquid, adding air and texture, possibly opening up flavors, watering down the power of alcohol, as well as slowing the consumption of a powerful drink.  For example, if Zombies, and all the rum therein, were instead strained over ice, I would face-plant into oblivion in record speed, maybe not after one, or two, but far quicker than I would hope.  After all, no more than two Zombies were served to a customer in a Don the Beachcombers, where the drink was invented.  Crushed ice, or shaved ice is used to slow the transition, and thereby enjoying the drink longer.

With that said, I have not been a fan of frozen daiquiris for the reason of  peculiarly sweet packets or bottled mixers.  Fruity daiquiris have been mutilated with too much sugar, too many other ingredients, many times too much ice, the wrong rums, or worst of all – not enough rum.  I wanted to bring out the best flavors, and avoid the useless ones, excluding too much slush to sap the flavor out of the experience, not merely using any light rum, but mixing more than one kind for complexity.  Another main goal, and the reason for this post, I wanted to find the balance between drink and ice.

If strawberries are not in season, use frozen, but use no more than 3/4 the amount – still using fresh to breathe life into the flavor.  I tried purely frozen strawberries, and thought they were sweet, but felt they needed the freshness of even a tart, out of season strawberry. The genuine thrill of freshness never fails the taste buds, even sparingly offered.  The only banana I insist using is the level of ripeness reserved for cooking, such as banana bread, or banana cream pie.  Brown dots?  Not ripe enough.  Brown blotches?  Getting close.  If the banana is mostly brown, that is good enough.  If you can, wait until the banana has turned completely brown.  I’m talking about how much flavor this fruit will bring, the riper the banana – the more the banana will sweeten.  If you think they look disgusting, imagine how sweet they will taste in a drink.  If I’m going to eat a banana, I like a few freckles because I like flavor over texture.  For garnishing, I prefer a green-stemmed banana (I waited too long for my garnish banana…sticking a clove over a brown spot).

Since the Daiquiri is a Cuban drink, I wanted to use Cuban-styled rums.  I have not been able to purchase any Havana Club unfortunately, whose family stayed in Cuba, the brand I would choose if the embargo were not in place.  Some good rums got out though:  The family who created Bacardi escaped Castro, as did the family of the Matusalem brand of rum (Matusalem distills in the Dominican Republic, and Bacardi in Puerto Rico).  The venerable Beachbum suggests Plantation 3 Stars rum, which tastes delightful.  In the banana drink, I included Coruba dark rum, which is not Cuban, but Jamaican, for its sweet dark brown sugar flavor in the banana daiquiri, rather than a molasses flavor of other dark rums, and felt it blended remarkably well with the sweetness of Matusalem.

strawberry daiquiri2

 

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri
2 oz Bacardi Silver
2 oz Matusalem Platino
4 cups fresh strawberries, cleaned & halved (if not in season 
  use 3 frozen & 1 fresh)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup (to taste - double for truly sweet drink)
3/4 oz cream 
6 oz shaved ice (to taste) 
1 strawberry, mini lime wedge, mounding tsp whipped cream for 
  garnish

In a blender combine rum, strawberries, lime juice, syrup, cream and ice and blend until strawberry is thoroughly combined.  Garnish:  Clean and hull a strawberry, fill with whipped cream, garnish your garnish with a tiny triangle of lime.  Serves two.

banana daiquiri2

Frozen Banana Daiquiri
4 1/2 oz Matusalem Platino
1 1/2 oz Coruba
4 extra ripe bananas, in pieces (passed the brown dot phase)
1 oz fresh lime juice 
3/4 oz simple syrup (to taste)
3/4 oz cream 
6 oz crushed ice
1/2 banana, cherry and clove for garnish

Blend all ingredients except ice in blender until smooth, creamy and firm.  Stir in shaved ice until preferred texture.  Garnish with dolphin banana with rinsed and dried cherry in its mouth, inserting a positioned clove for an eye.  If you feel the need for fins, slit a spot for a trimmed lemon peel, or pineapple leaf, or even shaping your fin from an Anna’s cookie.  It’s all for fun anyway, right?  Serves 4…only once, and then you’ll have to make another pitcher.

If you prefer to make banana daiquiris for two, here is the recipe for nearly half the amount, not strictly cutting the ingredient amounts in half.

2 oz Matusalem Platino
3/4 oz Coruba
2 very ripe bananas, in pieces
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (to taste)
1/2 oz cream
3 oz crushed ice

Note:  Do you not own a blender, or are between blenders because your old one died?  An ice shaver works perfectly well, not to say it replaces a blender, but focusses on just the ice to scoop in after the ingredients have been pureed in a food processor, or muddled (both of which I have tried).

Falernum

 

It is essentially a syrup with a robust flavor, not necessarily strong with alcohol even though the following recipe shows a version made this way.  I’ve heard it mostly goes with rum drinks, yet a buddy of mine swears by it with whiskey.  Like a syrup flavored with raspberry, or cinnamon, or mint, or anything you enjoy going in your cocktail, falernum is a rich combination of flavors mixed with simple syrup.  Understandably not as easy to make, I think it’s a lot of fun to make.  There again, I like making my own syrups.  If you want a gist of it, think of ginger, clove and allspice together, with suggestion of lime.  What is curious is how over-run the flavor of lime is, particularly after looking at how much lime zest is added.

I selected possibles from a number of recipes I’ve found.  My first attempt last year turned out such a success, I not only wanted to keep making the stuff, and making different recipes, but wanted to continue into experimenting, even in error.  So please don’t read only my recipe, but look around to find other recipes.

Falernum
6 oz Wray & Nephew Overproof
2 oz Lemon Hart 151
40 cloves (whole)
1 Tbsp Allspice berry (meaning not ground)
zest of 9 limes 
1/2 cup ginger (julienned)
14 oz simple syrup
10 drops almond extract

First, if you prefer to keep your overproofs single, go with the Wray & Nephew.  That’s how I did it last time.  I’ve been itching to try the combination since getting my first bottle of Lemon Hart (a thousand thank yous Watson).  Measure your spirits and pour into a wide-mouthed jar or bottle.  Please do not try to stuff the ingredients into a 750ml bottle only to find how difficult it would be to get it all out afterwards.

Toast the cloves and allspice over medium heat until fragrant.  It might help to get fresh spices, which only makes sense.  But at the moment I am not practicing common sense and using old spices, hoping the toasting will make up for the difference.

After tossing your warm spices into the jar, peel the skin off the ginger, chop the ginger julienne style (meaning thin sticks).  As you can see by the picture I sliced mine thin instead, my own experiment.  Every recipe I have ever read using ginger insists on julienning.

Either use a fine zester or a sharp peeler, get the green part of the skin off the limes.  The white part underneath is bitter, only the zest.  After your falernum is complete, you may want extra lime flavor, which many may, this is when you would add lime juice.  Please do not make your falernum with the juice of the lime.  It will lessen the lifespan, causing little black dots.  I don’t think I need to tell you what those little black dots would be, let alone what they’d do to you if you drank enough of them.  The zest is ample enough for a robust sense of lime, even though I truly understand the need for the freshness only the juice produces.  I typically add falernum to rum drinks anyway, and would add lime juice whether I was indulging in falernum or not.

Next, close the lid on your container and give it a good mixing before closing.  You’ll keep that lid on for 24 hours.  I haven’t heard of a need to refrigerate, so out of the sunlight is best, as long as the lid is on tightly.  Now it’s time to figure out what to do with all these peeled limes.

The next day, make the simple syrup, which is 2:1 sugar to water.  Actually that’s rock candy syrup.  Simple syrup is 1:1 sugar to water.  But in my house my syrup is thick, never thin.  At least that’s what Rule #43 says on my refrigerator.  After all the sugar is absorbed, and to the touch your syrup is room temperature (unless you made it cold process, which is with cold water), set the syrup aside.  Drain the day before’s ingredients through a fine mesh strainer, preferably through cheesecloth – something you can wring out all the possible flavors (even the last drop will improve the end result).  Discard the solids.  Mix into the syrup, and add the final touch:  10 drops of almond extract, gently stirring it in for bottling.

Then make your first drink.  And make it cold.  My first one will be a Mai Tai.  For those of you in camp Trader Vic, I enjoy your Mai Tai too.  It is an excellent drink.  I simply prefer Don the Beachcomber‘s, reserving any opinion into which drink came first.  As long as we are toasting, I genuinely don’t care.

 

First Love – the Navy Grog

There’s no forgetting the first one, the one who first lit your eyes up with their features, and filled you with their warmth and feelings for you.  The first love, who in a way all others are compared, the first not of many, but as an exception.  The Perfect Drink.

When my wife and I were looking at houses a few years ago – our first house from living in apartments, the whole process began with the first house, right?  There’s always the first of anything one continues.  We looked at this house, bright-eyed like a dog at a picnic, and tried our hardest not to love it, not the first one!  We said to ourselves, if that wasn’t the first, we’d buy that house.  So we looked at other houses, and eventually mourned when we heard the house had sold, knowing in our hearts we should have bought it.  We still talk about that house.  In a way, and please bear with me a little on this, in a way that first house was the perfect house, just like “the perfect drink” – something I did not want to immediately entitle and rank as #1 until I drank more variety and got more experience.

Let’s go back in time a couple of years.  I started a ranking system around the time I started researching cocktails, and making them.  Soon after I learned rum was my favorite spirit and threw most of my efforts in researching all its facets.  I enjoy tequila and gin, and the occasional whiskey, but fell further away from vodka.  But rum seemed to call to me far more than any other.  This scoring of drinks I would make kept an eye out for what I wanted to taste again, or sifted out those I’d merely mark up as something I tried.  My growing passion for Tiki drinks lead me in ranking, but controlled my reasoning so I wouldn’t simply rank something with top marks for the only reason of liking how it tasted in the moment.  The system is based on a 0 to 4 scale.  As time went on, I thought I might never find the perfect 4, even though favorite drinks ranked as a 3.0 or a 3.5, protecting the stature of a genuinely amazing cocktail.  Just so you know, I won’t make my ranking system any part of this blog, simply something I do privately.  I just wanted to describe how I came about the first 4.0…the first perfect drink…the one that shattered the scoring possibility and opened my eyes to a new world.

Navy Grog

Sorry the image is not clear. And I messed up the ice funnel, making it look too smooth. I’ll try again and replace the image when I do better.

Navy Grog (from Hawai’i Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber)

3/4 oz fresh lime juice
 3/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
 3/4 oz honey
 3/4 oz gold Ronrico
 3/4 oz Appleton Estate
 3/4 oz Pusser's
 3/4 oz club soda
 2 dashes Angostura bitters
 1 oz guava juice
 8 oz cracked ice

The instructions in the book have you using a blender.  I rarely use one, except when necessary, or if the desired effect absolutely must be in that form.  I shake almost everything in a boston shaker.  So what I did was shake all but the soda for about 15 seconds, vigorously, until my hand felt really cold (not merely cold…but really cold).  Stir in the soda, then strain into a 14 oz glass with a special ice popsicle with a straw inside.  The best instructions I have seen are from http://www.amountainofcrushedice.com.  She is great, and describes & illustrates this process in detail.

Donn Beach‘s Navy Grog changed my life.  Since then I have come across four more perfect drinks, and know more will find me in my traveling around the land of Tiki.  In fact, soon will come a drink I’ve hoped for since first hearing about it, but haven’t had the right rums, or at least approximate substitutes.  I’ll let you know after I try it for the first time.