It is the simplest of drinks—rum, lime juice, simple syrup, shaken with rocks and strained—and yet the Daiquiri is always being complicated. Attempts to improve on the classic rum cocktail include making it into a slushy with crushed ice, forgoing lime in favor of bananas, strawberries, peaches, mangos, etc., and adding flavoring with grenadine, vermouth, maraschino juice, etc. These make fine drinks, but they aren't improvements on the classic.
We humbly submit a method to ameliorate the nearly perfect: use great rum. Most recipes specifically call for white rum, as if to say, "Don't waste your good stuff in a fruit drink." But the wisdom that the best ingredients make the best cocktails was never truer than when we tested an array of special rums to see if we could make this timeless Cuban concoction better. Richer spirits made startling synergies with lime and sugar that took us on flavor safaris we hadn't expected. All rums were mixed one and a half ounces to a half ounce of freshly squeezed lime, with four teaspoons of simple syrup prepared with two cups of granular sugar boiled in one cup of water.
Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 year old: The super-aged rum informed the Daiquiri with spice, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and graham cracker.
Bacardi 8: Full of caramel, vanilla and licorice neat, it popped with kiwi, cinnamon and coconut when mixed.
Aniversario Pampero: For all its savory vanilla flavors, it created tropical fruit notes—mango, passion fruit, coconut—with the lime.
10 Cane: This was the lightest of the rums we tasted, so lime dominated, but other citrus flavors, as well as vanilla, cane and oils, showed.
Gosling's Gold: A new release from Gosling's, it made a mellow cocktail, smacking of maple sugar, mint and celery. We tried Gosling's classic Black Seal as well, but preferred Gold for a Daiquiri.
Montecristo: This 12-year-old made a savory drink with vanilla and ginger flavors out front and a fruity back palate of banana and orange.
Ron Flor de Cana Centenario 21: This Nicaraguan rum smacks of spices, especially ginger, with a soft molasses core in the cocktail.
Ron Barcelo Imperial Premium Blend: A very fruity drink, with oranges and strawberry up front, a vanilla core and a grass finish.
Ron Mathuselem Gran Reserva: Heady and rich, it had the coconut notes of a Pina Colada, as well as ginger spice and vanilla.
Mount Gay Extra Old: The straightforward vanilla rum showed graham cracker, molasses and oils in the cocktail.
Appleton Estate Reserve V/X: Its light fruit notes (apples and pears) morphed into pineapple and almond flavors.