Happy Jennings Cox Day!

Jul 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I just got an email reminding me that July 19th is “National Daiquiri Day.”

Now, a cursory search of the Big Box of All Knowledge (i.e., the Internet) doesn’t turn up any reference to this so-called “holiday” before 2007. Neither does it easily dig up any indication as to who actually granted it status, though my guess is that it’s likely somehow tied to the marketing arm of the “world’s best-selling premium spirit” – Bacardi Rum.   

When we were in Puerto Rico a couple of years ago, we dragged our kids along on the Bacardi factory tour outside of San Juan, which was not so much a “tour of the factory” as it was a “tour of Bacardi” conducted in the general vicinity of their factory.

The big draw for most tourists is the free drink coupons, but those who make their way out to the facility also learn about the history of rum and get to hear some great (and possibly apocryphal) stories – including the old Aesop’s Fable about “How the Daiquiri Got its Name.”

There are two main versions of this story floating around, and both trace the origin of the cocktail to the period following the Spanish American War in 1898. 

Some say the drink was first concocted around 1905 by an American engineer named Jennings Stockton Cox who worked for the mines near a small beach village called Daiquiri just east of Santiago, Cuba. When Cox ran out of ingredients to entertain guests with more traditional cocktails, he was forced to innovate using what he had on hand – local Bacardi rum, limes and sugar. The mixture was an instant success.

An alternative version is immortalized in a Miami Herald article promoting Puerto Rican tourism published on March 14, 1937. It says that an engineer named Cox and his co-workers frequented Santiago’s Venus Bar in their off hours, imbibing an unnamed cocktail composed of fresh lime juice, sugar and locally made Bacardi rum. In this version, Cox merely helps coin the name in honor of the local Daiquiri mines where they all worked.

However it got its stripes, the Daiquiri is a refreshing cocktail – especially when it’s as hot as it is in Santiago, where average highs never drop below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. But if you choose to celebrate, go with a traditional version and resist the urge to add strawberries, bananas, or (yuck) avocado. In a cocktail shaker, combine cracked ice, a teaspoon of sugar, the juice of two limes and two ounces of rum. Shake vigorously, then strain into a chilled glass.

And remember to toast Jennings Cox, who likely had something to do with the cocktail’s popularization, though we may never know precisely what.