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  • Writer's pictureRichard Murff

The Papa Daiquiri

Whatever else that you think of the man, Hemingway was pretty tight with his prose and plotting. Less so with his own legend. After returning home from the war, just what exactly he’d gotten up to morphed from being an Red Cross ambulance driver near the front for two weeks, to fighting with an elite Italian brigade (which, presumably, recruited teenaged Americans ambulance drivers). So, it is fitting that even according to legend, the legend of the Papa daiquiri doesn’t completely add up.

The fact that his favorite drink was a daquiri to begin with was jarring for an aspiring writer to learn. I remember stumbling across this little tidbit in college and thinking something along the lines of “Well, that is a little off-brand. I know plenty of people who love a daiquiri but they all belong to sororities. And if she had a bear that needed wrestling, or a spider squashed, she’d likely send me and my bottle of whisky to do the job.” Of course, the original daquiri was not frozen – just cold. What Hemingway drank bears little resemblance to that squealer I knew from Bourbon Street and spring break.

The tale begins innocently enough with our hero wandering into the El Floridita bar in Havana while looking for a bathroom. There he saw the barman mixing up a batch of daiquiris Understand that by the time the writer Hemingway the writer settled in Cuba, he’d already become Papa – the devil-may-care cartoon of his former self. So, being Papa, he snatched one off the bar, gave it a snort and promptly told the barman what he’d done wrong. Despite the standard recipe having been published before Papa was born, what he thought it needed was double the rum and lose the sugar. Thus creating what became known as “the Papa Doble.”


For reference:

The original 1898 version of the Daquiri is as follows:

2 oz white rum

.25-.5 oz simple syrup

.3 oz lime juice

Shake well with cracked ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Papa Doble, then ,was:

4 oz white rum

.3 oz lime juice

Same prep...


As cocktails go, the doble is nether clever or even that good (unless you are using premium white rum and the smart money is that they weren’t). Like the extra dry martini, it’s a cold hooker of straight booze with a garnish. Great for getting legless, but a little much for market segment that lacks an entourage of hangers-on to get them home to the put-upon wife.

Papa was a better writer than mixologist. The only cocktail recipe he ever published was the Death in the Afternoon, named after his eponymous bullfighting book. It was featured in a 1935 celebrity barbook called So Red the Nose or Breath in the Afternoon, and according to the author himself, to make it put “One jigger of absinth into a champagne glass, add iced champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink 3 to 5 slowly.” His contribution got top billing, yes, but this is just a terrible thing to do to champagne.

At any rate, the management at the El Floridita knew the power of celebrity endorsements, but also knew that room full of star-struck tourists getting weapons-grade on a concoction like that would be problematic. Necessity being the mother of invention, they got creative and invented a cocktail named for Hemingway – it was in the same ballpark as the doble, but aimed at the less enthusiastic, or at least more emotionally well-adjusted drinker.

What the barman did was swap out the cane syrup with an Italian liqueur made from maraschino cherries and add a dash of ruby red grapefruit juice. The result is so cold that is slushy, but it is not frozen, thus forgoing that half ounce of shame and garnish of “I deserve to be punched in the mouth” grown men get when consuming one in public.

Use a cocktail shaker and proper cocktail glasses, and they really are good without being so sickly sweet as the tall glass you’re likely to get in the wild. Hemingway himself described them as going down like a glacier. They do, and in the oppressive heat of the South or, according to the news, Portland, Oregon, who could ask for more?


The Hemingway Daquiri

2 oz white rum

.75 oz lime juice

.5 oz Maraschino liqueur

.5 oz ruby red grapefruit juice

Lime wedge

Shake over cracked ice until it turns slushy. Pour into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with lime wedge.


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