5 Tips to Improve Your Daiquiri

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[Photograph: Amy Cavanaugh]

The daiquiri is a classic three-ingredient cocktail (made from just rum, lime juice, and sugar) that's a favorite among cocktail drinkers for its beautiful simplicity. At Tales of the Cocktail on Friday night, the Hand-Shaken Daiquiri Competition challenged 12 bartenders from across the country to create their own spin on the classic formula.

Each of the contestants in the Bacardi-sponsored competition had to use at least an ounce of Bacardi Superior, with the option to add any other rum from the line. They weren't allowed to add another base spirit, exceed three ounces of alcohol, or use more than six ingredients and one garnish. Those sound like narrow parameters, but the contestants created an impressively wide range of cocktails.

Chris Sinclair took home the judges' top honors, while Austin's Travis Tober won the People's Choice vote. We come out winners too: here are 5 quick lessons to help you improve your at-home daiquiri skills.

Mix Up the Citrus

Lime is a requirement, but try adding a second citrus, like Nick Crutchfield from Commonwealth Restaurant in Charlottesville, Va. did, which changes up the acidity. His mix of rum, Barenjager honey liqueur, fresh lime juice, fresh tangerine juice, egg white, and a dusting of nutmeg fulfilled his dream of "being in a hammock on a beach drinking." The combination yields a little sweetness, but a clean finish.

Diversify Your Rum

Most participants at the competition stuck with white rum, but a handful added aged rum to contribute vanilla and toffee notes, adding a weightier element to the daiquiri's typically light profile. Julio Cabrera of Sra. Martinez in Miami used two rums along with lime, guanabana juice, and ripe plantain syrup for a cocktail that had a lot of depth.

Play With Sweeteners

The competing bartenders came up with a few cool ways to use sugar—Meghan Balser from San Diego made a demerera syrup that she mixed with Angostura bitters, Drambuie, lime, banana, and rum for a spiced tropical taste. Yukie Aizawa from Hawaii used Hawaiian cane sugar and Brian Prugalidad from San Diego went with cinnamon bark syrup. Kevin Bragg from Atlanta used fig-infused caramelized honey—he simmered figs in honey until the syrup turned over and darkened. All were way more interesting than your standard simple.

Bet on Bitters

Bitters add depth and spice to a cocktail, and the bartenders who went that route mostly used Angostura, which complements the tropical flavors of the daiquiri nicely. Christopher Sinclair from San Francisco did a cherry bitters wash that worked well with the fruitiness of rum, lime, and apricot liqueur.

Layer Unusual Flavors with Liqueur

Ryan Pines from Tampa Bay used Snap ginger liqueur and crème de cacao to create a ginger daiquiri, Rhachel Shaw from San Francisco went with Licor 43, and Adam Robinson from Portland, Oregon used pineapple gum syrup and Herbsaint. These unexpected accents really stood out among the crowd.

What's your daiquiri secret? Got an unusually delicious rum cocktail recipe up your sleeve?

About the Author: Amy Cavanaugh writes about spirits, food, and travel from her home base of Chicago. Her favorite cocktail is a Manhattan.

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