How Thomas Houston is Elevating the New Orleans Daiquiri

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How Thomas Houston is Elevating the New Orleans Daiquiri

The word ‘daiquiri,’ invokes an image of a frozen, syrupy, fruity, alcoholic beverage. But like many cocktails that are easy to overlook, the daiquiri has a history, and has evolved from its original form. Alcohol Professor recounts the story of a mining engineer, Jennings Cox, who created the first version of the drink in the late 1800s. Living near the beach town of Daiquirí, Cuba, he was hosting a soiree when he ran out of gin. In a pinch, he made a punch with rum, lemon, mineral water, sugar, and ice. Later, in the late 1930s at famed Cuban bar, La Floridita, Hemingway became a huge proponent of the daiquiri, even having his own variation, El Papa Doble, named after him. Hemingway’s drink was frozen.

The daiquiri first appeared in the U.S. in 1909 when it was served at Washington D.C.’s Army & Navy Club. In his 1948 cocktail book, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, David A. Embury includes the daiquiri as one of the six basic drinks. Its basic ingredients include rum, citrus juice, and a sweetener. In post-World War II America, the blender became a hot appliance for frozen drinks. The strawberry daiquiri is featured in Mabel Stegner’s 1952 book, Electric Blender Recipes. The late 1960s saw the advent of the commercial slushy machine, and from that point the trend of slushy drinks continued, giving us the artificial daiquiris we know and don’t love today.

With the ongoing revival of handcrafted cocktails, mixologist Thomas Houston of Superior Seafood in New Orleans is working to bring the daiquiri to its former, turn of the century glory. When he arrived to Superior Seafood, they were already serving frozen drinks, and he ambitiously decided to try his hand at a frozen Moscow Mule. Making a cocktail drink in such a large batch requires a scientific thought process. Houston explains that, “The frozen drink process is a lot more trial and error than regular cocktails. When I was making the Mule, I spent a month just refining the flavor. Sugar and juice react differently, taste wise, when they get close to frozen. I would make a batch, approve of the pre-frozen flavor, get it in the machine, taste it, and hate it frozen. Then I would pull it from the machine and wait for it to unfreeze before I adjusted the ratios.”

Houston adds that one of the bigger challenges is refining the consistency. “Unlike cocktails, the texture is an important part. When making a non-frozen drink, the mouth feel is never taken into account, for the most part. With a daiquiri, the way it feels in your mouth is as important as how it tastes. Nobody wants a melted daiquiri nor do they want a super thick milkshake texture.”

Houston works to keep the flavors fresh by keeping the choices seasonal. Currently “on tap” are the French 75, Pomegranate Mojito, and Mimosa. To experiment at home, he’s shared his recipe for a Frozen French 75 for a gallon home slush machine.

The French 75 Daiquiri

1 bottle Gin
1 bottle Champagne
2 1/3 quarts of Ice
16 oz. sugar
16 oz. lemon juice

Directions: Pour in a gallon slush machine, wait for it to blend. Enjoy!

And take a look at the gallery to see the evolution of the daiquiri, from the original handwritten recipe from Jennings Cox to Houston’s interpretations of the cocktail at Superior Seafood.

Madina Papadopoulos is a New York-based freelance writer, author and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.