The Hemingway Daiquiri

I became engrossed with author Ernest Hemingway watching the documentary, Hemingway by filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Hemingway is one of those legends whose name we all know, but most of us don’t know all that much about him. The documentary takes an unflinching look at him, and his legacy, thanks to contemporary writers, literary scholars, and historians, who filled in much of the biographical information that accompanied his history, which wasn’t always rosy.

Some books of his were big hits while others fell flat. Some consider The Old Man and the Sea a great novel while others described it in unflattering terms. He had a penchant for falling in love madly in love with women, which usually took a turn for the worse. (Although discussed and implied, the relationships sounded harrowing.) He swore at his mother in writings and later, he got an earful in turn from his estranged son, who sent him a letter calling The Old Man and the Sea “sentimental slop.” He married multiple times, suffered debilitating war injuries, drank too much, had affairs, survived two plane crashes, and lived in Cuba, Paris, Key West, before finally settling at the end of his life in Ketchum, Idaho.

His time in Paris is captured in the documentary including his rudimentary apartments, his friendships with Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach (publisher and owner of Shakespeare and Company bookstore), accompanied by newsreels and photographs of what Paris looked like in the early 1900s that the filmmakers managed to unearth.

After watching all the episodes, I couldn’t tell how much of Ernest Hemingway was to like. The filmmakers presented both sides, a highly-acclaimed author and a heel of a husband, and while it’s hard to judge someone whose life is condensed into a three-part documentary, he was obviously a charmer to the many men and women around him, but could also be mean and vengeful, he used racist language, and was not always an ideal spouse or father. (Complicating all of this is that he suffered multiple head injuries, which were probably contributing factors.)

Hemingway did love to drink and while he was a writer, “in moderation” wasn’t part of his vocabulary, especially when it came to rum. He was fond of daiquiris, a classic three-ingredient cocktail made with rum, lime juice, and sugar syrup. But apparently Hemingway didn’t like the sugar syrup component, and the Hemingway Daiquiri was born at El Floridita bar in Havana, which William Grimes called “a close contender with Harry’s New York Bar in Paris for the title of the most famous bar in the world,” where Hemingway liked to drink.

According to Grimes’ excellent book, Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail, Hemingway would drink up to a dozen of these daiquiris at one sitting, made with Bacardi white rum, fresh lime, and grapefruit juice, and six drops of maraschino liqueur blended with ice and served in large goblets.

The Hemingway Daiquiri evolved to hew closer to a Daiquiri, served up in a chilled coupe glass, which is just fine with me. Maraschino is a clear, sweet liqueur made from cherries and it’s nice to have on hand to liven up a bowl of summer berries or to spike fruits like peaches and plums before using them in a pie, shortcake, or crisp. But it’s also worth stocking in your bar for making this drink, as well as other classic cocktails, such as The Last Word and the Martinez.

Hemingway Daiquiri

Adapted from Drinking French
Maraschino is a clear liqueur, lightly sweetened, whose role is to temper the acidity of the citrus juices a bit. Kirsch with a little sugar syrup (made with equal parts sugar and water) would work in its place.
Course Drinks
Servings 1 serving
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • lime wheel
  • Add the rum, lime and grapefruits juices, and maraschino to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake until well-chilled, about 15 seconds.
  • Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
The Hemingway Daiquiri

54 comments

  • Karen
    April 14, 2021 9:24pm

    As usual your recipes come with stories that really embellish the food.. and I want to make this covktail.. but I’m always afraid that if I buy something that may not be used often it’ll lose its taste etc long before the bottle is empty. So… a question: how long does maraschino cherry liquor last after opening it? Reply

    • April 14, 2021 9:33pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’ll last for at least a decade or longer because of the high alcohol content. I have a vintage bottle I suspect is 30+ years old and it’s still delicious. Reply

  • Susan Kornemann
    April 14, 2021 10:43pm

    I love Limes, grapefruit and rum…
    I will try this version, as I also thought Daq were too sweet. Reply

  • LeeAnn
    April 14, 2021 11:07pm

    This sounds fantastic! Do you suppose I could replace the maraschino liqueur with kirsch?

    Thank you! Reply

    • April 14, 2021 11:23pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, but I’d add a little simple syrup to offset the tangy citrus, or the cocktail might be too acidic. Reply

  • Franko
    April 15, 2021 12:44am

    mmm, Papa Doble… such a great cocktail! i can’t imagine drinking a dozen of these in one sitting, though — they are heavy hitters, and two of them leaves me staggering, haha. but it’s a perfect drink for summer, for sure. Reply

  • Tammy H.
    April 15, 2021 5:09am

    This sounds delicious and the thought of drinking a dozen is a sad thought. I watched the documentary nonstop this weekend as I didn’t really know much about him. It was so interesting learning more about him. I do want to read A Moveable Feast after watching that, but still do not want to watch a bull fight. Reply

  • April 15, 2021 12:55pm

    Hi David, great stuff here, as well as within your book Drinking French, which I have. I think you might enjoy my book, To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, which goes into great detail on the evolution of the Hemingway Daiquiri. My blog offers a sample. I hope we can raise a glass one day! Reply

  • Janet Miller
    April 15, 2021 3:01pm

    Hi David. The Last Word is my favorite. I recently ran out of Maraschino and bought a bottle of Luxardo. I hate it! And while I was visiting my son, the Pennsylvania liquor board no longer carries maraschino so it has to be luxardo. What is the difference? Do you know? It has a “dirty sock” nuance to me. Reply

    • April 15, 2021 3:16pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve never heard that, regarding the smell. Luxardo is a good brand and it should smell like sweet cherries. You might want to send them a message via their website or on social media as there may be something wrong with the batch you purchased, and they should know about it. Reply

  • April 15, 2021 3:20pm

    Hi David,
    We just finished the documentary last night and thought it so good. My husband is a huge Hemingway fan, but like you, noted all the baggage that he came with. I love that you posted this recipe! My son, station manager of the PBS station at Texas Tech in Lubbock, did a short video on this drink last week to promote the documentary. I’m looking forward to giving this a go, because I too do not like super sweet drinks. I hope all is well in Paris. We are hoping to be back in March next year. I miss it so! Cheers! Reply

  • Helen
    April 15, 2021 3:25pm

    Lovely article and recipe! Thank you. Reply

  • Adele
    April 15, 2021 3:47pm

    can’t wait to try this version of a daiquiri! have long been fascinated with Hemingway and am part-way through the Burns-Novick series. I agree there isn’t much to like, especially because of his nastiness to friends and his anti-Semitic views and rhetoric, but man-oh-man could he write a true sentence. Reply

    • April 15, 2021 3:58pm
      David Lebovitz

      Those were some things I didn’t know about him, and also the complicated relationships he had. He had something like 9 major concussions which the documentary didn’t delve into much but those must have affected his decisions and actions. I was interested how he moved and lived in several different, and diverse cultures, from Havana to Idaho. Reply

  • Karin Pereira
    April 15, 2021 3:55pm

    Darn, as always, I have lime, orange, lemon but the grapefruit is missing….off to the market I will. Got all the booze though. Love the allure of a difficult man! Reply

  • April 15, 2021 4:16pm

    So good to find someone else who enjoyed the Hemingway documentary. Good guy or bad guy, he left his mark. And I loved all the Paris that was included. We think of daiquiris as a summer drink here in Chicago, so I’m looking forward to serving them soon! Reply

  • gwyn ganjeau
    April 15, 2021 4:28pm

    The daiquiri kind of got a bad rap for a while as iterations became sickly sweet, but this dive back into origins makes it worthy of being in the regular rotation!

    I too loved the Hemingway doc. it’s hard to believe all of that happened to one person.

    looking forward to the IG live. My Friday happy hour has an Aviation on tap! Reply

    • April 15, 2021 4:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      The Daiquiri did get a bad rap, mostly because as you say, people made them very sweet. (I think Rose’s presweetened bottled lime juice, which was popular at the time, also played a role in that.) A distiller recently told me because back in those days, cocktails were devised to hide the taste of the alcohol whereas nowadays, there’s better access and appreciation of spirits so we want to bring those to the forefront. Reply

  • ROBERTO ALONSO
    April 15, 2021 4:57pm

    Papa Hemingway had to deal with a lot of medical issues in the latter part of his notable life. One of those was insipient diabetes type II, according to experts on his life, so he tried as best he could to avoid the sugary stuff in his drinks. He found some very creative ways to substitute sugar, and that makes for some interesting recipes. You do have to educate your palate a bit for some of his later concoctions.
    He certainly is one of the stars in my constellation of greats, though I do realize that mostly he did not much know how to make those he loved very happy. Reply

    • April 15, 2021 6:48pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s become a greater issue over the last few years, separating an artist from (some) of their actions. Some are perhaps attributed to substance abuse or mental issues, including his as well as contemporary artists. I thought a lot about all his marriages, at least one of which occured 11 days after he got his divorce, only to repeat the pattern again. He fell in love so hard and so quickly, yet his marriages didn’t last. Reply

  • April 15, 2021 5:34pm

    Pauline Pfeiffer also had a signature cocktail she called the Rum Scoundrel. She would serve it in the loggia of the house on Whitehead Street. One and a half ounces of white rum, use the best you can afford. Half an ounce of fresh lime juice, and by that I mean key limes. And three quarters of a teaspoon of brown sugar. Add to shaker filled with ice, shake like hell, and pour into a cocktail glass. Reply

  • heidipie
    April 15, 2021 5:40pm

    Perfect coupe, too. Do you recall where it’s from? Reply

    • April 15, 2021 6:03pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes it’s a vintage Gorham glass, the style is called Accent. You can find them online although they come in different tints. Reply

  • Northeastern food fanatic
    April 15, 2021 6:22pm

    Two thoughts:

    First, the bookshop owner’s first name was Sylvia, not Syliva (or Saliva)! Please fix–thanks!

    Second, how much would a dozen fancy mixed drinks at a bar cost today? $300? Reply

  • Sandra H.
    April 15, 2021 6:54pm

    Thank you, thank you for how we can use Kirsch with simple syrup as an alternative to Maraschino Liqueur since we cannot get Maraschino Liqueur in Manitoba. I can now try your drinks in Drinking French that use it! The Hemingway documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick for PBS was fascinating. Reply

  • Louise Yenovkian
    April 15, 2021 8:40pm

    The recent PBS documentary on Hemingway has been fascinating. And now – I have a Hemingway cocktail recipe to enjoy. Thank you for posting David. Very informative. Reply

  • Kathleen
    April 15, 2021 9:03pm

    Hi I seem to be the only one confused about measuring a liquid ounce. However in case any one else wants to know I found that 1fl ounce = 2 Tablespoons
    Now I can get on with making my daiquiri Thanks for the recipe and of course for all of your wonderful recipes Reply

    • April 15, 2021 10:37pm
      David Lebovitz

      People making cocktails usually measure the ingredients with jiggers which are in ounces in the U.S., so it’s easy to measure ingredients in them. I suggest if you plan to make cocktails you might want to have one handy. I like the Oxo which is inexpensive and easy to read. It’s also in tablespoons so you can use it for baking and cooking, too. Reply

  • Chris Moore
    April 15, 2021 9:13pm

    A great synopsis of the excellent Hemingway doc on PBS. I’ve never ‘gotten’ Hemingway. I read his books in high school and thought nice story. However when my teacher described his impact on the world of literature, I didn’t see it. Journalistic style? What does that even mean? After watching the series, I have come to the conclusion he was a writer’s writer. Other writers swoon. As in the show when Tobias Wolff states ‘when I read this paragraph it is so good I want to cry’. I have felt that way many times reading, just not for Hemingway. But I understand him better now. I guess that’s all we can ever hope for. Reply

  • Thea
    April 16, 2021 12:08am

    Toward the end of my court reporting career, I took a lot of medical depositions concerning concussions. You are so right about the effects. I’ve always given my b***d brother-in-law a pass because of his many hits. Reply

  • Mary Isenman
    April 16, 2021 12:32am

    David, is cherry heering (sp.?) Similar to Maraschino? Reply

    • April 16, 2021 2:06am
      David Lebovitz

      No, it’s a different spirit. Reply

  • John Pecod
    April 16, 2021 1:47am

    If this is too tart for you, you can add a little less than a half ounce of simple. Also, the cherry is supposed to be just a kiss. I use Luxardo and a barspoon of that is more than enough but every palette is different. Reply

  • Kathryn
    April 16, 2021 2:05am

    My husband and I enjoyed watching the Hemingway documentary. We toured Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida a few years ago along with enjoying some cocktails at Sloppy Joe’s. Tomorrow we receive our second vaccination shot. Afterward we will make a couple of Hemingway Daiquiris and toast to you, David, and us returning to a somewhat normal life again. Thanks for the recipe! Reply

  • Deb
    April 16, 2021 5:11am

    Would I ruin this drink if I used a golden-hued rum rather than white? Reply

    • April 16, 2021 1:52pm
      David Lebovitz

      Rum producer Alexandre Gabriel uses amber rum in his Daiquiri so you could use it here. It just has a slightly different flavor profile and color. Reply

  • Marc
    April 16, 2021 11:39am

    Another great post, David— thank you! A perfectly balanced Daiquiri is one of the true joys of drinking (and the mark of a skilled mixologist). I have a preference for drier cocktails and find that the Hemingway really works great for me— but with 1/4 oz. of Maraschino. Reply

    • April 16, 2021 5:25pm
      David Lebovitz

      The original recipe called for “six drops” so your drink hews closer to the original. To me, it’s a little too tart without the 1/2 ounce of maraschino so I don’t mind the extra. You’re right about the Daiquiri – a great one is a thing of beauty! : ) Reply

  • Jessie
    April 16, 2021 2:57pm

    I love a classic daiquiri, so I went out for grapefruit (which are weirdly expensive lately) and made one last night. It packs a punch without being too sweet. Will definitely be making again.
    Then spent way too much time online reading about Hemingway, his children and spouses. Can’t wait to watch the documentary. Thanks David! Reply

  • Judi Poe
    April 16, 2021 2:59pm

    Hi – on your IG you mentioned wearing an ankle bracelet because people want to know where you are! I think people want to know so they can share with you their favorite places – you’ve been so generous with your recommendations, we just want to return the favor. For example, if you were in the Worcester area I would recommend Ed Hyders, the Canal District – Birchtree Bread, Crompton Collective, and everything else, BT Smokehouse (Sturbridge), Napoli Deli, Wegman’s. A little further out the Kitchen Collective in Acton, Saltbox Kitchen in Concord, and Russo’s produce in Watertown. Oh and if you were up for a road trip – King Arthur in Norwich, VT…… Reply

  • Sharon
    April 17, 2021 1:21pm

    My mother-in-law studied art at the Sorbonne in the early 1920s and when I asked her, thrilled if she had known Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald or James Joyce who were all living and writing in Paris at the time, she said she knew of them but felt they were rather scruffy! Her cocktail was an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes, filled with gin and topped with sweet sherry – she called it a Wet Martini. Being a New England lady she frowned on anyone having more than one drink before dinner. She was 80 when I first met her and just short of 100 when she died – it clearly did her no harm.

    Loved your Hemingway story and will try the cocktail tonight. I had a daiquiri at the Floridita and, like countless others, had my picture taken with Papa whose life-size stature props up the end of the bar. Sadly it’s on the package night-out in Havana trail nowadays, but still …you really can’t NOT go there. Reply

  • Frank Padula
    April 17, 2021 3:39pm

    Looks lovely David!
    Going to the market to buy fruit for the cocktail. Thank you.
    Stay safe! Reply

  • Laurie L
    April 18, 2021 6:05am

    Bonjour David!

    I high recommend adding metric measurements to this recipe.

    thanks Reply

    • April 18, 2021 2:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      2 ounces = 59ml (you can use 60ml), 3/4 ounce = 22ml, 1/2 ounce = 28ml (you can use 30ml) Reply

  • Ben
    April 18, 2021 9:20pm

    Thank you for your discussion and the recipe! I have been meaning to pick up a bottle of maraschino for a while and was wondering: can I substitute it for kirsch in your sorbet recipes? Over 10 years ago, you recommended I pick up a better brand after my DeKuyper was gone. I finally looked for one a year or two ago, and it turns out the state of Ohio no longer carries kirsch! Thanks for your help.

    P.S. I’m glad you mentioned the possible effects of Hemingway’s concussions. I’ve only made it through the first episode of the series but have read commentaries arguing that Burns and Novick don’t look at this closely enough. A lot of Hemingway’s worst behavior late in life looks a lot like CTE. Reply

    • April 19, 2021 12:09am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, you can swap maraschino out for kirsch. The flavor of kirsch is stronger (as is the alcohol) so you could tip in a bit more.

      The biography was pretty thought-provoking and it would have been interesting to explore his head injuries and get some insight on those since they likely guided some of his behavior. (He also likely had PSTD from what he saw and experienced during wartimes and there was also a difficult relationship with his mother too.) One thing we haven’t quite squared with as a society is how (and should) we hold people that have psychological issues responsible for their actions. People like Roseanne Barr has said some things that were attributed to a psychological disorder. Mel Gibson is said to be bipolar, and R. Kelly is said to have a personality disorder. Back in Hemingway’s day there was probably no media covering that and perhaps not much analysis (or help) for what he was experiencing. Reply

  • Ben
    April 18, 2021 10:45pm

    The Daiquiris were amazing!! As far as history goes, it’s important to always see things through the lens of that particular time period. Judging the past by today’s standards is no different than judging today by the standards of the past. If people in the 1930’s saw what we put on TV and Cinema today they would send us to jail in their time. Best to live in the present and appreciate the past for what it was, or wasn’t. Reply

    • April 18, 2021 11:58pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, it’s certainly true that things were different back then and it’s hard to judge people for things they did a long time ago by today’s standards. We’re seeing a lot of things surface that happened 10, 20 and 30 years ago too. (I watched the Michael Jackson documentary on HBO which presented some icky stuff, if true. And I have to say, as talented and brilliant as he was, I feel different listening to him signing now.) I did feel bad for the women Hemingway married, since the marriages went sour, big-time. He fell in love so hard with his wives and I wonder what made his marriages all go so wrong in ways that sounded unpleasant and painful. Reply

  • Sue R
    April 19, 2021 1:14am

    Less than a year prior to his suicide, Hemingway underwent electroshock therapy for severe depression. He was also paranoid. The treatment did not help but was thought by some to have brought about his decision to end his life in July 1961. I’m a huge fan of Hemingway, who, for many reasons, was, in my humble opinion, a tortured soul. I didn’t see the documentary so don’t know if the info about the electroshock therapy was mentioned. Reply

  • April 19, 2021 5:30pm

    If anyone has an issue with the grapefruit juice in a Hemingway Daiquiri interfering with their cholesterol meds, I’ve invented a drink (it’s in the 2d Edition of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion) that I call the Statin Islander. Here’s how:

    2 oz light rum
    1/2 oz fresh lime juice
    1/2 oz Campari
    1/4 oz Cointreau
    dash maraschino liqueur

    Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe. The Campari and Cointreau replicate the taste of grapefruit, pretty amazing! Reply

  • Frank Padula
    April 25, 2021 9:28pm

    David.
    It was delicious!
    I’m surprised; I normally shy from tart cocktails But this was wonderful. I guess it might be the liquor or possibly the grapefruit juice. I don’t know but It was served ice cold- and I’m going to make another b/c it’s my birthday day today. I read somewhere that Hemingway had diabetes and shunned sugar? Anyway. This was a nice cocktail. Thank you for the recipe! Reply

  • FP
    April 25, 2021 9:35pm

    The cocktail was delicious. I’m surprised I normally shy from tart cocktails, but it wasn’t…
    Thought it tasted very balanced.
    I read Hemingway had diabetes and eschewed sugar?
    This was a treat. Reply

  • Paula H
    June 12, 2021 12:42pm

    Ever since you introduced me to Pink Pepper gin, I search for small distilleries. While searching your site for rum, in hopes of finding the equivalent for rum, I found a mention of one produced in France (where I live)…something along the lines of the book gave you the opportunity to meet interesting small distillers…and I can’t find the post. You mentioned a rum, and it had a number in it; could you please tell me what it was (I’ve looked in the book as well…which I bought during Confinement 1). Thank you! Ps Maraschino Licquor ordered and on the way. Reply

    • June 12, 2021 3:43pm
      David Lebovitz

      You may be thinking of Plantation Rum? It’s made by the same people who make Citadelle gin and Pierre Ferrand cognac. It’s a family-owned company and they work with distillers in the Caribbean, and elsewhere, when producing the rum. If you live in Paris, A’Rhûm, which is listed in my book Drinking French, is an excellent rum shop and they do tastings as well. Reply

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