The Bacardi Cocktail is Drink of the Day on February 4. Why? It’s the day Facundo Bacardi Massó, a Spanish expat in Cuba, founded Bacardi Limited. For good reason you immediately think rum when you hear the name Bacardi: we have him to thank for creating the first clear, mixable rum in the world
But the company has grown to be a lot more than rum. Bacardi now has a portfolio of more than 200 brands and labels and is the world’s largest privately-held spirits company. Not bad for a family-owned business that started out trying to “tame” rum. So, all that said, the Bacardi Cocktail recipe is the plan for the day.
The Bacardi Story
Facundo Bacardi Massó emigrated from Spain to Cuba when he was about 16 and became a wine importer in his 20s. In 1862 he and a brother bought a small distiller and Bacardi was born. At the time rum was cheaply made and considered a rough spirit. The Cuban middle class didn’t buy it, but Fernando set out to “tame” it. He first isolated a proprietary strain of yeast from local sugar cane. His recipe soon blended two separate distillates and charcoal filtration, creating the first white rum.
This Bacardi rum was considered superior to other rums and the distillery flourished. They won recognition at the 1876 World Fair and picked up fans through the late 19th century. But it was Prohibition in the U.S. that brought fame. When Prohibition went into effect Cuba became the closest destination for many Americans to buy a drink. Seaplanes and ferries brought the crowds, who were surprised to find a refined rum. They bought it, smuggled it, and spoke highly of it. Cuba gained prominence as the home of rum, and Bacardi was the top of the heap.
Bacardi set up a post-Prohibition US distillery in Puerto Rico to avoid stiff import tariffs. Concerns over Cuba’s leader Fulgencio Batista also led them to open a distillery in Mexico and transfer all trademarks, and other intellectual property to the Bahamas. That was a prescient move: in 1960 Fidel Castro’s government seized all Bacardi assets in Cuba. Nonetheless, the company was able to survive. They just set up a new global headquarters in Hamilton, Bermuda.
When we’re drinking to the founding of Bacardi it’s only fitting to specify the Bacardi Cocktail as Drink of the Day. This one, shall we say, did not require the deep resources of our crack research team.
Origin of the Bacardi Cocktail
The Bacardi Cocktail is a simple riff on the Daiquiri. We covered that classic on National Daiquiri Day and have discussed other Daiquiri variations like the Nuclear Daiquiri, the Witches’ Daiquiri and the Papa Doble.
So what is the origin of the Bacardi Cocktail? The Daiquiri became popular in the US after 1909, when Rear Admiral Lucious W. Johnson brought the recipe back from Cuba to Washington, DC. The Bacardi Cocktail emerged shortly thereafter by making one simple tweak to the recipe: sugar was replaced by grenadine.
Just who mixed it first is unclear, but in 1913 the Oakland Tribune reported that the combination of rum, lime juice and grenadine originated in New York. It was not called the Bacardi Cocktail there, but in 1914 Jacques Straub published his book Drinks with the recipe shown as the Bacardi Cocktail. Curiously, Hugo Ensslin’s better known 1917 work, Recipes for Mixed Drinks reverses things. It names what we call a Daiquiri as a Bacardi Cocktail – just rum, lime juice and sugar. It goes on to name what we call a Bacardi Cocktail, using grenadine, as a Daiguiri [sic] Cocktail. Bottom line: the two names were largely interchangeable back then.
Bacardi, of course, embraced any drink named after it and the Bacardi Cocktail was a top seller after Prohibition. But to their horror they discovered that some bartenders were mixing it with other rums. In 1936 they brought in the lawyers, claiming that a Bacardi Cocktail could not be made with another rum.
The judge agreed with them, and wrote “Beyond a reasonable doubt subterfuge and a fraud is subjected on the purchaser when Bacardi rum is left out of a drink listed as a Bacardi cocktail.” That judgment was upheld on appeal, but we won’t tell if you use another rum.
How to make the Bacardi Cocktail
The Bacardi Cocktail recipe is simple, and follows the form of a basic sour: spirit, citrus and sweetener. As it contains juice it is better shaken than stirred, and should be served up, preferably in a coupe glass.
The only real question involved surrounds grenadine. What is commonly found in supermarkets and many liquor stored is not really grenadine, it’s acidified corn syrup with red food coloring. Real grenadine is made from pomegranates. Quality grenadines are available but it’s also quite easy to make.
To make grenadine simply add equal parts of unsweetened pomegranate juice and sugar to a small pan and stir while heating to dissolve the sugar. It can be fancied up with a bit of pomegranate molasses and orange water, but that’s not really necessary. Grenadine you make can be bottled, kept in the fridge and used in a variety of drinks. We’ve used it in several, everything from the Scofflaw cocktail to the Finnish Long Drink.
- 2 oz White rum
- ¾ oz Fresh lime juice
- ¾ oz Grenadine
- If you would like to make grenadine add one cup of sugar to one cup of unsweetened pomegranate juice and heat in a small pan. Stir to dissolve sugar and bottle.
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold
- Strain into pre-chilled coupe glass. No garnish.