It’s Almost Summer – Daiquiri Season

 

A review of the Yatir Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and a look at the Daiquiri.

 

By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon

 

Washington Jewish Week – April 24, 2013

 

Yatir Sauvignon BlancSauvignon Blanc is one of our favorite warm weather wines. It is produced around the winemaking world in a number of different styles ranging from dry to very sweet dessert wines. The bright flavors and balanced acidity typical of well made dry, nonsweet versions of Sauvignon Blancs pair well with lighter summer fare, including cheeses, salads and even sushi; it makes for delightful backyard deck or picnic sipping.
 

The varietal is thought to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region, and it is widely supposed that it gets its name from the word “sauvage” (wild) and blanc (white) from its early life as an indigenous varietal in the southwest of France. More recently, the grape has flourished and gained a great deal of popularity in New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc’s profile ranges from grassy and herbaceous when grown in warmer climates to gooseberry, melon, citrus and tropical fruits when the vines are in cooler locations. The wines are most often fermented in stainless steel tanks as this is thought to maximize the natural aromas and flavors of the grape, although there are some winemakers who introduce a little oak influence as well. And some winemakers choose to blend in some other grape varietals, such as Semillion, to create a fuller body.
 

The Yatir Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is sourced from vineyards next to the winery in the northeast Negev in Israel. This floral and melon scented 100 percent sauvignon blanc beauty spends several months in French oak barrels after fermentation and expresses layers of fruit flavors including passion fruit, green apple, fig, lemon and grapefruit with a small amount of grassiness as well. The mineral-accented finish is refreshingly bright and lengthy. It is easily one of the best kosher sauvignon blancs currently available.
 

The Yatir Winery is owned by Carmel, Israel’s largest winery, but functions independently. Australian-trained chief winemaker Eran Goldwasser oversees both the wines and the nearby vineyards. The winery is located near the Tel Arad archeological site that contains ancient winepresses, a testament to the 2,500-year-plus history of winemaking in the area. Along with Sauvignon Blanc, Yatir cultivates the classic Bordeaux grape varietals of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Malbec, Viognier and Shiraz.
 

Spirits-wise, we thought we’d embrace the warming weather and revisit one of our traditional summer cocktails a little early by slipping into a classic Daiquiri.
 

Although a Cuban concoction, the daiquiri has a unique connection to the nation’s capital. Specifically, it has a special connection to the Army and Navy Club (901 17th Street N.W.). For it was one of the club’s members, Rear Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, who brought this cocktail to the club, and from there helped it spread around the country.
 

According to legend, an American engineer named Jennings Cox invented the daiquiri in Cuba in the summer of 1896 (some accounts have 1898). Other accounts add another American named Harry E. Stout and another engineer named Pagliuchi. At any rate, Cox was in Cuba managing the properties of both the Spanish-American Iron Company and the Pennsylvania Steel Company. Expecting to entertain some American visitors one day, Cox discovered that he had run out of gin and so had to resort to the heady local rum, made by a family firm called Bacardi (then mostly unknown outside of Cuba).
 

Jennings Cox cut the rum with fresh lime juice, and then added cane sugar to modify the acid, and then used ice to chill the drink down. From this simple mix, a magical synthesis occurs, creating a flavorful elixir that, when made with a harmonious balance between the strong, sweet, and sour elements, is truly greater than the sum of its parts. As Cox lived near the iron mines, in a small southeastern coastal village called Daiquiri, about 15 miles east of Santiago de Cuba, he named his concoction after the coastal village.
 

According to some accounts, Cox also served his daiquiri two years later, in 1898, during the Spanish-American war, when he is said to have entertained American General William R. Shafter, leader of the U.S. forces that landed on Daiquiri Beach, below San Juan Hill. Some accounts also claim that Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, who would later become president and who at the time described Daiquiri as a “squalid little village,” also enjoyed Cox’s daiquiri cocktail.
 

What is known for certain, however, is that the USS Minnesota, commanded by Captain Charles H. Harlow, paid a visit to Guantanamo, Cuba, 10 years after the Spanish-American War, in 1909. Captain Harlow toured the old battlegrounds, accompanied by the ship’s young medical officer, Lucius W. Johnson. They were entertained at Daiquiri by none other than Jennings Cox, and were served his cocktail. Delighted and enchanted, Johnson copied down Cox’s recipe and bought large quantities of the local Bacardi rum.
 

When he finally returned to the United States with recipe and rum supplies in hand, Johnson introduced the drink to the Army and Navy Club, which promptly adopted it as the official house drink. Johnson then set about as an avid advocate of the drink, slowly spreading its familiarity and popularity around the nation. There is a brass plaque in the Daiquiri Lounge of the Army and Navy Club that commemorates the advocacy work of Lucius W. Johnson. During Prohibition, thirsty Americans – like Earnest Hemingway – knew to order a daiquiri when they visited Havana expressly because Rear Admiral Johnson promoted his beverage of choice.
 

It is, of course, nearly impossible to discuss the daiquiri without at least mentioning the fact that much of its post-Prohibition popularity owes to the mystique brought to it by Hemingway. The famous novelist drank thousands of gallons of the stuff throughout Prohibition at La Floridita Bar in Havana, where it is said that barman Constante Ribailagua perfected the drink. La Floridita is also the likely birthplace of the “frozen” or slushy form of the daiquiri.
 

There are several “classic” recipes for the daiquiri, and many widely accepted variations – particularly for the “frozen daiquiri” range. Here is our preferred recipe to help one embrace the warming weather and, once it firmly arrives, survive the summer heat.
 

The daiquiri: Squeeze 1/2 a lime (1/2 ounce of lime juice) into your cocktail shaker, stir in ½ teaspoon of superfine sugar, and then add 2 ounces of light or white rum. Shake well with cracked ice, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Note: some folks prefer dark or amber rum to white, that’s fine, just cut back a little on the sugar. Hemingway preferred his heavy on the rum, light on the sugar, and supposedly with the addition of both ¼ ounce of grapefruit juice and a ¼ ounce of maraschino liqueur.
 

If you want it “frozen” you can either strain the mixed ingredients of either recipe into a cocktail glass filled with fresh, dry crushed ice (snow cone like), or blend the ingredients with ice to make it slurpee-like and serve in a large, saucer-style cocktail glass. L’Chaim!

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