Wine Is Fine, But Summer in DC Is Daiquiri Time



A review of the Terrenal Yecla Valley Tempranillo 2009 and the tale of the Daiquiri.


By Joshua E. London and Louis Marmon


Washington Jewish Week  August 3, 2011


Terrenal and BarcardiSpain continues to be a source for wine values, particularly with their signature grape, Tempranillo. This grape typically produces medium-bodied wines displaying spicy red and dark fruits including cherries, berries and plums often accented with tea, vanilla, tobacco, or leather notes. A very good, value-priced example is the kosher Terrenal Yecla Valley Tempranillo 2009 ($7), which opens with cherry and red berry aromas that lead into raspberry, dark cherry and blackberry flavors with hints of earth and chocolate.


Terrenal Wines are imported by Welner Family Wines, founded in 2002 by Shimshon Welner, the founder of Israel’s Yarden Winery. Initially a fruit seller, Welner saw the potential of switching apple orchards to vineyards during a visit to Washington state’s Yakima Valley. With a grant from the Israeli government and irrepressible enthusiasm, he cleared a former battlefield of more than 250 shattered tanks to plant vineyards and create the winery. He left Yardenin 1989, but returned to the wine business in 1996 when he joined Royal Wines to develop their Chilean Alfasi portfolio. Along with his wife and son, he established Welner Wines to focus on high-quality, value-priced kosher wines from around the world including Chile, Israel, Spain, Italy, France, South Africa, Argentina and Australia.


Spirits-wise, we thought we’d stick with restorative cocktails just a little longer – after all, the weather is still hot and humid. Years ago, we discovered a simple truth: No summer in D.C. can really be counted complete without at least a sip of an original-style 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 spread it 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). There are also some accounts that 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).


Cox cut the rum with fresh lime juice, 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 Gen. William R. Shafter, leader of the U.S. forces that landed on Daiquiri Beach, below San Juan Hill. Some accounts also claim that Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, who would later become president and 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. Capt. 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 Johnson’s advocacy work. During Prohibition, thirsty Americans – like Ernest Hemingway – knew to order a daiquiri when they visited Havana expressly because Rear Adm. 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 Ernest 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 survive the summer heat. Squeeze half a lime (1/2 ounce of lime juice) into your shaker, stir in 1/2 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 1/4 ounce of grapefruit juice and 1/4 ounce of maraschino liqueur.


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



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