There was a time not so long ago when a Pineapple Daiquiri tasting would’ve been a futile exercise: Like so many of its fruited brethren, the Pineapple Daiquiri languished for decades as an artificially flavored frozen beach drink. But it has since made a swift transformation into a cocktail bar stalwart and a perennial summer standby.
Today, the biggest question facing the cocktail is not whether it should be frozen or shaken, but whether or not pineapple juice has a place in the drink at all. As counterintuitive as it may sound, the modern Pineapple Daiquiri is split into competing factions thanks in large part to a single product: Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum. When Plantation introduced its highly aromatic, fruit-forward product in 2014, it quickly became a bartender favorite for its ability to add tropical flavor without the need for fresh juice or housemade infusions. The Pineapple Daiquiri was a shoo-in application, allowing the drink to remain rum-forward while tilting the flavor profile of the classic Daiquiri even more tropical.
At our recent blind tasting at Brooklyn’s Sunken Harbor Club, where the Punch editorial team was joined by bartenders Leanne Favre (Leyenda, Clover Club), Paul McGee (formerly of Lost Lake, Chicago Athletic Association) and Gage & Tollner’s Kern Rodriguez, who mixed the drinks, half of the 10 submitted recipes called for Plantation pineapple rum. Of those, several bolstered the product with fresh pineapple juice for a hybrid of the two modern approaches, while the rest stuck to the pared-down formula.
Across the board, however, the judges found the latter style to be lacking, resulting in drinks that read more like a traditional Daiquiri. “I like the texture that pineapple juice brings to the recipe, compared to a regular Daiquiri,” said Punch art director Lizzie Munro, citing the principal flaw of this approach. The winners, by contrast, all brought an element of fresh pineapple to the mix in the form of juice or chunks of the fruit muddled into the shaking tin.
First place went to Nico de Soto of Mace in New York and Danico in Paris. His recipe calls for a total of three rums: the aforementioned Plantation pineapple rum; New Grove Plantation white rum, which has notes of guava and banana, from the island of Mauritius; and Père Labat 40, an agricole-style rum from the island of Marie-Galante. To this is added three-quarters of an ounce of pineapple juice, a half-ounce of lime juice and a quarter-ounce of rich cane syrup. Arriving with no garnish other than a fluffy crown of froth, thanks to the fresh pineapple juice, McGee described it as “archetypal” while Favre found that “the cane flavor of the rum supports the fruit,” for a particularly balanced and integrated expression of the drink.
Second place went to Haley Traub of New York’s Attaboy, whose ultraclassic recipe is one of the few that did not call for pineapple-flavored rum. Instead, she simply combines 2 ounces of Barbancourt white rum, an ounce of fresh pineapple juice, half an ounce of lime juice and the same measure of simple syrup. It had the most pronounced lime flavor of the bunch, with only a subtle pineapple flavor, but it ticked the boxes of what the judges were looking for. “With Daiquiris in general, I want them clean, with bright lime and bright rum,” said McGee, echoing a sentiment shared by Favre, who called this recipe “gorgeous.”
Third place went to one of the more unorthodox entrants in the tasting, courtesy of Anton Kinloch of Fuschia Tiki in New Paltz, New York. His recipe splits the base between unaged cachaça and Plantation’s Fancy Smoky Formula bottling of the pineapple rum. Fresh pineapple flavor was added via pineapple cubes thrown directly into the shaking tin with lime, rich Demerara syrup and five drops of saline solution. The finished drink lacked the frothy head that the tasters were looking for, but it still had the requisite zip of acidity balanced by the right amount of sweetness. The ingredients came together in a way that recalled savory apple cider, leading one taster to describe it as “the perfect fall Daiquiri.”
Looking back over the winners, Favre noted “one is archetypal, one is clean and pretty and one is an elegant cocktail with all the ingredients of a Pineapple Daiquiri.” Long gone are the days when the drink was relegated to a beachside slushy machine. Today, there’s a Pineapple Daiquiri for any occasion.