What is a daisy in the traditions of American mixology? The fact that the daisy balances the sour, sweet, strong and weak elements means that it is a punch of some type. Beyond that, some have said that daisies must contain raspberry syrup or grenadine syrup. Others have said that daisies must contain charged water. I will show that when the daisy was born in the late nineteenth-century, it was fancy, but not due to fancy syrups. I will also show that it was not defined by the use of charged water. I will not digress into discussing the crusta, which some have said is related to the daisy (and the Sidecar), except to point out that crusta recipes from the nineteenth-century indicate that, aside from the garniture, they are (liqueuredly) fancy cocktails accented with a few drops of lemon juice. The crusta still functions as a cocktail (a bittered sling), since the addition of only a few drops of the sour element does not a punch make.
Now I will get directly on to the daisies.
Byron’s sour contained charged water – mostly, it seems, to help dissolve the sugar with. It must be pointed out that recipes from the late nineteenth-century routinely indicate the use of charged water in types of drinks that were not made with it before – and are not made with it now. There was a bit of a fad of using soda water going on, it seems. Byron’s sour is served in a goblet (a drinking vessel with a stem), and without ice in the finished drink. Though the service vessel for Byron’s daisy is not specified, the fact that the drink is strained and served without ice is strongly suggestive of a goblet. The amount of charged water in Byron’s daisy would be controlled by the volume of that goblet. Since his recipe does not specify what the drink is strained into, we cannot be certain of the amount of charged water that could be added. But, since goblets used for mixed drinks in his time were not as large as are often encountered today, we can tentatively assume that charged water made up a relatively small part of Byron’s daisy. If that assumption holds, we would find that the major difference between Byron’s sour and his daisy is that his sour was plain (i.e., being un-sweetened, or only sweetened by plain sugar or un-flavored sugar syrup) while his daisy was liqueuredly-fancy (i.e., being at least partially sweetened by liqueur as a modifying ingredient). Note that, since lemon juice, syrup and liqueur was dashed out of bottles with normal orifices (instead of dasher inserts), each ‘dash’ above can be assumed to be about ¼ fluid-ounce.
Again, both the sour and the daisy in the above comparison contain charged water. The amount of charged water in the above daisy can be guessed at a little more clearly than in Byron’s recipe. Here, the drink is strained into a “large cocktail glass.” Cocktail goblets in the nineteenth-century were generally smaller than the standardized 4-½ fluid-ounce version still available today. If we allow that the “large cocktail glass” might have had a volume up to 4-½ fluid-ounces, it would mean that only a relatively small amount of charged water would fit into the drink. Again, we would be left with the main difference between the sour and daisy in the above comparison being that the sour is plain while the daisy is liqueuredly-fancy. Note again that, since lemon juice, syrup and liqueur was dashed out of bottles with normal orifices (instead of dasher inserts), each ‘dash’ above can be assumed to be about ¼ fluid-ounce.
Both Johnson’s sours and daisies are strained and served without ice in the finished drink. As could be expected in his time, Johnson indicates charged water in both. He is more specific than his contemporaries in the amount of charged water in his daisy. It is the same small amount as for his sour (“1 squirt”), and in both drinks it is explicitly for the purpose of helping to dissolve the sugar and lemon juice together with. In Johnson’s book, the difference between sours and daisies is very clearly that sours are plain while daisies are liqueuredly-fancy. Note again that, since lemon juice, syrup and liqueur was dashed out of bottles with normal orifices (instead of dasher inserts), each ‘dash’ above can be assumed to be about ¼ fluid-ounce.
Finally, in Schmidt’s book, we have an explicit description of the daisy as being the same as a sour, except that liqueur is added.
So, according to the original tradition, it can be established that daisies are liqueuredly-fancy sours. It has always been clear that that the Sidecar was a punch in cocktail-drag, but we can name the type of punch it is – a daisy.
I state again that there seems to have been a fad of soda water going on in the late nineteenth-century. It was even indicated by some sources during this time as used to dissolve sugar with in making cocktails – even almost shockingly in the case of one or two Manhattan Cocktail recipes that I have seen. Perhaps the crime (in my opinion) of bartenders making their Old-fashioned Bourbon Cocktails with a splash of soda water is a hold-out from the late nineteenth-century soda water fad. But, back to the issue at hand, if you prefer your sours made the old-fashioned way with a little charged water, then charged water also belongs in your daisies. If you prefer sours made the modern way, without any added liquid water, then don’t add it to your daisies, either. The charging of sours is what the fizz was always for, anyway, and some fizz recipes from the nineteenth-century were liqueuredly-fancy.
Here comes the exception to the above guideline. It seems that George Kappeler (who was the first to include both modern and old-fashioned methods for making another classic type of drink, cocktails – and one of the first to clearly indicate that ‘fancy’ meant the use of flavored sweeteners) was the first to make his sours the modern way without any added liquid water at all. But, perhaps because he stood balanced on the boundary of the end of the soda water fad, his daisy still contains charged water.
As I stated above, Kappeler seems to have been the first to publish the sour in its modern form without any added water, charged or flat. That is mostly how they are made to this day. Kappeler does continue in the use of charged water in his daisies, and seems to increase its amount to the point that his daisies are virtually the same as his fizzes. He serves his daisies in the “fizz-glass,” which would have a volume of about 7 fluid-ounces. Kappeler even includes a couple of fizz recipes that are liqueuredly-fancy, nullifying any distinction between his daisy and fizz. Even the great have their low moments. Note again that, since lemon juice, syrup and liqueur was dashed out of bottles with normal orifices (instead of dasher inserts), each ‘dash’ above can be assumed to be about ¼ fluid-ounce. Also note that Kappeler sensibly uses more lemon juice in his daisy than his sour, since the daisy contains more sweetness, too.
In the twentieth-century, most recipes for drinks actually called daisies would indicate flavored syrup as the fancy sweetener instead of liqueur, and would persist in adding charged water even though it had dropped out of the sour. But there is strong evidence that the more original concept that daisies are liqueuredly-fancy sours carried on for some practitioners. One very famous drink that was born as a liqueuredly-fancy sour – and originally only served ‘up’ in a goblet without ice in the finished drink – was the Margarita. The fact is that margarita means ‘daisy’ in Spanish. Perhaps the most plausible of all the mythic stories surrounding the creation of the Margarita is the one of the Irish bartender who had gotten his start in pre-prohibition bars in the United States. During prohibition, he went on to operate a bar in Mexico for thirsty travelers from north of the border. He apparently claimed that he meant to make a Brandy Daisy and accidentally used Tequila mezcal instead of brandy.
I close with the satisfaction that the unifying concept that bridges the nineteenth-century majority-opinion of the daisy to the elemental identity of twentieth-century Margarita (which means ‘daisy’), is that of a liqueuredly-fancy sour.