Drink of the Day — The Daisy


Rosie Schaap recently wrote about the daisy for the New York Times. I like the New York Times and I am sure that Rosie is a lovely person, but her attempt to connect with the historical drink known as the daisy was a failure in two ways. Firstly, daisies were always strained and never served in ice. Secondly, her assertion that a daisy is “essentially a sour enhanced by some agent of effervescence” is simply not supported by the historical sources. Yes, the daisy is a fancy sour, but it is a gloss in the mind of modern readers to assume carbonation is essential. There are many pre-1920 daisy recipes that contain no carbonation at all. Many do contain carbonation. But, one should understand that using squirts or splashes of carbonated water, especially to dissolve sugar with, was simply the state of affairs for mixing drinks in the the late 1800’s. I have seen plenty of recipes from that time that add squirts of soda water to their punches, sours, and even Manhattan Cocktails. Would anyone half-way awake to the traditions of American mixology read a couple of recipes for the Manhattan Cocktail from 1890 that contained squirts of soda water and come to the conclusion that the essence of the Manhattan is that of a Whiskey Cocktail “enhanced by some agent of effervescence”? I should hope not!

Here is what the historical sources actually say about the daisy.

Daisy01

Notice above that the essential difference between Harry Johnson’s sours and his daisies is that his daisies are fancy by way of a modifying liqueur. Notice that both contain just enough carbonated water to dissolve sugar with. Using carbonated water to dissolve sugar with in making any type of drink was fairly common practice at the time — even faddish. The use of a little carbonated water in the daisy above should not be considered in any way definitive to the nature of this drink. Though Johnson’s daisies seem to be earliest published recipes for this type of drink, he was not the only one that made daisies as liqueur-modified sours.

Daisy02

Notice that William Schmidt explicitly states the irreducible nature of the daisy. In his opinion (and that of this book), adding liqueur to whatever your basic sour is creates a daisy. In the late 1800’s, it was very common to dissolve the sugar in any type of drink with carbonated water. The squirts of carbonated water listed in Johnson’s Jamaica Rum Sour on the previous page and Schmidt’s regular Whiskey Sour above are not at all unusual during that period.

Two of the above daisies add carbonated water after straining, but the indicated glassware (3 fl-oz. large cocktail goblet or the small 3 fl-oz. tumbler) of the era would only allow a small amount of fizzy water. By the time of Crockett’s daisy, the fad of using carbonated water in everything had passed, and he uses flat water with which to dissolve the sugar.

As can be seen below, added liquid water (of any type) as a listed recipe ingredient is not central to the identity of the traditional daisy!

Daisy03

Back his Rum Daisy above, Crockett suggests either lime juice or lemon juice. He also indicates either Curaçao liqueur or Chartreuse liqueur. If one were to follow his recipe using lime juice and Curaçao liqueur (each the first-mentioned of the options), and to base the drink on Tequila mezcal instead of rum, the drink would essentially be a well-known drink called the Margarita – which means ‘daisy’ in Spanish!

Here are some of the ways I like my daisies.

Daisy03

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