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

From Blossom to BLOSSOM

[For the introduction to this post for David Wondrich, read this first.]

Many people are familiar with the traditional cocktail being a bittered sling, and even what slings are. Many people understand that punch is traditionally defined as the balance of the sour, sweet, strong and weak elements. Some people understand why the Brandy Alexander and any flip or eggnog are all possets. It is even very easily explained that since grog was one part rum used to cure three parts ship’s water, the Remsen Cooler and the Rum-and-Coke Highball are along the same lines of majority-weak, fortified-by-liquor, drink — and thus, grogs.

But there are some other less-understood genres of drinks. One of them that even historically began to be called by its own genre name is the blossom. The principles of Elemental Mixology maintain that a blossom is a mixed drink in which the strong element is modified by succulent (not primarily sour) juice. Blossoms are typically shaken and served ‘up’ in a goblet (a stemmed drinking vessel). Such a genre of drinks clearly exists, and for anyone ready to honor the traditional meaning of the word cocktail as referring to a specific type of drink, another name is required for each type of drink. This post will show why there is good cause to identify this specific genre of drinks as blossoms.

BtB01

Above is the earliest-published recipe that I could find that fits the blossom genre. It has succulent juice and no sour juice. It is no punch. Though I don’t find it to be an exceptionally good one, it is clearly a blossom. [Also note that since the old dash from a full-sized liquor bottle can be standardized as a teaspoon (1/6 fl-oz.) and a ‘drink’ of liquor was a jigger (2 fl-oz.), the above recipe would contain two jiggers (4 fl-oz.) of total liquor for the two drinks it makes – meaning one jigger, total, of liquor per drink.]

But, what of the name “blossom?” In 1906, Louis Muckensturm published the Orange Blossom in the cocktail section of his book Louis’ Mixed Drinks.

BtB02

The word toddy has meant, among other things, a sling aromatized by citrus zest (usually a twisted strip of it). The cocktail, or bittered sling, is a kindred drink to the todday that is specifically aromatized by bitters. I would call Muckensturm’s drink the Orange Blossom Toddy rather than suggest it is a cocktail, the way Muckensturm does. But, given that Muckensturm wrote more than fifty years after the heyday of the toddy, his mixology can be forgiven for lumping such close siblings together.

All slings are, as is said, liquor-forward. In fact, “liquor-forward” really boils down to a modern gloss for “sling.” In that light, note that there is only a teaspoonful of orange juice in the 1906 Orange Blossom [Toddy] — not so much that it crowds the liquor off center stage. Also note that Muckensturm understood what a lot of speakeasy-era bar-tenders who shook everything did not. Bruising occurs when the ‘velvet’ of liquor is undesirably lost to aeration. The Orange Blossom [Toddy] is stirred, not shaken. Bruising should be avoided in any sling — and that is why James Bond in the movies was wrong.

But, as with the Brandy Crusta, Bronx, Pegu Club, Swan, and many other, cocktails, it seems less-thoughtful hands quickly began adding a lot more juice to the Orange Blossom — and shaking it. [Despite David Wondrich’s rejection, the over-juicing (and consequent) shaking of drinks that entered history as juice-accented cocktails or other slings is a clearly evidenced, and fairly common, phenomenon in the history of mixed drinks.] In the case of this drink, (and of the Bronx during the same period) this transformed the drink’s ingredients into an altogether different drinking experience. Thus was this new genre of drink born — even before ‘prohibition’ began. As much can be seen below.

BtB03

As for other pre-1920 sources; Drinks by Jacques Straub (1914), Jack’s Manual by Jacob Grohusko (1916), and Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo Ensslin (1917) each give as their Orange Blossom essentially the same drink as the Adirondack above. [One bibliographic note is that the Orange Blossom does not appear in the 1910 edition of Jack’s Manual by Jacob Grohusko. There are several facsimile reprints of the 1916 edition of Jack’s Manual currently available that are incorrectly listed as being the 1910 edition. If, in addition to other added drinks, the Orange Blossom and the Coronation Cocktail (named for the coronation of King George V – in 1911) are in your copy of the book, it is the 1916 edition (or even later).

Before even the dark age of the speakeasy, the blossom was fully evident as a genre of drinks — if only in the glass and not the name. But, the name ‘blossom’ did come to mean more. Notice in the following sources that by the 1930’s the word blossom had begun to be used more as a family name significant of a type of mixed drink in which any sort of liquor was shaken with a lesser-or-equal amount of any sort of succulent (not primarily sour) juice and strained into a goblet.

BtB04

Someone might object that all of the above are only ‘riffing’ from the Orange Blossom (though not the original one). That may be so — but that’s one of the ways that new things begin.

A huge percentage of blossoms are, in my opinion, lackluster drinks. But some are quite good, such as the Brown Derby [Blossom]. Others, like the Blood-and-Sand [Blossom], are ensconced among the ‘classics.’ This is clearly an extant genre of drinks and a name is needed for them. Thankfully, the tradition gave us just enough published practice of using the word blossom for the type that it is the most fitting name for this genre of mixed drinks.

What Punch Is

I have been asked what I mean when I say that most so-called ‘craft-cocktails’ are actually punches. This is what I mean:

What Punch Is

Samuel Johnson and John Ash give the most succinct and minimally-correct definitions.

Richard Dolby most explicitly states that balance is important. Think of that next time you hear a ‘craft cocktail’ bar-tender talk about always achieving balance in their ‘cocktails.’ They are surely making more punches than cocktails. [Harmony is important in true cocktails, but balance kills them.]

In the above, notice the general, historical understanding that the nature of punch derived from the combination of specific ingredients: sour, sweet, strong and weak. The fifth element in punches might be spices, citrus zest, or even first brewing tea in the water to be used. The fifth element seems to have become optional in punches by 1700.

None of the above sources make the bowl central to the definition of drink. In fact, they don’t even mention it! To define punch by the bowl is a modern gloss on the word. David Wondrich has suggested, against all historical sources, that the origin of the word was not from the Hindi word for ‘five,’ but rather from the English word ‘paunch.’ Wondrich seems to suggest that it was a reference to the fat shape of punch bowls. This is sheer, revisionist guesswork on the part of Wondrich – seemingly as a result of the typical modern assumption that service in a bowl was a unique part of the identity of punch at its beginning. When punch first enters history around 1600, other types of drinks had been made and served in large bowls for centuries already – even milennia. In fact, it was the default service for any drink for multiple persons – and since that’s the way people mostly drank, the bowl was the default service vessel for most tipples. The notion that around 1600, anyone would think the bowl was a unique part of a specific type of drink betrays an inability to actually understand historical texts in their own terms – and, therefore history, itself.

The modern gloss that punch is any large-batched alcoholic drink served in a bowl (or redefined in such silly words as, “large-format cocktails”) misses the fact that the Whiskey Sour, the Margarita, the Sidecar, and the majority of so-called ‘craft-cocktails’ pretty-much perfectly fit the historical consensus on what punch is. To those that ask where the water is in those drinks: think of the fluid-ounce, or more, that is added when they are shaken.

One might wonder why it is that so many of the truly popular drinks are punches. The answer is that the balance of sour, sweet, strong and weak usually makes for a tipple that almost everyone can enjoy – even those people who rarely find enjoyment in unmixed liquor or true cocktails.

David Wondrich has also stated that he cannot believe punch is originally from India – also against the historical sources. Wondrich is almost onto something here, but draws the wrong conclusion. To be sure, there is no hint of punch being made in India before the British arrived there. But, neither is there any evidence that punch was made anywhere else by the British before they started going to India. I suspect that punch was first made by Englishmen in India around the year 1600. I believe it was a result of the British proclivity (inherited from Greece and Rome) to flavor, dilute and sweeten alcoholic beverages — combined with the wealth of citrus they found to be constantly available in the Asian sub-continent.

The Gorham Cocktail Book

Gorham Cocktail Book

I usually tell my students that before about 1910, American drink writers never called a drink a cocktail just because it was served ‘up’ in a goblet, or contained a minimum of three ingredients. I also point out that no pre-prohibition American author of drinks ever titled their book a ‘cocktail book.’ That would have seemed like a work on Italian cuisine, in general, being called a Lasagna Book.

It therefore came as a shock to me when I first became aware of a book from 1905 called the Gorham Cocktail Book!

I could not believe that the grasping gloss had set in so early! I remember assuming that the title must be the work of some contemporary re-publisher — such as is the case when the old books are reprinted with silly blurbs like “A Pre-Prohibition Cocktail Book.”

But, no, the original 1905 title was the Gorham Cocktail Book. Le shock! I felt something almost like despair.

But that feeling melted away and became joy as soon as I started reading the book.

There are fifty recipes in this little book. And, actually, not all of them are true cocktails. Two are food items already called cocktails at the time — the so-called Clam Cocktail and the so-called Oyster Cocktail. Three of them are drinks that are decidedly not cocktails, but that had already been called so at the time. They are the so-called Chocolate Cocktail (a flip, really), the so-called Coffee Cocktail (another flip), and the so-called Soda Cocktail (actually a soft-drink).

The other forty-five recipes are for true cocktails. That’s ninety per-cent!

So, yes, there was a book before the Volstead Act that was titled a ‘cocktail book.’ But, it actually is a cocktail book! You won’t find any cobblers, Collinses, coolers, fixes, fizzes, highballs, juleps, punches or sours in it. The majority of today’s so-called ‘craft cocktails’ (most of them actually sours or other short punches) would not have passed muster to get into the Gorham Cocktail Book.

I don’t mean to imply that other types of tipples are unworthy. I simply believe that to really have an understanding of drinks worthy of being called ‘mixology,’ one cannot lump all drinks together as cocktails. Doing so has shifted the emphasis from mixology to memorization — and it fails to fully respect the other great, historically-established, drink genres.

I wonder if the Gorham Company (a silver works) ever meant to publish a punch book.

You can read the Gorham Cocktail Book here:

Drink of the Day – the Creole Cocktail

Today’s drink of the day is the Creole Cocktail. The word ‘Creole,’ both originally in New Orleans, and still in contemporary French, refers to a person who is exclusively of European, ‘white,’ ancestry, but that was born in the colonies. Old books about Creole New Orleans dwell greatly on the connections to, and maintenance of, pure French and European ancestry and culture. ‘Creole’ is much the same word as ‘criojo’ in Spanish. In contemporary American usage, ‘Creole’ tends to refer to the mixing of creole (in purely the original sense) culture and ancestry with African culture and ancestry. That the modern American meaning of the word has been twisted it to mean something fundamentally against its original meaning probably has more to to with the historic politics of ‘passing’ in a racially-segregated society than anything else. Today’s drink is old enough to be from the time when the word would have mainly called up this vision of racial purity found in an advertisement from a 1920 edition of Life magazine wherein stands the text “The Creoles are of pure French and Spanish descent”: Life - 1920 - La Creole The Creole Cocktail has a lot less connection to the people or culture one might assume based on the use of the word today. Furthermore, it’s name is a word that was used at the time of the creation of the drink as one of the many verbal tools in delineating, and maintaining, racial hierarchy. It still is a pretty good drink — especially if you happen to like absinthe. Just be aware of the history. Here is the drink (click on the image to enlarge it):

Creole Cocktail

 

Plain and Fancy Drinks in Traditional American Mixology

This one has been asked for, so here goes…

PFD 1

To Jerry Thomas the word ‘fancy’ only apparently meant ‘fancy presentation’ – in this case, only by straining the drink into a previously lemon-accented goblet instead of serving it ‘on the rocks.’ Perhaps Thomas’ sense of ‘fancy’ was common at the time. If so, the meaning of ‘fancy’ would quickly come to mean less about presentation and more about constitution.

PFD 2

PFD 3

All of the above sources make their fancy drinks ‘fancy’ by both presentation and by adding fancy sweeteners. Traditionally speaking, a fancy sweetener is one that also supplies flavor beyond that of plain sugar. The fancy sweeteners in the above drinks include Curaçao liqueur and maraschino liqueur. Notice that, in contrast to Jerry Thomas in 1862, none of them use fancy sweeteners in the plain versions of their drinks.

Next, we will look at some pre-prohibition sources that make their fancy cocktails fancy only in essence, and not at all in presentation.

PFD 4

In the above recipes, it can be seen that the word fancy does not refer to fancy presentation at all. These drinks are fancy in constitution only, being at least partially-sweetened by fancy sweeteners. They are not garnished or presented any differently than the ‘plain’ cocktails. The authors of these recipes would probably have considered Jerry Thomas’ regular Brandy Cocktail of 1862 to be a fancy drink rather than a plain one.

Jerry Thomas is credited with authorship of the first American book dedicated to the art of mixing drinks. That certainly does not necessarily mean that his book is the best on the subject — or even that it was an accurate representation of the state of the art in his day. But, if taken as representative, it would seem that originally, a drink was considered ‘fancy’ in an American bar if it was fancy in image by being garnished or presented in a fancy way. It also seems that the word ‘fancy’ then matured into meaning that a drink was fancy in its essence, in addition to, or instead of, being fancy in its image.

Many other fancy cocktails became famous, even though not called fancy. The Manhattan Cocktail could be thought of as a fancy Whiskey Cocktail specifically made fancy by vermouth wine, which is sweet and adds other flavors. In fact, many true cocktails that have remained popular are fancy in their essence.

Drink of the Day — Ancient Roman Vermouth Wine

Ancient Roman Wine Vessel

Today’s drink of the day is the oldest known vermouth wine.

How old is vermouth wine? It is older than the year 1786 on the label of Carpano’s Antica Formula [sic]. It’s even older than Hippocras wine of the middle ages — which has been recently suggested as the ancestor of vermouth wine. Vermouth wine actually dates back to ancient Rome.

A recipe for Absintium Romanum is found in the cookbook traditionally attributed to Apicius, called De Re Coquinaria (‘on cookery’) That book dates back to late imperial Rome (~400 c.e.), and surely contains recipes from earlier centuries.

In Latin, Romanum means ‘Roman’ and absintium or absinthium means ‘wormwood.’ The French word absinthe is obviously directly from the Latin absinthium. German for wormwood is wermud — or in older German, vermouth. So, whether you call it absinthe or vermouth, in linguistics it’s the same word, ‘wormwood.’

That is absolutely true. But, modern English idiom has it that when we use the French word, we are talking about a wormwood spirit — and when we use the German word, we are talking about wormwood flavored wine.

In his 1936 translation of De Re Coquinaria, Joseph Dommers Vehling called the recipe ‘Roman Vermouth.’ His reason for doing so was very good — both on linguistic and culinary grounds. The ancient Romans made wormwood-flavored wine — or in other words, vermouth wine. That’s exactly what it turns out to be — even according to modern idiom.

One can still make ancient Roman vermouth wine, with some preparation.

You should be able to get wormwood very easily online. Saffron, dates and honey should not be difficult to find in a shop near you.

Dried costmary leaves are the most difficult of the ingredients to obtain. When in season, you can purchase them here. Otherwise, you will need to grow some costmary for yourself. It’s worth doing so — since a few fresh costmary leaves really deliciously accent a pitcher of lemonade or a bowl of punch. Fresh costmary is equally wonderful as garniture for that great, nearly-forgotten type of drink, the cup. In 2006, I made myself a Gin Costmary Julep that was as good a julep as a julep can be (at least the way I remember it). I have never made costmary syrup, but I can think of no reason that it would be anything but delicious.

It can also be a bit difficult to find mastic resin. A good Greek market should have some. Otherwise, you can order it here.

It seems that the recipe instructs the use of Camerinian wine in making Roman vermouth wine. Whatever that might have been is unknown to me. A red wine would be the safest assumption.

So, here is the recipe for making yourself a bottle of ancient Roman vermouth wine:

Ancient Roman Vermouth Wine

Ice + Shaking & Stirring

A fair number of people who have taken the Traditional American Mixology quiz online have done fairly well, but lost points on the question relating to the shaking of drinks with citrus juice in them. To better show where the ‘correct’ answer in the quiz is coming from, I am posting this excerpt from the 2015 edition of the Elemental Mixology book:

ICE

The most common types of ice used in alcoholic drinks are service ice, method ice and crushed ice. All types of ice should be nothing more than the purest water available, in its frozen state.

Service ice should be cut or molded in the shape of true cubes that are about 1¼ inches per side. That size has a volume equal to 1.08 fl-oz. This size is advantageous for the purpose of predicting the total voluminous capacity that a service vessel should have to hold both the total liquid volume of the drink (including any method-related dilution) and the service ice, itself.

Method ice (a.k.a. cracked ice) was historically made by cracking service ice in half. Method ice should thus be in the shape of cubes that are about half the size of service ice. This smaller size of cube has a greater relative surface area which is desirable to achieve the proper chill and dilution when stirring or shaking mixed drinks.

Crushed ice can be produced by crushing method ice with an ice mallet and canvas bag, a Swing-A-Way-type crusher or an electric crusher.

STIRRING AND SHAKING

Both stirring and shaking of liquid ingredients with ice will yield many similar results. Both methods will mix, chill and dilute the other liquid ingredients. Shaking will accomplish these ends more quickly, so stirring should be done longer to achieve similar results. Shake hard, stir long.

The mixer should be aware that when ‘stirring’ or ‘shaking’ with ice, more water will be added to those drinks made with overproof liquor than to those made with the same amount of underproof liquor. This can affect appropriate selection of service vessels.

Dry shaking and dry stirring is done without ice. The dry version of either method is used when such mixing or aeration is wanted – but not any additional dilution.

Carbonated ingredients (such as Champagne wine, beer, soda water, etc.) should almost never be among the ingredients of a drink that are shaken or stirred. That is because they will be flattened by either method. In many cases, drinks that contain these ingredients, but that should also be stirred or shaken, will have the other ingredients stirred or shaken before being combined with the carbonated ingredients.

Stirring and shaking of the same ingredients with ice will yield some different results. A shaken drink will be much more aerated than a stirred drink.

Some have said that the decision whether to stir or shake should be made based on the presence or absence of certain ingredients, such as citrus juice. It seems to be an assumption among the ‘call-‘em-all-cocktails’ crowd that all drinks that contain any amount of citrus juice should be punchy. This one-size-fits-all assumption ignores the different desired results for the different genres of drinks. Those desired results should be informative as to when and why citrus juice should be used, whether as a major modifier or only as a slight accent, and separately, whether the drink should be ‘stirred’ or ‘shaken.’

Grogs – Grogs should only rarely be subjected to the ‘shake’ or ‘stir’ methods. Though some grogs are accented by a little juice, it is the condition of the water that is key. In cold grogs, the carbonated water or soft drink should be chilled prior to mixing. Hot grogs should have their water (or brewed coffee) heated separately before mixing.

Slings – Though not all slings are stirred with ice and strained, none of them should ever be shaken. In all slings (including true cocktails, of course), it is just as important not to bruise the alcoholic base as it is not to crowd it with too much other stuff. In slings, the strong element should be the star of the drink. Stirring can harmonize the other ingredients with the strong element, without suppressing its character. When a sling of any type is shaken, the liquor will be so aerated as to drastically alter its mouthfeel. To say the the ‘velvet’ of the liquor has been ‘bruised’ is the traditional parlance for this undesirable effect. To demonstrate the real effect of bruising, make two Martini Cocktails, but shake one of them instead of stirring it. Taste the stirred one first, and then the shaken one. That is what bruising tastes and feels like. This same test may be done with the orange-juice-accented Bronx Cocktail from 1908 – one properly stirred and the other one shaken. Tasting that difference will elucidate why it is not always best to shake a drink just because there is a little citrus juice in it.

Possets – Virtually all possets that are served cold should be shaken. By their nature, possets are led by the thick element. The thick element can benefit from the emulsification of shaking. Possets also generally require shaking to fully incorporate the other ingredients into the thick element.

Punches – Virtually all punches that are not made in bowls or batches should be shaken. Harmony may be key for slings, but balance rules punches. Aeration can help put all of the other elements into balance with the strong element by suppressing it a little. That is desirable, since the balance of sour, sweet, strong and weak elements should be the staring feature of any punch.

Blossoms – Most blossoms should be shaken to balance the strong element with the succulent element.

Juiceballs – Juiceballs should only rarely be subjected to the ‘shake’ or ‘stir’ methods. In juiceballs, it is the condition of the juice that is key. The juice should not be diluted by shaking it with ice to make it cold. Instead, it should be separately chilled before mixing.

Drink of the Day — Palmetto Punch

Today’s drink of the day is the Palmetto Punch.  It is not found in many American drink books of its era, before 1900, and I am not allowed to tell you where I found the old recipe.  But I did place some historic attestation to the drink in the recipe itself.  If you can find Seville bitter oranges, maybe from a tree planted over a century ago in the back yard of a kindly neighbor in Southern California, your Palmetto Punch can be wonderful.  It is still quite lovely made with common, sweet oranges.  In fact, there are few other orange juice drinks this good.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

 

Palmetto Punch

Take the Traditional American Mixology Quiz!

I sometimes get inquiries from bar-tenders as to whether they would actually learn anything from an Elemental Mixology Course.

The answer is always, “Yes.”  It would be a resounding ‘yes’ even if the bar-tender asking were Eric Alperin, Matthew Biancaniello, Julian Cox, Aidan Demarest, Vincenzo Marianella, etc.

In fact, I would give any of the bar-tenders I mentioned a money-back guarantee to take either the Standard Mixing Course or the Master Mixing Course.  If they could look me in the eye at the end of the course and tell me that they had not leaned plenty, I would be happy to refund them.

Well, we know that won’t happen.  But, what about the less-famous bar-tender that isn’t sure whether there is really that much to learn?

I have set up a Traditional American Mixology Quiz.  Anyone who scores a perfect 100 percent on the quiz might already be familiar enough with traditional, pre-prohibition, American mixology that they would be wasting their time and money at Elemental Mixology.  Everyone else would have their understanding-and-making of mixed drinks revolutionized and impassioned by the course.

Find out if that includes you.  Take the twenty-question Elemental Mixology Traditional American Mixology Quiz!