This true classic, dating back to Professor Jerry Thomas in the mid-19th Century, was served at Tales of the Cocktail 2007 at a seminar entitled “The Cocktail’s Family Tree,” a look at how the cocktail used to be just one particular kind of drink — specifically, it meant a spirit of any kind with water, sugar and bitters, and was not a catch-all term for all mixed alcoholic drinks.
Back in the Days of Yore there were cobblers and daisys and fixes and flips and sangarees and punches and shrubs and lots more. Going through all this was moderator David Wondrich of Esquire magazine and many other publications (boy, what a gig he’s got), bartenders John Myers from Portland, Maine and Jim Meehan of PDT in New York, and Ryan Magarian, mixologist and one of the developers of Aviaton Gin. The only drawback to a panel like this is that you can’t possibly fit all the history into a 75-minute seminar; we’d need to spend a week drinking our way through the development of the cocktail with all its fellow drinks for the last couple of hundred years (and how much fun would that be?). The guys all did a great job though, and it was fun and fascinating.
We also got to sample two drinks from the cocktail’s family tree, one daisy and one fizz, the latter near and dear to the heart of New Orleanians (a Ramos, of course). The daisy, a forerunner to drinks like the Sidecar or what Gary Regan classifies as a “New Orleans Sour,” generally was a spirit with fresh lemon juice, sugar, a bit of Curaçao and sometimes grenadine. No grenadine in this one, and the Curaçao is a damned good one. Here’s the modern version:
2 ounces brandy.
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice.
1/4 ounce Grand Marnier.
1 teaspoon rich simple syrup.
Strain into a chilled rocks glass and add 1 ounce chilled seltzer water or soda. Twist a thin-cut lemon peel over the top and drop in for garnish.
For comparison, here’s Professor Jerry Thomas’ version from his 1862 classic The Bartender’s Guide, or How to Mix Drinks:
(from Jerry Thomas, 1862)
3 or 4 dashes gum syrup
2 or 3 dashes of Curacoa cordial
The juice of half a small lemon
1 small wine-glass of brandy
2 dashes of Jamaica rum
Fill glass one-third full of shaved ice. Shake well, strain into a large cocktail glass, and fill up with Seltzer water from a syphon.
A daisy can be made with any base spirit — bourbon, rye, gin, genever, even tequila, although such a thing was unheard of in Jerry Thomas’ day. In fact, it’s been surmised that the Margarita was really just a tequila Daisy, in spite of all the stories about its origin, and who the lady Margarita, its apparent namesake, really was.
The biggest clue? Well, other than the near-identical recipe? The Spanish word for “daisy” is … margarita!
By the by, here’s an appropriately fuzzy picture of Wes and me with Gaz Regan and Dave Wondrich, taken after we’d quaffed our daisies and fizzes at the seminar.
Ah, but we hadn’t yet even begun to drink …