A modern twist on a 19th century American original
Many popular cocktails combine booze and citrus (lemon or lime), with a bit of sugar added to balance the citrusy tartness. Indeed, that’s the basic recipe for a whole class of drinks called “sours” (such as the Whiskey Sour).
But what happens if you add some effervescence in the form of sparkling water? The mid-19th century bartenders who made this modification to the sour decided they had invented an entirely new class of drink. They called it the daisy.
Back then, brandy was the spirit of choice for daisies. But you can make this drink with any spirit—whiskey, gin, even tequila (and we like them all). During the hot summer months, though, we tend to prefer a rum-based daisy. Rum makes a perfect warm-weather spirit, and a Rum Daisy Cocktail is delicious before a light dinner.
Which is why we’ve been drinking this cocktail a lot lately. You might say we’re half crazy for it.
Recipe: The Rum Daisy Cocktail
Originally, the daisy was a largish, sweet drink that contained a fair amount of fizzy water. Over time, however, bartenders started decreasing the water to make the drink less voluminous. They also cut down on the sugar (19th century drinkers had a real sweet tooth).
Nowadays, mixologists usually sweeten the drink primarily with grenadine (which also provides a nice pink tinge). You should use real—i.e., pomegranate—grenadine, not the ersatz stuff that liquor stores usually stock. Commercial brands (such as Rose’s) offer attractive fluorescent color (and the hue is oddly compelling, I admit), but they’re made primarily from artificial flavors. You’re better off making your own Homemade Grenadine. It’s easy and takes just minutes.
We like to serve the daisy “up” in a cocktail glass, although many people prefer to pour it over cracked ice in a Collins (tall) glass or a rocks glass. For more variations on the drink, see the Notes.
Our recipe for the Rum Daisy is a pretty standard modern version. We adapted it from recipes we found in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book and cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich’s Imbibe!.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one. But drinking alone is never a good idea, so you’ll want to double it.
- 2 ounces light (white) or amber rum (we prefer light rum in this drink, particularly Virgin Islands rum; see Notes)
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ ounce grenadine, preferably homemade
- ~¼ ounce simple syrup, preferably homemade (to taste; may substitute finely granulated sugar)
- ½ ounce fizzy water (or to taste; you can use club soda, seltzer water, or any kind of sparkling water)
- lemon twist for garnish (optional)
- Add the rum, lemon juice, grenadine, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake enthusiastically until well chilled (20 or 30 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass. (Or into a rocks or tall glass filled with crushed ice, if you prefer.) Carefully pour in the fizzy water (to give the drink some “sparkle” and character). Stir once to incorporate the water (although this isn’t strictly necessary). Garnish with a lemon twist, if using, and serve.
- As the recipe indicates, this drink can be made with either light (white) or amber rum. We generally prefer white, but both versions are good. Although you can use any good-quality rum for this drink, we think a Virgin Islands rum is particularly appropriate. We usually buy the Cruzan brand (which you can find at almost any good liquor store). Reminder: We’re a noncommercial blog and are not compensated for mentioning brands. We recommend only what we like and use.
- Speaking of the Virgin Islands, there’s a version of the rum daisy called the Santa Cruz Rum Daisy (aka the Saint Croix Rum Daisy). Saint Croix/Santa Cruz is the largest of the Virgin Islands. To make this drink, use 2 ounces of light Virgin Islands rum, 1 ounce lemon juice, ¼ ounce maraschino liqueur, and ¼ ounce orange curaçao. Shake with ice, then strain into a glass. (Maraschino is a clear liqueur from Italy; it’s very different from the liquid that accompanies maraschino cherries. For orange curaçao, you can substitute Grand Marnier.)
- Daisies originally were made with orange curaçao rather than grenadine. To make an original-style daisy, just substitute orange curaçao for the grenadine in our recipe. Shake, then strain into a largish glass that’s half-filled with shaved or crushed ice. Top up the glass with sparkling water (an ounce or two). Stir and serve. As noted above, the original daisy was a more voluminous drink than the ones we make today.
- If you prefer to use another base liquor instead of rum (such as brandy, whiskey, whatever), just substitute it for rum in the recipe and continue as directed. When making a brandy daisy, some folks like to substitute yellow Chartreuse liqueur for grenadine and sugar. You could also add a dash or two of dark rum (brandy and rum being a nice combination).
- Daisies are also great when made with gin or tequila. If you make a tequila daisy and substitute lime juice for lemon and triple sec for grenadine, you’ll have a slightly effervescent Margarita. In fact, a Margarita is essentially a daisy without fizzy water (and the Spanish word for daisy is, of course, margarita). BTW, triple sec is like orange curaçao, but less sweet; Cointreau is a triple sec.
A Cocktail Built for Two
“Give me your answer, do,” I said as Mrs Kitchen Riffs tasted her drink.
“I love the sparkling flavor,” she said. “Fresh as a daisy.”
“Yup,” I said. “This cocktail is one I could drink every daisy.”
“Be careful, though,” said Mrs K R. “Too many of them and you could be pushing up daisies.”
“Oopsie-daisy,” I said. “But I think it’s safe to have one more, if you’re ready.”
“Of course,” said Mrs K R. “I’m no lacka-daisy-cal drinker.”
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