Spring Has Sprung
April showers bring May flowers. Or so they say. It’s still feeling pretty soggy on the ice floe in my corner of the world. Nonetheless, the world is starting to wake up. Flowers are indeed showing their stamen (the flirts). Trees are beginning to bud. The snow has receded (no bad thing, even if I am a polar bear). Spring has indeed sprung.
This calls for a little bit of celebration. Something light and fresh and flavourful. Something that speaks of possibility and options. Some drinks are distinctly summery (looking at you, Aperol Spritz) and others seem made for the depth of winter (pretty much anything with whiskey or bourbon qualifies; brown spirits just seem to have that inner warmth to them when it’s frosty and frigid outside).
Teasing Out Options
But what makes a spring cocktail, one might ask? What’s the taste to toast the season when things still feel very in-between? Where does one seek and find the perfect liminal libation when you’re hedging your bets between putting away the snow shovel and breaking out the swim suit?
Spring feels like it wants flavours of hope and anticipation. It feels like it still needs a proper cocktail, but one that speaks of freshness. Crisp, not mellow. Tasty and tantalizing, offering excitement of new possibilities while being perfectly appropriate for curling up by a fireplace on a damp, cool evening.
Hedging My Bets
This is a tall order, and while I could choose a single cocktail (I have a couple in mind) I’m going to embrace the spirit of the season. Rather than a single option, I’m giving you possibilities and potential. Not one single recipe, but a formula. One that is versatile and adaptable. You can bend it to your wishes, or simply work with what’s on hand.
What we’re doing this month is actually embracing the true essence of cocktail making. It’s easy to look at a recipe as something you need to follow to the letter, and while you can (and I try not to steer you too far wrong) that limits your options. What if you’re missing an ingredient? What if you want to use a different liquor (or liqueur)? How do you know what works and what doesn’t?
Just like cooking in general, cocktails have an underlying structure. There a range of base recipes that are based on classic principles and proportions, and that allow for a lot of variation. Our French 75, for example, combined a sweet, a sour and gin with champagne. The proportions were 1 part sweet (simple syrup), 1 part sour (lemon juice) and two parts liquor. Take those same proportions, and you can make a range of champagne based cocktails.
That’s what we are doing this month, as we give you a classic formula that is the backbone for a range of classic cocktails.
You have probably never heard of a daisy cocktail. I guarantee that you have consumed at least one (and probably several). In fact, the French 75 I just deconstructed is a not-too-distant cousin of the basic daisy (as you’ll see in a moment).
The essence of the daisy is two parts liquor, one part sweet and one part sour. The sour is almost always lemon or lime. The sweet is usually a liqueur, although different recipes call for different proportions of liqueur and simple syrup, depending upon the sweetness of the liqueur. Common liqueurs are orange liqueur (like cointreau or triple sec), green chartreuse, maraschino or benedictine. The liquor can be… just about anything.
One of the earliest daisy recipes dates to the 1860s, and used brandy. One of the absolute classics is the Sidecar, with brandy, orange liqueur, lemon juice and simple syrup. The Hemingway daiquiri uses light rum, maraschino liqueur, a mixture of grapefruit and lime juices, and simple syrup. In news that will surprise some, a Cosmopolitan is also a daisy; it uses vodka, cointreau and lime juice with an extra ounce of cranberry cocktail.
With some simple proportions and a little creativity, the daisy is the cocktail formula that can keep on giving all spring long. Fresh enough to keep inspiring, and versatile enough to take the edge off the coolest of evenings.
While you can adapt as you wish, I’m going to guide you through one of the truly classic daisy cocktails: the margarita.
What You’ll Need
A cocktail shaker (we’ll be shaking, because our drink includes non-alcoholic components)
A cocktail glass
A small pot to make the simple syrup
1 1/2 oz. tequila blanco
1/2 oz. cointreau or triple sec
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Make the simple syrup. Stir equal parts of water and sugar over heat until the sugar melts and you have pure liquid. You can store what you don’t use in the fridge for about two weeks. For a slightly richer drink, make your simple syrup with Demerara sugar!
Add the tequila, cointreau and lime juice to the cocktail shaker along with the simple syrup. Fill with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a peel of lime.