Distinguishing between retro cocktails--similar ingredients, wacky names--can be confusing, even before you start throwing them back. The Collins? The Fizz? The Daisy? Well, here's a (distilled) explanation of what they have in common and what makes them deliciously different.
Sometime around 1830, two Anglo-Irish playwrights penned a little ditty about their favorite waiter:
My name is John Collins, head-waiter at Limmer's.
The corner of Conduit Street, Hanover Square;
My chief occupation is filling of brimmers,
To solace young gentlemen laden with care.
It is quite possible that these lines were written under the influence of a John Collins gin punch, made with gin, lemon juice, maraschino liquor and chilled soda water. This combination was soon wedded to John's name and in perhaps what we can site as the first game of Telephone, the drink circumnavigated the globe and in 1876, became a Tom Collins. The most plausible reason being the gin typically used in the drink was Old Tom Gin. Its final incarnation is the now-standard blend of sugar, lemon, gin, and soda water poured into a tall glass with ice.
A Gin Fizz, similarly, is a sour with soda water on top, served in a short glass without ice and is to be sucked down. It is also traditionally made with syrup in lieu of the sugar in a Collins. "Professor" Denton of Brooklyn, New York, "the champion gin fizz drinker in America" of the early 1890's, met his untimely death after betting that he could drink a Fizz and eat the glass too. Not a good idea.
The Daisy appeared for the first time in Henry Llewellyn Williams' 1866 novel, "Gay Life In New York, or Fast Men and Grass Widows." Great title, that. The Daisy differs from a Fizz with the addition of "2 or 3 dashes of orange cordial" and as David Wondrich tells us, "became something of a dude's drink, a little bit of fanciness that came empinkened with grenadine and decanted into some sort of recherché". Empinkened? Poetic license, liquor license, whatever.
The Daisy's simple blend of sours, sugar, and grenadine support a wide-ranging selection of liquors, making it an excellent cocktail for a summer gathering of friends. No matter what your poison, the Daisy holds up.
Note: Adapted from David Wondrich's, "Imbibe". For the liquor, brandy, gin, rum, or whiskey can be used. Or try something new.
1/2 lime and
1 teaspoon sugar (preferably superfine)
1 teaspoon grenadine
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1/4 cup liquor of choice
2-4 dashes of soda water
1. Put all ingredients except for the soda water in a shaker. Shake. Strain.
2. Top with soda water and decorate with fruit of your choice, maybe a slice of white peach or apricot.