Friday, August 4, 2017

Serpents in Eden with a Daisy

Daisies are a class of cocktail I hadn't really encountered before I started digging around in vintage drinks books (although to be fair with the knitting, books, working for a living, the not insubstantial cost of building up a sizeable collection of gin and single malt whisky, writing, shooting, and buying the occasional picture - I don't go out much of an evening, so for all I know they could be everywhere) but they're exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for.

The internet tells me that a margarita is a type of daisy which should give you an idea of what to expect, but it's origins go back to the 19th century. I found recipes in Jerry Thomas and also in Harry Craddock's 'Savoy Cocktail Book' from the 1930's (I dithered about buying this for years, it's currently out of print so I've ended up with an e version on my phone. It's a horrible format for a cocktail book, and a lesson learnt about dithering.) I preferred the look of the Savoy versions which don't require curaçao, orgeat, or marischino. Curaçao (not blue) isn't so hard to find, orgeat and marischino are both worth having if you're serious about classic cocktails, but you need a proper specialist, or to order them online.

The gin daisy calls for the juice of half a lemon, 1/4 of a tablespoonful of powdered sugar (or a dash of gomme syrup to taste) 6 dashes of grenadine (or again to taste, because what's a dash?) a measure of gin, and a long tumbler. Half fill the glass with cracked ice, stir well, top up with soda water, and garnish with 4 sprigs of green mint and slices of seasonal fruit. A rum version (made with Santa Cruz rum) wants the orgeat and marischino, the whisky daisy dispenses with the garnishes and the grenadine and is shaken with ice before being strained into a cocktail glass and being topped up with soda water. I will try the whisky version the next time I have a suitable whisky hand. The brandy daisy recipe in Jerry Thomas calls for a dash of rum, Harry Craddock doesn't mention it.

The gin daisy I made was a deceptively potent affair with a sherbety mix of sweet and sour. The grenadine made it a delicate blush pink as well as providing sweetness and I really liked it. Grenadine  can be found in any supermarket in the mixer section, but have a look at cordials as well, it's quite possible you'll find a bottle (teisseire is a good example) 4 times the size for the same price. Gomme syrup is simply a sugar syrup. You can buy it for convenience, but if there's any chance you'll use a lot of it make a bottle ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. It'll be much, much, cheaper.

And as for the book choice? It's hard to express just how enthusiastic I am about the Crime Classics short story anthologies without sounding like a slightly crazy woman - is it enough to say I really love them, and short story collections generally? No, apparently it isn't. I like the surprises a well chose selection throws up, the range of styles. The chance, as with these books, to really explore a particular theme as viewed by a range of authors, and I love the way short stories fit into bus journeys, work breaks, waiting for something to cook, and all the other odd times in a day when you find yourself with quarter of an hour or so to fill. The list could go on.

'Serpents in Eden' covers countryside crimes, and has the most perfect story about sabotage and vegetable marrows it's possible to imagine (by Margery Allingham, it's about 10 pages long, nobody gets murdered) and the book is worth its purchase price for this story alone. Ethel Lina White's 'The Scarecrow', and Leonora Wodehouse's 'Inquest' also stand out in memory, it's a book full of highlights. A daisy sounds suitably innocent and bucolic, whilst having all the neccesary bite once you drink it, to sum up the appeal of this collection to me.


  1. I really like the cover of that book. Maybe I'm shallow, but a great cover is sometimes all it takes to make me want to read a book.

  2. I don't think it's shallow, I think it's a designer doing an excellent job of indicating you may like the contents of a book. This collection is particularly good as well, so the cover isn't leading you astray.