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Here’s How To Make the Margarita’s (Possible) Predecessor, the Daisy

This cocktail has its roots in the nineteenth century, and some of its first recipes are made with brandy, not tequila

The Daisy was a popular cocktail with many variations, including the Tequila Daisy. (iStock)
smithsonian.com

Go back in time.

That’s step one in the process of ordering this antique cocktail. Only the most historically minded barkeep is likely to know how to make one today—or even that there used to be a cocktail named Daisy. Most of them, though, can make you its putative descendant.

Today is National Margarita Day, or so sayeth the internet, and in honor of the occasion we’re here to take you back to the margarita’s roots. Our story doesn’t start with tequila, though, the central ingredient of the margarita: it starts with brandy.

The Daisy, writes self-described “barstool historian” David Wondrich for Esquire, is the product of an age where people were much more engaged with cocktails than they are today. Basically, people spent a lot of time thinking up drinks, and sometimes they weren’t too picky. “The basic construction of the Daisy involves firewater—any firewater—lemon juice, and some kind of liquid sweetener, whether alcoholic or no, with the whole mess served on ice in a stemmed glass and decorated like an Easter bonnet,” he writes. “The varieties were legion.” The Brandy Daisy’s first appearance in print was 1862, he writes.

More modern versions of the drink employ soda water and ice, writes Imbibe. “All versions, however, agree that a Daisy should be cold, refreshing and garnished with seasonal fruit,” they write.

So how did we get from a Daisy to a Margarita? In the thirties, writes Imbibe in a separate article, the Daisy was popular enough that it was called ‘ubiquitous’ by one magazine. The drink continued to have many incarnations, but somewhere along the way somebody made a Tequila Daisy that likely included curaçao. The step from there to Triple Sec, another orange liqeur, isn’t a huge one.  

Want more details? Let’s return to our old friend David Wondrich, published this time at Liquor.com.  In his researches, Wondrich uncovered the 1936 account of one James Graham of Moville, Iowa. Graham, who was a journalist and ran the local paper, the Mail, ended up visiting Tijuana, Mexico in the course of his trip, Wondrich writes. While there, he visited the bar of “an Irishman by the name of Madden” and tried that mixologist’s signature drink, the Tequila Daisy.

Hispanohablantes among you will no doubt have noticed the obvious connection between the Margarita and the Daisy—their names. “Margarita” is Spanish for “daisy.”

There’s no other explicit link between these two cocktails, Wondrich writes, but “if you take a Brandy Daisy, a standard bar drink of the pre-Prohibition era, and accidentally reach for the tequila instead of the brandy—well, you be the judge.”    

About Kat Eschner

Kat Eschner is a freelance journalist based in Toronto who focuses on technology, culture and ethics. She recently graduated from the master’s program in journalism at Ryerson University, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Spring 2016 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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