In the shaker: Citrus cocktails in bloom for spring

With spring just around the corner, a bartender’s attention starts to turn to the fresh flavours of citrus. It’s therefore the perfect time, say Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller, to brush up on your Daisies and Blossoms

Hope springs eternal even when the days still retain a frosty glow. A large part of the reason we revel despite the temperature is because our thoughts turn to Daisies and Blossoms. We could talk a historical blue streak about the origins of the Daisy, a close cousin of both the Cobbler and the Sour. But then we would be missing the point that the Daisy is a simple concoction that highlights the featured spirit with a hint of sweetness and citrus.

One of the earlier versions of the Daisy, the Brandy Daisy – crafted by bartending forefather Harry Johnson – added a spritz of soda water for additional dilution.

And although some adepts subscribe to Johnson’s serve over crushed or shaved ice, we prefer ours to be sculpted more in the fashion of a later Daisy – the Sidecar – which is served as a strained cocktail.

Similarly, two other famous Daisies – the Daiquiri and the eponymously named Margarita (yes, the term ‘margarita’ is Spanish for ‘daisy’) – follow that same lead.

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The West Country is alive and well and serving fabulous concoctions. Take, for example, The Ford Abbey Cocktail crafted by Thomas Huy-Owens at the Venner Bar in the Bull Hotel Bridport, Dorset. Fans of the classic Ramos Gin Fizz and Ramos Golden Fizz, this fruitier variation, besides bearing a few flavour twists, also employs modern technology to make the picturesque edible garnish.  The blend: Sipsmith London Dry Gin, sloe gin, dessert cider, Pinot Noir, lemon juice, salted caramel syrup and a touch of egg white combined by reverse dry shake.

Our favourite Daisy discovery occurred a decade ago when we found the Cosmopolitan Daisy – the grandmother to the Sex and the City phenomenon that featured citrus vodka and cranberry juice – in a slim post-repeal volume that reduced its sugar content and ramped up the citrus in addition to adding raspberry syrup. (We’re sad to say that the optional use of grenadine syrup overtook raspberry syrup. Alas just at a time when the former had been downplayed from a luxurious pomegranate ingredient to a red-tinted simple syrup that worked hand-in-hand with bottled lemon juice during the 1950s and 1960s.)

But enough about Daisies. Let’s discuss Blossoms, which follow a similar vein of thought. The Orange Blossom has been a household call for some time, especially when oranges are at their sweetest during the late winter and early spring.

Equal parts London dry gin and freshly squeezed orange juice are kissed by a spoonful of triple sec in some versions. But then, nothing stops you from experimenting by adding a hint of sweet vermouth to give both blush and sweetness, or opting to mix with bourbon instead of gin. The Blossom’s versatility is its greatest reward.

With all the varieties of citrus that are available to us these days, why not try making a Daisy or Blossom with pomelo, key lime, blood orange, bergamot or even yuzu? Add a touch of sweetness by playing with honey or a homemade syrup that offers that signature blush of the Cosmopolitan. The bottom line is: these two simple constructions offer such a broad scope for exploration, you’ll be busy seeing how far you can take your creativity before spring makes its official appearance.

Orange Blossom
From The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930

Glass: Cocktail
Garnish: None
Method: Shake and strain.

30ml London dry gin
30ml freshly squeezed
orange juice

Brandy Daisy
From Harry Johnson’s Bartenders’ Manual, 1900

Glass: Fancy bar glass
Garnish: Seasonal fruits
Method: Mix caster sugar, lemon juice and soda until the sugar is dissolved. Add the Yellow Chartreuse and brandy, stir well. Fill up the glass with fine ice. Place fruit in the glass, strain and serve.

1/2 tbsp caster sugar
2-3 dashes lemon juice
1 squirt soda water
30ml Yellow Chartreuse
60ml Martell brandy

Cosmopolitan Daisy
From Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933

Glass: Cocktail
Garnish: None
Method: Shake and strain.

45ml Gordon’s Gin
2 dashes Cointreau
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp raspberry syrup

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