New courses and course dates have been added that might be good for travelers:
It has been said (in a thoroughly modern gloss) that the traditional American drink known as the fix is essentially a sour made fancy with pineapple syrup. That simply isn’t true according to historical sources. What is true according to virtually all pre-1920 fixes is that they are short punches always served with ice in them, where the sour is a a short punch not served with ice. That is the irreducible difference between fixes and sours – traditionally-speaking.
Below is a survey of some recipes for fixes that were published before 1920.
Of the ten recipes above, five are plain – being sweetened only with plain sugar. The other five are fancy – with four being at least partially sweetened with flavored syrup and the other with both flavored syrup and liqueur.
Assuming medium-sized lemons or bartender’s lime (Citrus aurantifolia, a.k.a. the Key lime), the sour juice amount ranges from about ¼ fl-oz. (“¼ lemon” or “1 lime”) all the way to about 1 fl-oz. (“juice of one lemon”). The most common amount for the sour juice is about ½ fl-oz., being either the juice of half a medium lemon or about 3 dashes from a bottle with a standard-sized mouth.
Four of the recipes include a slight amount of water suitable for dissolving sugar with. One includes “enough water” to make the drink fill the glassware. Only one explicitly includes a relatively large amount of water. Four of the recipes have no added water as a measured separate ingredient at all.
All ten of the recipes indicate that the drink will be served with ice in it. Eight of them indicate shaved or finely-crushed ice. One indicates cracked ice, and another indicates just “ice.”
The mixing method for most of the above is to stir the drink in the same ice it will be served in – making many pre-1920 fixes essentially the same as many post-1933 swizzles. The method in the last recipe, from 1914, seems most modern in that the drink is shaken and then strained over fresh ice.
Surveying pre-1920 fixes (including many not shown here) for majority opinion, reduced to a minimal set of features, this author finds that fixes are short punches (being made without added, liquid water as a measured ingredient) that are always served with ice in them. Your last Whiskey Sour might have been more of a Whiskey Fix!
As the nineteenth century drew to a close, punches began being published in recipes with less and less added water as a listed ingredient.
Notice that the earlier sources use a full fluid-ounce of water (half a wine-glass), but that the later ones use just enough to dissolve the sugar with. This development led to standard punches often being essentially the same as fixes. I like to call this historical phenomenon the ‘fixification’ of punches.
Notice that in the above source, the fix and the punch have become very similar, being made with at least ½ fl-oz. of sour juice (3 dashes), without any more water than needed to dissolve sugar with, and served in ice with fruity garniture and straw.
It may be tempting to conclude that the main difference in flavor between the two drinks above is that the punch is sweetened with plain sugar where the fix is sweetened with a fancy syrup (pineapple). But, as shown on the previous page, recipes for fixes were also often completely void of any fancy sweetener. In fact, some historical sources regularly made their fixes plain and their punches fancy.
Before the Volstead Act (prohibition in the U.S.A.), swizzles were thought of as an especially Caribbean, crushed ice version of the American cocktail and did not usually contain any juice. This type of drink was not any more immune to the punchification of drinks, in general, than the true cocktail. After the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933, swizzles appear in books as punches generally (with sour juice) – and especially in an additionally-aromatized twist on the form of the old fix, in crushed ice.
Is a fix any less worthy than a sour? Of course it isn’t! Does a fix need pineapple syrup to be good? Of course it doesn’t. My favorite fixes don’t have it. One of the best fixes ever is the serano-accented rye whiskey fix known as the Future Fix — a drink by my friend, Greg Bryson.
Here are some of the ways I like to make my fixes:
Rosie Schaap recently wrote about the daisy for the New York Times. I like the New York Times and I am sure that Rosie is a lovely person, but her attempt to connect with the historical drink known as the daisy was a failure in two ways. Firstly, daisies were always strained and never served in ice. Secondly, her assertion that a daisy is “essentially a sour enhanced by some agent of effervescence” is simply not supported by the historical sources. Yes, the daisy is a fancy sour, but it is a gloss in the mind of modern readers to assume carbonation is essential. There are many pre-1920 daisy recipes that contain no carbonation at all. Many do contain carbonation. But, one should understand that using squirts or splashes of carbonated water, especially to dissolve sugar with, was simply the state of affairs for mixing drinks in the the late 1800’s. I have seen plenty of recipes from that time that add squirts of soda water to their punches, sours, and even Manhattan Cocktails. Would anyone half-way awake to the traditions of American mixology read a couple of recipes for the Manhattan Cocktail from 1890 that contained squirts of soda water and come to the conclusion that the essence of the Manhattan is that of a Whiskey Cocktail “enhanced by some agent of effervescence”? I should hope not!
Here is what the historical sources actually say about the daisy.
Notice above that the essential difference between Harry Johnson’s sours and his daisies is that his daisies are fancy by way of a modifying liqueur. Notice that both contain just enough carbonated water to dissolve sugar with. Using carbonated water to dissolve sugar with in making any type of drink was fairly common practice at the time — even faddish. The use of a little carbonated water in the daisy above should not be considered in any way definitive to the nature of this drink. Though Johnson’s daisies seem to be earliest published recipes for this type of drink, he was not the only one that made daisies as liqueur-modified sours.
Notice that William Schmidt explicitly states the irreducible nature of the daisy. In his opinion (and that of this book), adding liqueur to whatever your basic sour is creates a daisy. In the late 1800’s, it was very common to dissolve the sugar in any type of drink with carbonated water. The squirts of carbonated water listed in Johnson’s Jamaica Rum Sour on the previous page and Schmidt’s regular Whiskey Sour above are not at all unusual during that period.
Two of the above daisies add carbonated water after straining, but the indicated glassware (3 fl-oz. large cocktail goblet or the small 3 fl-oz. tumbler) of the era would only allow a small amount of fizzy water. By the time of Crockett’s daisy, the fad of using carbonated water in everything had passed, and he uses flat water with which to dissolve the sugar.
As can be seen below, added liquid water (of any type) as a listed recipe ingredient is not central to the identity of the traditional daisy!
Back his Rum Daisy above, Crockett suggests either lime juice or lemon juice. He also indicates either Curaçao liqueur or Chartreuse liqueur. If one were to follow his recipe using lime juice and Curaçao liqueur (each the first-mentioned of the options), and to base the drink on Tequila mezcal instead of rum, the drink would essentially be a well-known drink called the Margarita – which means ‘daisy’ in Spanish!
Here are some of the ways I like my daisies.
The response to David Wondrich can now be found by following the link at the beginning of the follwwing article.]
Many people are familiar with the traditional cocktail being a bittered sling, and even what slings are. Many people understand that punch is traditionally defined as the balance of the sour, sweet, strong and weak elements. Some people understand why the Brandy Alexander and any flip or eggnog are all possets. It is even very easily explained that since grog was one part rum used to cure three parts ship’s water, the Remsen Cooler and the Rum-and-Coke Highball are along the same lines of majority-weak, fortified-by-liquor, drink — and thus, grogs.
But there are some other less-understood genres of drinks. One of them that even historically began to be called by its own genre name is the blossom. The principles of Elemental Mixology maintain that a blossom is a mixed drink in which the strong element is modified by succulent (not primarily sour) juice. Blossoms are typically shaken and served ‘up’ in a goblet (a stemmed drinking vessel). Such a genre of drinks clearly exists, and for anyone ready to honor the traditional meaning of the word cocktail as referring to a specific type of drink, another name is required for each type of drink. This post will show why there is good cause to identify this specific genre of drinks as blossoms.
Above is the earliest-published recipe that I could find that fits the blossom genre. It has succulent juice and no sour juice. It is no punch. Though I don’t find it to be an exceptionally good one, it is clearly a blossom. [Also note that since the old dash from a full-sized liquor bottle can be standardized as a teaspoon (1/6 fl-oz.) and a ‘drink’ of liquor was a jigger (2 fl-oz.), the above recipe would contain two jiggers (4 fl-oz.) of total liquor for the two drinks it makes – meaning one jigger, total, of liquor per drink.]
But, what of the name “blossom?” In 1906, Louis Muckensturm published the Orange Blossom in the cocktail section of his book Louis’ Mixed Drinks.
The word toddy has meant, among other things, a sling aromatized by citrus zest (usually a twisted strip of it). The cocktail, or bittered sling, is a kindred drink to the todday that is specifically aromatized by bitters. I would call Muckensturm’s drink the Orange Blossom Toddy rather than suggest it is a cocktail, the way Muckensturm does. But, given that Muckensturm wrote more than fifty years after the heyday of the toddy, his mixology can be forgiven for lumping such close siblings together.
All slings are, as is said, liquor-forward. In fact, “liquor-forward” really boils down to a modern gloss for “sling.” In that light, note that there is only a teaspoonful of orange juice in the 1906 Orange Blossom [Toddy] — not so much that it crowds the liquor off center stage. Also note that Muckensturm understood what a lot of speakeasy-era bar-tenders who shook everything did not. Bruising occurs when the ‘velvet’ of liquor is undesirably lost to aeration. The Orange Blossom [Toddy] is stirred, not shaken. Bruising should be avoided in any sling — and that is why James Bond in the movies was wrong.
But, as with the Brandy Crusta, Bronx, Pegu Club, Swan, and many other, cocktails, it seems less-thoughtful hands quickly began adding a lot more juice to the Orange Blossom — and shaking it. [Despite David Wondrich’s rejection, the over-juicing (and consequent) shaking of drinks that entered history as juice-accented cocktails or other slings is a clearly evidenced, and fairly common, phenomenon in the history of mixed drinks.] In the case of this drink, (and of the Bronx during the same period) this transformed the drink’s ingredients into an altogether different drinking experience. Thus was this new genre of drink born — even before ‘prohibition’ began. As much can be seen below.
As for other pre-1920 sources; Drinks by Jacques Straub (1914), Jack’s Manual by Jacob Grohusko (1916), and Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo Ensslin (1917) each give as their Orange Blossom essentially the same drink as the Adirondack above. [One bibliographic note is that the Orange Blossom does not appear in the 1910 edition of Jack’s Manual by Jacob Grohusko. There are several facsimile reprints of the 1916 edition of Jack’s Manual currently available that are incorrectly listed as being the 1910 edition. If, in addition to other added drinks, the Orange Blossom and the Coronation Cocktail (named for the coronation of King George V – in 1911) are in your copy of the book, it is the 1916 edition (or even later).
Before even the dark age of the speakeasy, the blossom was fully evident as a genre of drinks — if only in the glass and not the name. But, the name ‘blossom’ did come to mean more. Notice in the following sources that by the 1930’s the word blossom had begun to be used more as a family name significant of a type of mixed drink in which any sort of liquor was shaken with a lesser-or-equal amount of any sort of succulent (not primarily sour) juice and strained into a goblet.
Someone might object that all of the above are only ‘riffing’ from the Orange Blossom (though not the original one). That may be so — but that’s one of the ways that new things begin.
A huge percentage of blossoms are, in my opinion, lackluster drinks. But some are quite good, such as the Brown Derby [Blossom]. Others, like the Blood-and-Sand [Blossom], are ensconced among the ‘classics.’ This is clearly an extant genre of drinks and a name is needed for them. Thankfully, the tradition gave us just enough published practice of using the word blossom for the type that it is the most fitting name for this genre of mixed drinks.
I walked into a thrift store in Portland on Saturday and found seven Libbey #8475 5.5 fl-oz. sour goblets (not the case pictured above). I bought all of them for $0.99, each! Until about 2010, I used to find those fairly commonly in thrift stores down in big, bad Los Angeles. Unlike then, I am not going to broadcast exactly where I found them here!
Libbey discontinued this wonderful sour goblet in the mid1980’s. They should certainly bring it back!
I am really pleased that David Wondrich has apparently at least scanned my recent posts. I don’t even mind that he seems to have done with the sole motive of finding an error. I love the truth more than I love being ‘right’ and welcome the chance to be made aware of more information.
Since David doesn’t seem to keep pace in commentary with my replies to his comments. I thought that I should reply with a post so that he will see my response. Here was his comment that included critique of my own material:
“Your feelings about the tradition are your feelings. A great many of them are mistaken, although I have no doubt that they result in tasty drinks (e.g., the Swan Cocktail in Old Waldorf Bar Days, of which you make so much, actually calls for “Juice of one lime,” while Straub’s version, with the portion of lime juice you deem correct, calls for “Dry Gin”; inconvenient, but incontrovertible). By forcing an unruly and heterodox tradition into narrow, theory-based categories, you do a disservice to the men and women who each interpreted this great tradition in their own way. I won’t address your arguments, based on the same memory you have displayed here, because unfortunately I am a busy man; if you finally unpack my book on Punch and read it more than cursorily you will find that you have mischaracterized [sic] it. My reputation does not rest on my own claims and my ideas of who I am are mostly concerned with not being the kind of person who misses a deadline by more than a couple of days. You may continue to chivy me, if it makes you feel better–indeed, I know that you shall.”
Here was my reply:
“Thank you for your comment.
Yes, I have always been aware that Straub indicated dry gin. I have no problem with that. I just felt like the Waldorf’s use of genever was probably older — especially since the Waldorf recipe also contains gum syrup, which tends to fall out of drinks over time rather than being added to them – in the historical record. Besides being probably more original, I also felt it was better suited to the drink. I usually make note of such decisions on my part in my book — but many instances get past me. I do everything, including all proof-reading and editing and correcting of my book myself.
As for the juice of one lime – the lime in question before prohibition (in all parts of the U.S.A. except perhaps California and the west coast) would have been a bartender’s lime – the Citrus aurantiifolia, vulgarly known as the Key lime (though few are still from there). If you juice that little guy, you will find that it actually yields just about the right amount to accent a true cocktail. They yield anything from a few drops of juice to about a quarter-fluid-ounce – but, usually less. It’s difficult not to project modern assumptions backwards, even with limes.”