The Yellow Daisy

The Yellow Daisy is one of my favorite recent finds. First, there’s the history, which is awesome. The Yellow Daisy Cocktail was supposedly created by Richard Clark, the guy who was the inspiration for the character Deadwood Dick. As the Savoy Cocktail book puts it,

Not only the favourite drink, but also the one made famous, if not invented, by Richard William (“Deadwood Dick”) Clark, recently deceased. Onetime Custer scout, Pony Express rider, Deadwood Gulch stage coach guard, inspiration for all the Deadwood Dick novels of E. L. Wheeler, friends of Wild Westerners, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill, Poker Alice Tubbs, Calamity Jane, Madame Mustache and Diamond Dick Turner of Norfolk, Nebraska.  Clark is buried on Sunrise Mountain, overlooking Deadwood Gulch, South Dakota.

This guy Richard Clark lived from 1845 to 1930 and was widely regarded as the Deadwood Dick. In the 1920s, he even played Deadwood Dick in the town’s parade.

That’s a guy I want to drink with. A guy that would drink his whiskey straight with a stout beer to wash it down. A guy who would shoot you as soon as look at you. We might not be friends, but I want on the bar stool next to this guy and let his cigarette smoke wash over me.

But what is he doing drinking a Yellow Daisy Cocktail? That just doesn’t make sense. A Yellow Daisy is a freaking flower. Deadwood Dick’s drink should be called the Red-Eye, or the Bullet in Your Head, or something like that, not a Yellow Daisy.

Even stranger than the name are the ingredients. To make one, combine with ice:

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 dash absinthe or substitute (I use Herbsaint here)

stir well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

So this drink is made of gin, vermouth, Grand Marnier, and a touch of absinthe. That’s a sweet Martini, it is, a veritable wuss’s Martini. It doesn’t even have whiskey in it, and to sweeten a Martini with Grand Marnier just sounds absurd.

But it’s good. It’s really good. The slight sweetness is perfect. The drink is nearly as refreshing as a Perrier, almost like there’s not alcohol in it. The absinthe gives it a licorice or anise smell, and that’s it. The alcohol burn isn’t even present, and these things go down very easy. I drank two of them in quick succession without even realizing I was drinking alcohol. Yes, that’s dangerous, but it also means the drink is smooth.

So it may be very odd that a rough frontiersman named Deadwood Dick drank anything called a Yellow Daisy and even weirder that it’s made of gin, vermouth, Grand Marnier, and absinthe. But the fact is that the drink is good, and is worth drinking, and it makes Deadwood Dick a bit of a conundrum. Perhaps he had a softer side. Perhaps he didn’t care about being the roughneck. Perhaps he was comfortable with a sweet drink. I know I am.

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