A perfectly crafted cocktail can be considered a work of art. But what about a tipple inspired by a work of art? At Café Atlántico, already known as one of the premier spots in Washington for handmade cocktails, the “The Daisy If You Do” was sparked by Frederic Remington’s sculpture ”Off the Range (Coming Through the Rye).”
The drink, conceived by lead bartender Owen Thomson, was created for an annual competition held at the Corcoran gallery. The city-wide cocktail competition, poetically named Artini, called on area mixologists to invent a potable inspired by a piece in the Corcoran’s collection. Thomason was assigned Remington’s sculpture.
The piece is an animated representation of the Old West, consisting of four rowdy cowboys shooting off their guns while rollicking their way on horseback. The sculpture invokes the rugged, bronco-busting spirit of adventure and wrangler masculinity.
Thomson’s coordinating cocktail does not disappoint. The ingredient list is one of carefully calculated vision – leather-infused tequila, 16-year-old single malt Scotch, lemon, and St. Germain elderflower liqueur flavored with toasted rye.
When Thomson first examined the sculpture, he immediately thought of crafting a drink with either leather or gunpowder. He decided leather would be a fun flavor to work with because it is often used a descriptive term for tasting wines or liquors.
However the difficult part, it turned out, was not finding a way to infuse the leather flavor into liquor but finding the actual leather. According to Thomson, most commercial methods of tanning are chemically based, but originally, leather was made using vegetable oils. Thomson had to track down a saddle-maker in Tennessee who still tans hides using this traditional method. Once he acquired the food-safe leather he steeped it in tequila overnight to impart a smoldering woody flavor that combines beautifully with the smoky agave.
The drink is formulated after the classic daisy cocktail – which is essentially a basic sour (liquor, citrus and sweeter,) topped with soda water. The “Daisy If You Do” moniker is borrowed from a line from the legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday.
For the citrus portion of the drink Thomson uses fresh lemon juice, and for the sweetener, St Germaine elderflower liquor. In order to match Remington’s sculpture title of “Coming through the Rye,” Thomson, toasts rye berries then soaks them in the liqueur for three days. While St Germain normally has a cloying honeysuckle flavor the rye infusion tempers the liqueur with toasty orange-like nuance. Thomson finishes his work with a dash of Lagavulin 16-year Scotch which yields rich peaty finish.
While the name Daisy sounds delicate, this is definitely a drink worthy of a beefy cowboy. Thomson’s piece boasts a multi-layered, slightly sweet, yet deep smoky flavor without becoming heavy. It has the substance to stand up to a Texas-size steak, but light enough to be refreshing in the summer heat.
Daisy If You Do
1 1/2 oz Leather infused tequila
3/4 oz. St Germain infused with toasted rye
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
Dash of Lagavulin 16-year-old Scotch
Combine first four ingredients in a tall glass, top with soda water, and garnish with a lemon twist.
Readers may try the Daisy If You Do at Café Atlantic located at 405 8th Street NW Washington DC. Tequila, St Germaine and Lagavulin Scotch may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown.