Before the Bloody Mary became the universal morning-after prescription, the fizz, a sour made tall by the addition of soda water and the optional egg white, was for half a century the perfect hair-of-the-dog remedy.
First recorded in print in 1867 by Jerry Thomas as simply lemon, sweetener, spirit and seltzer, this corpse reviver began its ascendancy towards cocktail celebrity alongside the daisy and the Collins, bearing a strikingly close resemblance to the latter and differing only in preparation (shaken versus built in the glass) and manner of consumption (hurriedly versus steadily).
By 1890 the fizz had attracted a dedicated following, most notably by the self-proclaimed “champion gin fizz drinker in America,” Professor Denton of Brooklyn, New York, known for his preternatural capacity to consume 40 fizzes in any given day. According to David Wondrich’s Imbibe!, so voracious was his appetite for fizzes that Denton once even tried to consume the glass, only to subsequently—and unsurprisingly—die from internal hemorrhaging.
Though other notable fizzes emerged in the 19th century (among them, the Silver Fizz and the Morning Glory Fizz, both of which see the addition of egg white), the Ramos Gin Fizz remains the most famous iteration. Invented in 1888 by Henry Charles Ramos of New Orleans’ Imperial Cabinet saloon, the citrus—in this case, a double dose of lemon and lime—is supplemented with two frothy thickeners: both cream and egg white. Requiring a significant amount of emulsifying, the namesake fizz famously called for a line of shakermen, men ready to pass the shaker along, each shaking for part of the full 12 minutes required to properly make the drink. (Nowadays, that overt inefficiency has led some bartenders to hack the process with bubble tea machines and hand held blenders.)
As a category, this “long drink par excellence,” as one San Francisco bartender described it, had, within the first few decades of its existence, won widespread appeal, spurring countless variations based on nearly every available spirit. Ultimately, it became so ubiquitous that in 1941, Crosby Gaige, author of his eponymous cocktail guide and ladies companion declared that the fizz and its long-drink ilk had, “like great danes and greyhounds . . . finally become family pets.” Here, three classic fizzes stand alongside their modern counterparts:
With gin, simple syrup and citrus at its base, the classic Gin Fizz has an assertive kick from spirit and is notably served in a highball—without ice. In a play on the original, Eben Freeman shakes together malty genever, lemon and crème de mûre before straining it all into a couple, and topping not with soda water, but with sparkling wine.
The milkshake of fizz drinks, the Ramos Gin Fizz is also the most time-consuming; thanks to the addition of both egg white and cream, it famously required a full 12 minutes of shaking to achieve the desired consistency. A modern version, the Brandy Lift, forgoes the egg but keeps the cream and spirits (brandy and Bénédictine), for a drink that, when shaken with orgeat and topped with soda water, straddles the line between a fizz and a milk punch. The similarly textured Danger Zone meanwhile gets its creamy texture from the addition of a whole egg.
The most iconic template for today’s fizz is notable for its inclusion of both soda water and egg white—and not cream. And while some are gin-based (like the Gin Fizz Tropical, not to mention its modern iterations, the High Line Fizz, the Mid-Morning Fizz and the Sloe Gin Fizz, which see the additions of dry Curaçao, green Chartreuse and Sloe Gin, respectively), the template for the classic fizz has been known to include a wide variety of spirits; the Morning Glory Fizz, invented in the late 1800s, is Scotch-based, while the Seapea Fizz, which dates to 1934, calls on absinthe. In a truly modern variation, the Lefty’s Fizz from San Francisco’s ABV opts for mezcal and grapefruit shrub for a smoky, sour play on the original.