Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bronxathon: Parting Bronxes

At last we’ve come to the end of Bronxathon. I’ve spent more time with this cocktail than I’ve spent with some people I know. To those out there who’ve Bronxed along with me, I salute you all. Hope you had some fun. I certainly did, and liked doing the original variations, though I gotta say that a month of Bronx Cocktails takes some stamina.

By now it’s pretty clear to me what I like in a Bronx and what I don’t. Below are a few thoughts that didn’t get covered in the preceding 16 posts, along with my two cents on what works.


Some of you have asked me about varying the fruit component. There are Bronx variations in my own collection dating back to at least the 1930s that call for pineapple, with or without orange. In my experience, the pineapple is a promiscuous fruit, ready to play with anything that comes along. The grapefruit is similarly friendly. But in general, I chose to go with the standard Valencia orange, a nearly ubiquitous variety of sweet orange for juicing. I’ve been thinking that we know that vermouth and gin go together—it’s that orange that causes all the confusion. I figured this crisis was basic to the Bronx Cocktail so I tried to keep it as part of the challenge. (I threw in a couple of close orange relatives now and then.)


Some recipes didn’t make the cut because they just didn’t seem all that distinguished or that Bronx-like. The Bronx Dry, which has no sweet vermouth or any fourth ingredient at all, is an example of a classic recipe that just isn’t any more a Bronx than white chocolate is chocolate.

Some Bronxes in this series could be considered definitive, others were intentionally created as novelties. The Income Tax and the Maurice stand out as solid classics. I think of the former as the basic Bronx and the latter a variation. I’d add the Captain Pell and Old Tom to this group because they taste like traditional Bronxes. For the off-beat ones, I especially like Spuyten Duyvil and Bronx Deco because they’re unusual, though all the amaro variations are good drinking.

To my taste, the Bronx Cocktail never quite seems to balance as a 4-ingredient cocktail but it improves with all sorts of small basic additions. It tends to do well with some kind of bitter component to connect the dots and make it whole—like a freer part of the music that seldom gets written into the score. David Wondrich notes in Imbibe! that the first recipe printed, by Billy Malloy, has orange bitters. The Bronx is really a 5-ingredient cocktail.

All right—enough. Bronx on, everybody.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bronxathon: Tangelo Bronx

The Bronxathon is nearly over (wrap-up tomorrow) but I couldn’t let it go without doing at least one tangerine variation. There was a big box of tangelos at the market, and they turned out to be great for juicing. I got more out of one than from a comparably sized Valencia orange. The flavor was rich, bright, a little tart and a little spicy.

Tangelo Bronx
  • 2 oz Plymouth gin
  • 1/2 oz Punt e Mes
  • 1/2 oz Lillet
  • 1 oz tangelo juice
  • 1 small dash Fee Bros Aromatic Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Big tangelo twist.

As I was squeezing the fruit, the oil from the rind was visible on top of the juice. Very cool. I can barely wait to get more tangelos.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bronxathon: Cynar Bronx

Making good on my threat to try different amari in place of the Bronx Cocktail’s sweet vermouth, I’ve hauled out the Cynar. It’s light and summery here, and easy drinking. The bitter vegetal taste of this artichoke-based amaro compliments the trace of pith from the orange, resolving one of the Bronx’s basic problems. The little cinnamon note at the end is barely noticeable but it’s there. Easy but not dumb.

Cynar Bronx
  • 2 oz gin (Bombay)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1//2 oz Cynar
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • 2 dashes Fee Bros Orange Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bronxathon: Captain Pell

Samuel Pell (c.1821-94) was a prominent citizen and notable oysterman on City Island, and this Bronx Cocktail I’ve named for him was created with oysters in mind. The inspiration comes from the same friend who got me thinking about problems with the Bronx Cocktail.

Captain Pell

  • 1 oz old tom gin (Hayman’s)
  • 1 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin Rouge)
  • 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 1 – 2 dashes Fee Bros Orange Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This one is more like a classic Bronx Cocktail than some of the recent variations. I like the way old tom in a Bronx smooths things out without changing the drink much.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bronxathon: Morris Park

Maraschino is a good addition to the Bronx. I was inspired by the Maurice for this variation and I think I might like it even better.

Morris Park

  • 1 1/2 oz gin (Tanqueray)
  • 1/2 oz Punt e Mes
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1/4 oz maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

About Morris Park, the neighborhood here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bronxathon: Obligatory Raspberry Cocktail

There’s already a drink out there called Bronx Cheer, a highball of sorts with apricot brandy and raspberry soda. (Would you like a lollipop with that?) The one below is more of a cocktail in the original sense, and something else entirely—or almost entirely. It also has the raspberry.

The Bronx Cheer Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz gin (Bombay)
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin Rouge)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1/2 oz raspberry liqueur (Mathilde Framboise)
  • 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 1 dash Fee Bros Aromatic Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This one’s OK—easy to drink though maybe not my favorite so far. Raspberry easily dominates the basic Bronx recipe but there’s still some complexity underneath.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bronxathon: Bronx Deco

Inspired in part by another cacao cocktail, the great Twentieth Century, I got to thinking about something Dr. Cocktail wrote about how it’s what Art Deco tastes like.

The borough of the Bronx has many fine examples of Art Deco architecture.

Bronx Deco

  • 1 1/2 oz Tanqueray London dry gin
  • 1/2 oz Punt e Mes
  • 1/2 oz Lillet
  • 1/4 oz white creme de cacao
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters
  • 1 dash Fee Bros orange bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I went for a subtle chocolate note here. The bitters adds some cacao and complexity without sweetness. The housemate says this is his favorite Bronx variation so far.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bronxathon: Averna Bronx

Changing the vermouth in the Bronx Cocktail for something round and rich in the amaro range improves the balance and overall synthesis without changing the basic profile of the drink. This one makes me want to experiment with other amari.

Averna Bronx
  • 1 1/2 oz Tanqueray gin
  • 1/2 oz Averna
  • 1/2 oz Dolin Dry vermouth
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • 1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Orange twist.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bronxathon: The Bronxoni

The housemate and I had a discussion as to whether this should be up or over. I suggested one ice cube. He preferred to have the last sip as intense as the first, even if it meant sacrificing some coldness if he lingered at the end. I guess I’m equivocal on the rocks question for this punch-like cocktail that’s half Bronx, half Negroni, though I generally lean toward intensity myself.

The Bronxoni

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/4 oz Campari
  • juice of 1/4 orange
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Ice cube optional.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bronxathon: Spuyten Duyvil

Place names in the New York area have always fascinated me. Take the Bronx: it’s got a definite article, a letter ‘x’ at the end, and might even be some kind of collective noun—a totally distinctive name. Not really knowing what to make of it, I imagined a bunch of Lenape and Dutch guys standing around smoking cigars and talking to each other in New York accents, agreeing that this was the Bronx, a word common to both cultures, whatever it means. Later, I found out it’s named after a Swedish settler who worked for the Dutch, Jonas Bronck, from whom we get “Bronck’s River” and so on. But I’m still not convinced.

Anyway, they were drinking Dutch gin (genever) once upon a time in old New York, so I came up with a Bronx Cocktail variation based on this interesting spirit, and gave it a classic Dutch place name from the Bronx, Spuyten Duyvil. It seems this might mean “Spinning Devil” or possibly several other things. As you can see, folk etymology is something of a New York pastime.

Special thanks for the suggestion of the name to the same guy who called me all perplexed about the Bronx Cocktail in the first place. I’d say I couldn’t have done it without him, but we have another two weeks of this Bronxathon madness still ahead. Spinning devil, indeed.

Spuyten Duyvil
  • 1 1/2 oz genever (Genevieve)
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin Rouge)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1 oz blood orange juice
  • 1 tsp Cointreau
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is really the most different of the Bronx Cocktails I’ve done so far on account of the genever-style gin. Although technically a Bronx since all the pieces are there, the family resemblance isn’t that close. I like it, though. It’s bright, assertive and refreshing. The Cointreau could come up a little if you want it sweeter.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bronxathon: Bronx Bomber

With this one, the Bronx sort of turns into a sour with the addition of a little lemon and simple syrup. This is mild, citrus-y and easy to drink, though it’s as if the Bronx Cocktail were so problematic to balance that the mixologist turned it into something else. (By now, I can understand the impulse to do that.)

Bronx Bomber
  • 1 1/2 oz Plymouth gin
  • 1/4 oz Italian sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes)
  • 1/4 oz French dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1/2 oz fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • orange twist for garnish
Shake in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This comes from the bar book of Absinthe Brasserie & Bar here in San Francisco, a great place to go if you’re thirsty.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bronxathon: Silver and Golden

Two items of historical interest: the Silver Bronx and the Golden Bronx. Both have egg in them, and both sound more interesting than they actually are. I present them for the sake of completeness and for anyone who has seen the recipes and wondered what they’re like. Wonder no longer. They are dull. I even added a dash or two of bitters but it didn’t help.

The Silver Bronx Cocktail
  • 2 gin (1 oz Bombay)
  • 1 French vermouth (1/2 oz Dolin Dry)
  • 1 Italian vermouth (1/2 oz Dolin Rouge)
  • 1/2 orange juice (1/4 oz orange juice)
  • white of 1 egg
  • (2 dashes Fee Bros orange bitters)
Ice. 25 shakes. Strain into cocktail glass.

I shook this without ice (dry shaking) to incorporate the egg, then strained through mesh into an ice-filled tin and beat it up again—in case anyone’s wondering.

It’s not good, but at least it’s totally forgettable. This thing was published in 1934. I don’t know how long the recipe had been around before that, but it would’ve been especially repulsive with bootleg gin. But on to our next delight.

The Golden Bronx Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz gin (Bombay)
  • 1/2 sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes)
  • 1/2 dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1 oz orange juice (3/4 oz)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • (1 dash Fee Bros aromatic bitters)
Mix all ingredients with cracked ice in a blender or shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is sort of odd, and also not any good. The egg yolk gives it a nice texture, but the drink doesn’t have any focus or much in the way of flavor either.

So I feel a little guilty not showing you something tasty to make today, but at least I had fun finally getting around to these, and now you don’t have to.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bronxathon: Old Tom Bronx

Here’s one of my own, though the inspiration of using equal parts gin and the two vermouths is from one by Billy Malloy that I found in David Wondrich’s Imbibe! Malloy’ s recipe sounds OK but not much like a Bronx to me with a mere barspoon of juice against all that vermouth. At any rate, I’m trying to work with the stuff and not hide it. I’ve upped the o.j. to a more usual amount. And I’ve used old tom gin, figuring that the sweetness might bring the elements together a little better.

Old Tom Bronx Cocktail
  • 1 oz old tom gin (Hayman’s)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin Rouge)
  • 1 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • 1 dash orange bitters (Fee Bros)
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Orange twist.

This version is refreshing and has some complexity as well. The large measure of vermouth gives it a pronounced wine taste that plays off the sweetness and the orange aromatics.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bronxathon: The Maurice

In a cocktail like the Bronx where orange juice is a dominant ingredient, it seems to need some sort of bitter component to wed it to gin. The Maurice, yet another Bronx from the CocktailDB, is a slight variation of the Income Tax with pastis as an alternate ingredient for aromatic bitters. I like the Income Tax but I’m getting even fonder of the anise-scented Maurice. It’s dry, light- to medium-bodied depending on your vermouth, and more to my taste than something like the Monkey Gland. I upped the gin half an ounce and liked it just as much.

I’m beginning to hanker after a different white vermouth but have had no luck in the shops over the weekend. I tried doing this drink with an off-dry vermouth, Noilly-Prat Original French Dry, but it just didn’t come together.

The Maurice
  • 1 oz gin (1 – 1 1/2 oz Plymouth)
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters or pastis (1 dash St. George absinthe)
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. An orange twist is good for this one.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bronxathon: Bronx Discotheque

This third cocktail in the Bronxathon series I’d like to send out to all you Wallbangers. (Wall Bangers? Wallbanger Bangers? Whatev.) The first time I made this, I had spotted it browsing Galliano recipes in the CocktailDB and just couldn’t resist. It turned out to be not unlike other Bronxes in general character, and to have the same balancing issues. So I adjusted it a little. It might’ve seemed like cheating to use a blood orange in a Bronx, but since that Galliano was already in there....

Bronx Discotheque

  • 1 oz gin (1 oz Bombay)
  • 1/2 oz Galliano (3/4 oz Galliano)
  • 1/4 oz sweet vermouth (1/2 oz Dolin Rouge)
  • 1/4 oz dry vermouth (1/2 oz Dolin Dry)
  • 3/4 oz orange juice (3/4 oz blood orange juice)
Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain.

This is fruity without being sticky, and increasing the vermouth and Galliano helps the overall roundness as well as the whammy of the thing. Blood orange is one of those hybrids that’s a bit like a red grapefruit, so it’s a little friendlier than the standard juice orange in a drink like this.

Seems like it should appeal to those who love the nightlife.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bronxathon: The Income Tax Cocktail

The Bronx Cocktail is one of those drinks that seems unfocused to me without bitters—so much so that it’s odd to me that there’s a bitters version with its own name. The recipe below comes by way of Dr. Cocktail. No clue why they named it something so dreadful unless it was the favorite of tax preparers.

The Income Tax Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz dry gin (Tanqueray)
  • 3/4 oz dry vermouth (Dolin dry)
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes)
  • juice of 1/4 orange (about 3/4 oz)
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters (Fee Bros Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters)
Shake in an iced shaker (I stirred) and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange wheel.

This version is one of my favorites and I make it from time to time, using Punt e Mes for the sweet vermouth and Fee’s instead of Angostura. But maybe one dash of bitters is ample. My orange on this round was a little insipid as Valencias go but the drink didn’t suffer too badly. I prefer to strain the orange juice for visual reasons.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Introduction: People Used to Drink this Thing

My buddy calls me on the phone. He’s trying to make a Bronx and he just can’t seem to get the hang of it somehow. I know what he means. Strange to say it but for a classic that was once a big hit, the Bronx Cocktail confuses me. The recipes I’ve found almost all specify gin, orange juice, and sweet and dry vermouths in some combo, but can’t agree on a general idea of how the drink balances. You get the idea that everybody’s been making the same heroic effort to get a good one since the thing was invented. My friend on the phone is no different, and of course I can’t resist mixing in: bitters, orange bitters, spicy bitters, I can’t remember which vermouths I like and which ones ruin it completely, blah blah blah. We agree that orange juice is a problem in ingredient in cocktails. Good for punches and sours, but it seems to need a little help interacting with gin. The Orange Blossom, gin and orange juice, leaves me cold. And I gotta admit I never understood the appeal of all those Wallbangers.

But I’ve made tasty Bronxes. I’m not sure that they were from the very same brands or in the same proportions that the world loved once upon a time, but there’s no agreement about that anyway.

Doctor Cocktail says that the Bronx Cocktail faded from popularity because it demands fresh o.j. and bars didn’t want to squeeze the fruit for you. (Anyone who appreciates a fresh Margarita knows this is true.) It’s too bad. Maybe if Bronxes had a longer run, people would’ve decided once and for all what they were supposed to taste like.

Or maybe a Bronx is a classification of cocktail more than a flavor—a category, a type of drink, a state of mind, a course in a meal. (It’s also a whole borough in New York City so anything’s possible.) With this in mind, I bring you the Bronxathon, a month-long event devoted to trying different Bronx Cocktail recipes and writing about them every other day. (Let’s hope I’m not too nutty by the end.)

So without further ado, here’s the first Bronx Cocktail.

The Bronx
Johnnie Solon version, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar, c. 1900
  • 1 1/2 oz dry gin (Tanqueray)
  • 3/4 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
  • 1 tsp sweet vermouth (Dolin Rouge)
Mix well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

David Wondrich likes this one on a hot day, and I could see sucking a few down while trying to catch a breeze through a window in Pelham Parkway. Is it the Bronx of my dreams? Well, it’s quenching if a tad simple, and better than an Orange Blossom. But we have a bunch more to try.
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