The Bronx Cocktail, Updated (Or Rather, Backdated)

 

Bronx Cocktail

Orange juice, or no juice? That’s the question with a Bronx cocktail.

Orange juice in cocktails has never struck me a particularly appealing. I do adore the Stork Club cocktail, mostly for its vintage New York society flair (the Stork Club was a 1930s and 40s celebrity hotspot). But that’s about where I draw the line. So I was intrigued to stumble across a recipe for the classic New York borough drink, the Bronx Cocktail, that is juice-free, and another that is practically juice-free.

The original recipe is attributed to Johnnie Solon, a bartender at the Waldorf-Astoria, according to the 1935 Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book and historians like David Wondrich. In Esquire, Wondrich calls for 2 ounces London dry gin, 1 ounce orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon French vermouth, and 1/2 teaspoon Italian vermouth (see recipe). I find that version to be too sweet and well, meh. It’s worth noting that the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book actually contains four recipes for the Bronx, labeled as Bronx (a juiceless version), along with three juiced variations: Bronx No. 2, Bronx (Waldorf), and Bronx (Original).

Now, we don’t know the exact date of Solon’s supposed invention. It is said to have been sometime between 1899 and 1906, but there are early recipes — 1908 and 1910 — that also eschew juice. Of the early contenders, I prefer the orange juice-less version that appeared both as the plain ol’ “Bronx” in the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, and 15 years earlier, in the 1910 Jack’s Manual (McClunn & Co.) by J.A. Grohusko. Those identical recipes call for 2 parts London dry gin, 1 part Italian vermouth, 1 part French vermouth, and a twist of orange peel. Is the Old Waldorf version a rip-off of Jack’s? Who knows. And really, this formulal is nothing more than a Perfect Martini with a orange twist. But it’s pretty compelling as a Martini variation, and a juiceless Bronx, so call me a convert. For an added dimension of caramelized orange flavor, use legendary barman Dale DeGroff’s technique of flaming the orange peel (video here) before you add it it to the drink.

The other low-juice version, from the even earlier 1908 The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them, by William “Cocktail” Boothby, calls for 1/3 Plymouth gin, 1/3 Italian vermouth, 1/3 French vermouth, 1 barspoonful of orange juice, and 2 dashes orange bitters, with a squeeze of orange peel. This version is a touch sweeter than the 1910 version, but still more complex and compelling (to my taste) than the most-often cited recipes. Herewith, the Jack’s Bronx and the Boothby Bronx:

Recipe: Jack’s Bronx Cocktail

  • 2 ounces London dry gin
  • 1 ounce Italian (sweet) vermouth
  • 1 ounce French (dry) vermouth
  • orange peel garnish

In an ice-filled mixing glass, add gin and vermouths. Stir until frost forms on the side of the glass, then strain into a coupe glass. Flame orange peel over the glass, then submerge the peel into the cocktail.

Recipe: Boothby’s Bronx Cocktail

  • 1 ounce dry London gin
  • 1 ounce Italian (sweet) vermouth
  • 1 ounce French (dry) vermouth
  • 1 barspoon orange juice
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • orange peel garnish

In an ice-filled mixing glass, add all liquid ingredients. Stir until frost forms on the side of the glass, then strain into a coupe glass. Flame orange peel over the glass, then submerge the peel into the cocktail.

Photo Credit: ReeceCLloyd via Flickr