Sunday, June 24, 2012

New York City Cocktails Part II: The Bronx Cocktail

Last month I profiled one of the granddaddies of all cocktails: The Manhattan. I stated that I would be profiling the cocktails that are based on the other four boroughs that make up the Greater City of New York. For this post I am focusing on the borough that I currently live on and the only borough that is located on the mainland United States: The Bronx Cocktail. Manhattan and Staten Island have their own island while Queens and Brooklyn make up the Western part of Long Island. So there's your geography lesson folks. Never say that you don't learn any pertinent information on my blog. Onward to the cocktail named after the home of Jonas Bronck.

The history of the Bronx Cocktail is one of those that lies in the turn of the 20th century, 1900 to be precise. I've seen two differing origins to the Bronx cocktail. Mr. Boston's Official Bartender's Guide 75th Anniversary Edition has a Bronx native and restaurateur bringing the drink back to NYC from his homesick time in Philadelphia. Julio Ibarra in his article Drink recipes: Bronx on Helium.com identifies the person in question as being Mr. Joseph S. Sormani. This one seems to be disputed by many.


The actual origin of the drink lays within the old Waldorf-Astoria hotel which was located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street on the spot of an old Astor family mansion and the current location of the Empire State Building. As the story is described in The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book 1935 Edition, the drink was invented by Waldorf-Astoria bartender Johnnie Solon. The book prints Solon's own words for how he came up with the drink:
We had a cocktail in those days called a Duplex, which had a pretty fair demand. One day, I was making one for a customer when in came Traverson, head waiter of the Empire Room- The main dining room in the original Waldorf. A Duplex was composed of equal parts of French and Italian Vermouth, shaken up with a squeezed orange peel, or two dashes of Orange Bitters. Traverson said, 'Why don't you get up a new cocktail? I have a customer who says you can't do it.'

"'Can't I?'" I replied.

"Well, I finished the Duplex I was making, and a thought came to me. I poured into a mixing glass the equivalent of two jiggers of Gordon Gin. The I filled the jigger with orange juice so that it made one-third of orange juice and two-thirds of Gin. Then into the mixture I put a dash each of Italian and French Vermouth, shaking the thing up. I didn't taste it myself, but I poured it into a cocktail glass and handed it to Traverson and said: 'You are a pretty good judge. (He was.) See what you think of that.' Traverson tasted it. Then he swallowed it whole.

"'By God!' he said 'you've really got something new! That will make a big hit. Make me another and I will take it back to that customer in the dining room. Bet you'll sell a lot of them. Have you plenty of oranges? If you haven't you better stock up because I am going to sell a lot of those cocktails during lunch.'

"The demand for Bronx cocktails started that day. Pretty soon we were using whole cases of oranges a day. And then several cases"
And if you're wondering where the name came from, don't fret, here is Solon's explanation:
"The name? No, it wasn't really named directly after the borough or the river so-called. I had been at the Bronx Zoo a day or two before, and I saw, of course, a lot of beasts I had never known. Customers used to tell me of the strange animals they saw after a lot of mixed drinks. So when Traverson said to me, as he started to take the drink in to the customer, 'What'll I tell him the name of this drink?' I thought of those animals, and said: 'Oh, you can tell him its a "Bronx""
So there you go straight from the proverbial horse's mouth. Now enough of history. Let's see if the cocktail stands the test of time and that of my palatte.

Here is the recipe I used for the cocktail:

The Bronx Cocktail
2oz of Gin
.5oz of Dry Vermouth
.5oz of Sweet Vermouth
1oz Orange Juice
Garnish with an Orange slice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Pretty simple enough to make. I originally used Bombay Sapphire gin and though I found it to be very light and citrusy, I didn't like the way the Bombay played with the other ingredients. Came off a little bitter on my tongue. This got me to thinking: Which Gin would work well with citrus elements. The a-ha moment came to my mind with the gin I chose for my re-introduction to gin: Hendricks!

For the second cocktail I followed the same recipe this time substituting Hendricks for the Bombay Sapphire and found the drink to be much more appealing. The cucumber notes played wonderfully with the Vermouths and the orange juice. This is a nice cocktail to have on a hot summer's day or night. Those who aren't a fan of gin might even find this drink appealing. Give it a try.

On another historical side note concerning the Bronx Cocktail, the New York Times printed an article on September 24, 1911 on how then President William Taft was travelling out West and caused a stir by having Bronx Cocktails during breakfast to the horror of many of the Missouri clergymen. You read the entire entry in the following image:



So go out there and have a Bronx cocktail at breakfast time and piss off all the clergymen you want like President Taft once did. LOL.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla