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.
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)
SOURCE: DAVID WONDRICH, IMBIBE!
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.