A Lost Classic (Brunch Time – Episode 2)

Bronx CocktailI have to credit Eric Felten for turning me on to this cocktail, back in….well, quite a while ago. For those that aren’t familiar, Eric had a cocktail column in The Wall Street Journal for some years called “How’s Your Drink?” and wrote a great eponymous book.

Like many pre-Prohibition cocktails, the Bronx has many origin stories. But how did such a great, versatile cocktail fall so far, so fast? I guess you could blame trending tastes. I mean, California grew mostly Italian grape varieties prior to 1920, and then pivoted to French varietals after the government suspended it’s “war on alcohol”. Likewise, cocktail culture was slow to rebound post-Prohibition; and by the time it did, tastes had changed. For those of us that prefer our drinks more complex, changed for the worse in general. Thanks Smirnoff.

And the Bronx is as versatile as Lenny Kravitz. A burlier brunch alternative to mimosas. A summer-afternoon-on-the-pool-deck thirst quencher. An elegant late-night option when a martini is too strong, a beer too weak, and anything else just too tart or sweet or heavy or light or….

Essentially, a Bronx is a Perfect Martini with some OJ added. It can be served in any format – from on-the-rocks in a plastic pool cup to up in a crystal coupe. It can be garnished with an orange wheel, wedge, flamed peel, or not at all. And while it tastes balanced, elegant, and refined it doesn’t have to look that way to be enjoyed. It can even be made by-the-pitcher for brunch or parties.

Bronx Cocktail

2 oz gin (London dry)
1-1/4 oz orange juice
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz dry vermouth
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters (optional)

Shake well and strain into your vessel of choice. Garnish as desired.

I prefer Tanqueray (or even Gordon’s) for Gin/Tonics, and I personally have a few different gins in my liquor cabinet. But if I had to have a single gin, it would be Beefeater. It is moderately priced, widely available, makes a decent gin/tonic, and works really well in a variety of gin-based cocktails (including the Bronx). And yes, I keep it around for this purpose.

Side Note: This is another area where fancy liquors not only waste money but often make your cocktails worse. I love botanical-heavy Hendrix and Bombay Sapphire, but they don’t work as well in these types of applications. And many Americanand boutique gins are just too unique to mix into classic cocktails like this without skewing the final product.

While fresh-squeezed orange juice makes a fantastic Bronx (and you should try it once), any of the premium not-from-concentrate OJ’s are a very satisfactory substitution. I often use Simply Orange (pulp free for me), and it is available in supermarkets across the U.S.

I did a post on vermouth some time ago. Since that time there has been a flood of boutique vermouths to hit the market – Cocchi and Carpano are especially popular with the craft cocktail crowd (and for good reason). However, given that an open bottle of vermouth has a shelf-life of a month or so, most people don’t consume enough at home to justify having multiple brands around. So I’ll say this: If you have a Carpano Antica that you like, use that for your Bronx. There’s no need to buy an additional bottle. And if you don’t, Martini & Rossi (both dry and sweet) work just fine in this application. I even buy half-bottles when I can find them to reduce waste.

Bronx by the Pitcher

1 bottle (750ml) London dry gin
1 pint (2 cups) orange juice
3-1/4 oz sweet vermouth
3-1/4 oz dry vermouth

Mix in a pitcher without ice the morning of the party. Leave on the counter. Shake 4 oz serving in groups of 1-3 to keep the ice melt consistent and fresh. For brunch you can even serve these in champagne flutes. Makes ~10 servings

Depending on the situation, I like to add a little bitters to my Bronx. Technically, this makes it a Tax Day Cocktail. But I’m not one for fancy labels. Typically, if this is a nightcap served up, bitters are in it. If it is a brunch or afternoon refresher, I serve it on the rocks with a garnish and no bitters.

Also, this is a cocktail that you can order in many bars. While I wouldn’t try it at the Double Down Saloon, you definitely don’t have to be at a craft cocktail bar to get a functional Bronx.

And if you’re historically inclined and want to try the cocktails named after all 5 boroughs (they exist):

  • Substitute pineapple juice for the OJ and drink a Queens
  • Make a Manhattan with dry vermouth, Maraschino liquor and Amer Picon bitters and you have a Brooklyn
  • Make a highball with Malibu Rum and Pineapple and you have a Staten Island
(Yes, I know I posted the Bronx recipe earlier, as part of the Gin tasting results. But I felt I didn’t do this great summer drink justice.)

About Paul

Having been passionate about cocktail craft for many years, I've recently been coerced into sharing my insights and experiences. This blog is my first attempt at that goal.
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