5. Bronx cocktail

16 Jul

She ended with a capricious gesture which might have meant anything ineffable, or an order for a Bronx cocktail.

— Robert W. Chambers, “The Common Law: A Story of Love and the Struggle against Tradition”, Cosmopolitan, vol. 50 (December 1910 – May 1911), pp. 741-58 (p. 756).

Espy would laugh and offer Ike a Bronx cocktail. Surrounded by a sherry with an egg and a sherry without an egg and a Bronx cocktail, Ike felt himself the beloved monarch of all he surveyed.

— Jane Murr, Marble and Mud (Westport, CT: Compo Press, 1935), p. 37.

You may remember Nick Charles’  advice in The Thin Man (1934): “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now, a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.” Alas, rhythmic variation appears to have no material effect on the taste of the finished cocktail. Here’s the recipe as it is printed in the Savoy Cocktail Book:

The Juice of 1/4 orange.

1/4 French Vermouth.

1/4 Italian Vermouth.

1/2 Dry Gin.

More modern recipes up the measure of orange juice. In The Essential Cocktail, Dale De Groff recommends as much as 1 oz. That leads to a drink altogether too orangey—perfect for palates used to bland Screwdrivers and other “cocktails” heavy on the fruit juice, but significantly less interesting than the original proportions. It’s all about the way that hint of citrus blends with the different vermouths.

The Bronx is usually attributed to one of two authors: either a restaurateur from the eponymous borough, Joseph S. Sormani, whose obituary in the New York Times credits him with the cocktail (New York Times, August 17, 1947, pg. 17), or, according to Albert Stevens Crockett, Johnnie Solon, a bartender at the Manhattan Hotel (which means the Bronx was invented in Manhattan!). Challenged by a customer to create something new, Solon built on the Duplex cocktail and came up with the Bronx, naming his drink after the zoo, which he had visited a day or two before (Albert Stevens Crockett, The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book [New York: Dodd, Mead, 1934], p 41).

Long before the cause of Sormani and Solon was championed, however, the Cincinnati Times-Star had already identified the originator of the Bronx as one Charles A. Beam:

In 1899, in Hahn’s café, in Park Row, Charles A. Beam concocted and set upon the bar the first Bronx cocktail. Now you can order one with confidence and get it with prompt familiarity in any part of the civilized world. It first was called the “Twentieth Century”. This name was abandoned because a man who had had four or five of them couldn’t repeat his order with the necessary certitude and ease.

A name was wanted that would present no elocutionary difficulties at the critical stage. So it was called “The Bronx”. Notice the monosyllabic simplicity and enunciatory ease of the name. A man can keep on ordering them when he can’t give his address.

It’s probably not true, but, well, the explanation of the name is just as unconvincing than Crockett’s. The real point of the article, though, was not to remind the newspaper’s readers of Beam’s past glories, bur rather to inform them of his latest mixological endeavour, namely “The Queen’s”.

The “Queen’s” is an improvement on the Bronx. It has scenery and things in which the Bronx is lacking. It appeals to the eye as well as to the palate. It also enables the recipient to enjoy in part the creative thrill. He gets to stir it.

Here, for the first time in print, are the directions for making the “Queens’s”:

The “set up” consists of an old-fashioned toddy glass, well polished, containing a cube of clear ice and a small piece each of pineapple and orange. The pineapple and orange should be on opposite sides of the cube of ice, which should be carefully placed, so as to stand squarely in the glass, The “set up” is placed directly in front of the recipient, where his eye may fall restfully upon it while the bartender proceeds with the composition of the drink. The bartender fills a barspoon with grenadine syrup and drips the syrup upon the ice, leaving the spoon in the glass. Then, in a shaker, the bartender frappes, in sufficient amount to about galf fill the glass, a combination of dry gin and Italian and French vermouth—40 per cent of gin and 20 per cent of each vermouth. He pours the mixture over the ice, grenadine and fruit in the toddy glass. The recipient stirs gently and drinks. This is the “Queens”. The first one will convince you that a worthy successor of the Bronx has been found. The second will do even more. And after that well, you must use your own judgement after that.

— J. M. Allison, “The Queen’s”, repr. in Mixer and Server, vol. 23:10 (October 1914), p. 62.

The Queen’s, then, is a tarted version of the Bronx. And it caught on: Harry Craddock took the recipe with him to London and later included it in the Savoy Cocktail Book, but leaving out the grenadine:

½ Slice of Crushed Pineapple.

¼ French Vermouth.

¼ Italian Vermouth.

½ Gin.

Savoy Cocktail Book (London: Constable, 1937 [1930]), p. 130.

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