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How to Make the Gin and Orange Juice Drink

How to Make the Gin and Orange Juice Drink

The Bronx Cocktail. God, where do you even start?

People used to be conflicted about the Bronx cocktail, but they’re not anymore. I’ll tell you why in a minute, but first, a bit of context: From its rise around 1907 all the way through the 1930s, the Bronx was incandescently popular, one of the biggest cocktails in America, and what’s fun this particular drink is that for almost every quote you find talking about its popularity, you can also find another quote insulting it. 

There is, for instance, the Cincinnati Times-Star, writing in 1914 how the drink was recently invented but already you can get it “with prompt familiarity in any part of the civilized world.” Such praise is tempered by a 1916 line in Samuel E. Davie’s English Butler’s guide, who dismissively assumes you’d serve the Bronx at a “ladies’ lunch.” Or there’s Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Drinking Recipes in 1934, asserting that the Bronx is the third-most popular cocktail in America, and that same year, Esquire, listing the “worst ten” drinks of the previous decade, puts the Bronx right at the top.

Why all the animosity? Probably the same reason it was popular: Because the Bronx is made of not only gin, sweet, and dry vermouths, but was also the first major cocktail to incorporate orange juice, which then, as now, was a polarizing choice. Lemon and lime juices were everywhere, and no one seemed to mind; they bring tension and balance, and a properly made “sour” is an elemental and satisfying drink. But orange juice doesn’t have their acidic punch and strikes a significant proportion of the drinking public as not only flaccid and boring but contemptuously so, like a weak handshake. Orange juice was for breakfast, not for cocktails. It’s amusing to see this reflected in the culture—a 1913 play, for example, features two women discussing marriage prospects, and one character, Doris, dismisses one of her suitors for looking “as weak as a Bronx cocktail.” Another is a two-reel western from 1919, wherein ordering a Bronx is sufficient provocation to get a gun pointed at you (“you’ll have whiskey—in a mug—and you’ll like it”, says the enraged gunman).

I mentioned that the public isn’t conflicted anymore about the Bronx cocktail, and that’s true—there’s no conflict because now, most everyone just hates it. The original recipe does indeed make a pretty bad drink (this is fixable! See below!) and a survey of available recipes, when people give it the time of day at all, shows that everyone is basically seeing how much they can tweak it and still call it a Bronx. The classic Bronx is a full pour of gin, and about half that much of sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, and orange juice. Some people reduce the orange juice to almost nothing, making essentially a “Perfect” Martini, some people reduce the vermouth to almost nothing, making a “mixology” version of gin and juice, some add bitters, some add triple sec, and some ditch the dry vermouth entirely. One intrepid blogger in 2011 banged his head against this cocktail for an incredible 17 posts across an entire calendar month. It’s a difficult drink.

Why talk about it at all? Because one, it’s an important cocktail, and two, as we’ve seen with the Harvey Wallbanger and so many others, any drink that was this popular for this long has greatness in it somewhere, we just need to coax it out. Make it right and the Bronx is bright and refreshing, juicy and exuberant, a little liquid sunshine with just enough herbal complexity to make it grown up. It’s the perfect cocktail for the type of weather for which biting into a fresh orange just seems like a great idea, and good enough, at absolute minimum, to recommend without insulting it in the same breath.

Bronx

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 0.25 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 0.25 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1.25 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 1-2 dashes orange bitters, optional

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake on ice for eight to 10 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe, and garnish with an orange peel.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS

Shannon Sturgis

Recipe Variations: I made literally every recipe I could find, and the above (most closely echoing the recipe in the “Bartender’s Choice” app by the Attaboy guys) was by far my favorite. More vermouth-forward recipes just failed to come together for me. This recipe is about as orange-forward as you’re likely to find, emphasizing the bright sunniness of the drink. I’d drink this over a Screwdriver 10 times out of 10.

Gin: This doesn’t have that sweet and sour push and pull from lemon juice, which would distract from the alcohol content, so the best choice for a Bronx is a softer, easier gin, nothing too high proof. Plymouth, at 41.2 percent, is a great choice, a little fuller bodied and softer around the edges than its big brothers, Tanqueray or Beefeater.

Sweet Vermouth: It’s only a quarter ounce, but I liked Carpano Antica significantly better than its competitors here. Carpano’s power helps fill the drink out a bit, and its subtle vanilla complements the orange.

Dry Vermouth: Doesn’t matter what kind. It’s such a small amount of such a subtle ingredient, use whatever dry vermouth you have. The only thing I’ll add is that you might then think you can take it out entirely, but you can’t—it’s providing a quiet floral herbaceousness that the drink needs. You might think you don’t taste it, but you’d miss it if it weren’t there.

See Also

Orange Juice: Of all the citruses, orange juice is the one with the biggest difference between fresh juiced and even one day old. It is vital to juice fresh oranges, ideally right before making this drink. If all you have is Tropicana, or orange juice that you juiced yesterday, I wouldn’t make a Bronx. There is an exuberance to truly fresh orange juice, and in the Bronx, that exuberance is a necessary ingredient.

Garnish: This drink needs an orange peel more than any drink I’ve ever had—if the complaint was that it was too soft, the zestiness of the orange peel gives it a much-welcome edge. Using a vegetable peeler, take a bit of the peel of an orange, trying to get as little white pith as possible. Hold the outside of the peel over the top of the cocktail and give it a squeeze—zesty orange oils in the peel will lay themselves across the top of the drink, profoundly improving it.

Orange Bitters: I’ll say you don’t have to, but what orange bitters will do is double down on that zesty character from the garnish peel. I liked this with a dash of orange bitters and will make it like that in the future, but it’s not the magic bullet or anything, I liked it without as well.

Angostura Bitters: Many people will put a couple dashes of Ango in here, making what is technically an Income Tax Cocktail. I like Angostura Bitters and I like them here, but for me, a couple dashes of Angostura change the drink so profoundly, it no longer feels like a Bronx to me. Also, for what it’s worth, I actually prefer my version.



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