Today was one that was particularly trying and aggravating, the type of Monday where before lunch I wish I could abandon my slowly puttering computer and my tedious teleconferences for a liquid lunch. My first legitimate, genuine cocktail, which I distinguish by that which was served in an actual glass, made of something not tinged with a false bubblegum-inspired fruit flavor, and consumed not in secret in a dark basement or a hushed bedroom with my friends, was a classic martini. Fine chilled gin, a touch of dry vermouth, served up with a twist. I was still a few years shy of the legal drinking age, but, as I was generally responsible, and not raised by backwards teetotalers, this posed as minor prohibition. With my limited experience in the varied and lascivious world of libations, mostly dusty unwanted items smuggled from the liquor cabinets of my friends' parents, I was not entirely sure I could muster a martini; I was not entirely sure I even actually liked the taste of alcohol, without a heavy dousing of juice or soda. When the glass was set before me, I hesitated, for a moment. In a restaurant, surrounded by smug family members, I sipped slowly, and finished my drink. I will not pretend I enjoyed it thoroughly, but, I did began my appreciation for gin and for something well-crafted that evening.
Since then, traditional, classic cocktail recipes have interested me, as well as, seemingly, nearly every other young professional in the general vicinity of a metropolitan area. While trends often cheapen a good thing, occasionally, they are welcome, if it means more attention, fresher and more lush ingredients, and better care are given to drink making. And more knowledge of the old-fashioned, original, and true recipes, ways of doing things taste impeccable then and now. Avid Wall Street Journal readers, my parents introduced me to the old How's Your Drink? columns by Eric Felton, weaving a narrative as he shares the purportedly perfect recipe for a plethora of cocktails, of any and all boozes, bitters, and garnishes. After reading his book of the same name, I learned extensive, but not dull or exhaustive, history of the art of mixing and drinking, and even felt a bit of nationalistic fervor in my love of cocktails, an American innovation.
While I still indulge in a martini, occasionally with a briny olive, frequently with the more classic twist, through Eric Felten I discovered another delicious and classic cocktail that is essentially now completely ignored: the Bronx. The Bronx, named after the zoo, not the borough, at one time ranked with the martini and the Manhattan; these three were the three in cocktails, the trifecta, the musketeers of making merry. While both the martini and the Manhattan remained mainstays in the cocktail circuit, despite, or maybe because of, the, to me, egregious and frequent substitution of vodka for the traditional gin, and the various concoctions since bastardized, the Bronx become antiquated and then forgotten. Still, when I reference the drink at some of my favorite, and reputed, cocktail bars, eyebrows are raised, or a I am met with an incredulous or condescending stare. Thankfully, the ingredients are basic and the proportions easy to remember, so, provided I have ample ice and a clean shaker, I can make my own.
1 1/2 ounces good gin
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth
twist of orange to garnish
ample ice to shake
I have never once seen the Bronx featured on any cocktail menu, whether it was the true recipe or even some distant variation thereof. Never. Then, in Frankfurt, in a land known for sweeter white wines and strong heavy beers, on a quiet street, in an unassuming Thai restaurant, which boasted of cocktails, something to always be skeptical of in Europe, where wine and beer, rightfully so, reign supreme, I found listed, as true and classic as can be, the Bronx. I was flabbergasted. After their offerings of curries, the cocktail list was the most extensive on the menu, and featured a display of some of the best of the traditional indulgences. Gimlets. Mai tais. Bloody Marys. Old Fashioneds. And the Bronx. Amidst gilded Buddha statues, rainbow silken robes cloaking lithe and aged Thai servers, and precisely angry guttural German, a bit of American heritage. The beauty of travel and exploration is learning that I can continually be surprised and invigorated with the unexpected.
(image taken from The Kitchn)