It’s National Martini Day, hurrah! But we’re doing something a little different: a popular Prohibition take on the King of Cocktails, it’s the Bronx!
You really wouldn’t want to drink a Martini during Prohibition unless you could get hold of some authentic imported gin which would have been very expensive. So instead you’d have to use a rough bathtub gin, which might be flavoured with turpentine or sulphuric acid (mmmm, tangy), with nothing to temper it except something labelled vermouth (very likely a mixture of grape must, sugar and more rough alcohol). No wonder cocktails with high sugar and fruit content became popular during those sad years. They would hide the taste of the alcohol.
Take the Bronx, for example. It was invented in 1906 at the Old Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York by a barman called Johnny Solon, but it came into its own when good liquor became scarce. Get hold of some orange juice, some “vermouth” and some alcohol that vaguely smelt of juniper, and you could make yourself a palatable cocktail. Especially if you served it really cold. The Bronx is basically a sweet Martini made with orange juice. No wonder the Bronx was the cocktail of the 1920s. It’s the sort of thing that could be made by the bucketful for your Gatsby-esque parties.
It’s rather gone out of fashion now. There’s a National Martini Day and a Negroni Week, but nobody designates time to enjoy the Bronx. Poor Bronx. Perhaps it’s because we now have good gin coming out of our ears. There’s no need to disguise the flavour. Then there’s the borough itself, which doesn’t have the glamour of Manhattan or the hip of Brooklyn. Plus it’s an easy cocktail to make badly with concentrated orange juice and cheap cooking vermouth. But if you use freshly squeezed orange juice, or my own favourite, blood orange juice, then it’s marvellous concoction. Then when choosing your booze, think orange. I’m using Brighton Gin which has orange peel as one of its botanicals, and two citrus-heavy vermouths, Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato and Noilly Prat Extra Dry.
To turn a Bronx into a Queens, you swap the orange juice for pineapple juice, or in some recipes combine the two, or in others add a bit of lemon to the pineapple. Or you can add a few drops of Angostura bitters in which case it is called an Income Tax (who comes up with these names?). Anyway, enough variations, let’s make a Bronx:
Shake all the ingredients hard with lots of ice and strain into a cold Martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist and shake a wicked calf.