A Bronx: take a drink on the wild side

Philip Salter
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City A.M.’s resident cocktail expert

EACH of New York’s five boroughs – Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island – have a cocktail named in their honour. Although the Manhattan is the Big Apple, you would be well advised to go north of the border and check out the Bronx.

At root, the Bronx is a Perfect Martini (gin with sweet and dry vermouth) with the addition of orange juice. It was invented in the 1930s, when a customer challenged the bartender Johnnie Solon of the Waldorf-Astoria, located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street (where the Empire State Building now stands). A waiter said to Solon: “Why don't you get up a new cocktail? I have a customer who says you can’t do it.” He did it.

Solon wrote: “It wasn’t really named directly after the borough or the river so-called. I had been at the Bronx Zoo a day or two before, and I saw, of course, a lot of beasts I had never known. Customers used to tell me of the strange animals they saw after a lot of mixed drinks.”

Knowing the history of a drink is interesting, but it doesn’t help you to imbibe. Although making the perfect cocktail every time takes years of work, making decent cocktails isn’t as tricky as many assume.

If your a neophyte begin, perhaps, with a gin Martini; then move on to a Perfect Martini; and next a Bronx. And after a Bronx? Then make this modern variation from Ryu Okada of Kampai Cocktails.

“This modern bronx has sherry as the dry element and elderflower, and cherry heering as sweet elements” says Okada. “Gin and elderflower work beautifully bringing out the sweetness of orange, while sherry balances the dryness”, he adds.

Kampai cocktail’s modern bronx
● 35ml Gin
● 10ml Dry Sherry
● 10ml Elderflower Cordial
● 5ml Cherry Heering
● 25ml Fresh Orange Juice

■ Shake and strain into chilled martini glass
■ Garnish with a cherry and orange zest (discard the peel)

But beware, the Bronx comes with a sobering sting in the tail. It was the drink that led, in 1917, to the partial ruin of William Griffith Wilson, who went on to co-found Alcoholics Anonymous. Gin – also known as Mother’s Ruin – deserves respect. And it would be a tragedy to drink so much that you had to give it up entirely. It would be enough to drive you back to drink.