Toast to New York’s grit and cocktail history with The Bronx: a lesser-known classic that’s on the rise.
Everyone knows the Manhattan — but what about the other classic serves named in honour of New York’s boroughs and neighbourhoods? From the Queens and the Brooklyn to the Red Hook and the Staten Island Ferry, there are plenty of ways to toast to the Big Apple. Today, we’re highlighting one of our favourites: the Bronx.
The Bronx and its namesake cocktail have a few things in common. Both tend to be overlooked in favour of (the) Manhattan, and both have suffered from less-than-favourable reputations in the past.
Though the serve was invented prior to Prohibition, it became a speakeasy favourite in the 1920s, and all that low-grade, bathtub gin tarnished its reputation. But after a long period of indignity, the drink is at last winning new acclaim and attention.
Oddly, the Bronx’s name doesn’t, technically, originate with the borough itself. Rather, it was named for the Bronx Zoo, which became the largest metropolitan zoo in the country when it opened in 1899.
The Bronx was named in honour of the Bronx Zoo because, as its creator explained, ‘Customers used to tell me of the strange animals they saw after a lot of mixed drinks.’
As the story goes, Johnnie Solon, head bartender at the Waldorf-Astoria, was the one to create the Bronx in 1906. As the Waldorf-Astoria’s historian A.S. Crockett recounted, Solon had been making Duplexes — the bar’s then-signature — when a customer requested a new drink off the cuff. And so, he set about mixing two jiggers of gin with orange juice and two kinds of vermouth. It was an instant hit: so much so that, as word spread, the bar began going through several cases of oranges each day.
And the name? As Solon recounted it, “I had been at the Bronx Zoo a day or so before, and 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.” And thus, the Bronx was born.
You can think of the Bronx as a perfect Martini — that’s a Martini with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, not an exceptionally well-made one — mixed with orange juice.
When making yourself a Bronx, opt for freshly squeezed orange juice — it makes a big difference.
To contemporary ears, orange juice may sound like a slightly strange classic cocktail ingredient, but here it really works. As cocktail historian Dave Wondrich writes, “The Bronx must not be judged as an evening bracer, a proper cocktail, but rather as a midday swelter-tamer. As such, it’s delightful: clean, simple, and very, very refreshing.”
Making your own? Follow our recipe below to indulge in some late-winter, liquid sun. And do squeeze your own orange juice for this. It may sound labour-intensive, but the stuff from the carton simply isn’t as delicious.
Recipe: The Bronx