Looking back on 2016, I don’t have much in the way of reflections other than a big, fat middle finger to the year. It will go down in memory as the year that killed off about 3/4's of my music and screen childhood icons of music and screen, everybody yelled at each other a lot, and The Great British Bake Off practically dissolved.
Closing out this year is going to take something a lot more potent than champagne. Instead of bubbles, I’m thinking jewels. That is to say, the old cocktail called the Bijou.
Bijou is French for jewel, supposedly because the three ingredients in the drink are jewel-toned: gin for diamonds, sweet vermouth for rubies, and Green Chartreuse for emeralds. It sounds like a pretty getup for New Year’s Eve doesn’t it? The Bijou is believed to have been invented by Harry Johnson, a bartender in the late 19th century who wrote the eponymous Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manuel. The cocktail’s a contemporary of the original Manhattans and martinis—and it’s certainly similarly moody and strong.
The original Bijou was made with a 1-to-1-to-1 ratio, like a negroni. But, with all three ingredients being anything but shy, they kind of beat each other over the head flavor-wise, vying for your attention, and making a drink that is altogether too unctuous and herbal for modern tastes. So contemporary bartenders, as they dusted off old drinks manuals, have also dusted off and updated the drink recipe, upping the gin and dialing back the chartreuse to make a drink that’s drier and softer. But just a little.
Take your three jewels and mix them with ice, and what you are left with is a drink that I think is delicious, but also kind of brown, murky, intense, and weird. It’s kind like 2016 itself. Cheers to the coming year. I hear “there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (We miss you Leonard!)
- 1.5 ounces gin (preferably a lighter style gin, like a Plymouth Gin – when I make it I use Boreal Cedar Gin from our distillery)
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- .5 ounces Green Chartreuse
- 1 dash orange bitters
Have you heard of (or, possibly, even tried) the Bijou before? Let us know in the comments!