Blog: The Cocktail Spirit

The Bijou Cocktail, two ways

Posted on February 15, 2009 by Robert Hess

The Bijou cocktail is a simple drink made from equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth, and green Chartreuse. Many, but not all, recipes include a dash of orange bitters before being stirred up, and then strained into a cocktail glass.

It’s hard to say when this drink was first mixed up, the oldest reference in my library is from “Jack’s Manual” of 1904, but it is expected that it was most likely created during a bit of a revolution in mixology which happened during the end of the 1800’s. It was at this time that a new ingredient started making its way into a wide variety of drinks, perhaps the most famous to come out of this period are the Martini, and its older brother, the Manhattan. The new ingredient was vermouth. While it is believed the first vermouths made their way to the American shores by way of New Orleans in the 1830’s, it would take a long time for this product not only to gain popularity, but also to become an ingredient in mixed drinks. It would be sometime around the 1880’s that it’s use would spark such a sea change in what was considered a cocktail, that the more traditional cocktail would now be called the “old fashioned”.

In my recently posted episode, instead of showing off the original Bijou cocktail, instead I decided to showcase the “Ritz Bijou”. This version was served by Frank Meier, head bartender at the Paris Ritz hotel from 1921 to 1947. He documented the recipe in “The Artistry of Mixing Drinks”, published in 1936. Dale DeGroff showcases this recipe in his recently published book “The Essential Cocktail”.

Bijou
1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce green Chartreuse
1 dash of orange bitters
Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a cherry and a lemon twist.

Bijou, Ritz Version
1 1/2 ounce gin
3/4 ounce orange curacao
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
Dash of orange bitters
Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a cherry.

Comments
gaz regan 17 Feb 2009
2:55 am

Nice one, Robert.  I’ve never been too familiar with this drink, and it looks like it’s right up my alley, especially if I tinkered with the ratios in the original.

Any chance of an RSS feed for this blog?

blair frodelius 17 Feb 2009
4:48 am

Harry’s ABC references the creator of the original Bijou as good old “Harry Johnson, New Orleans”  Since Harry brags about beating “five of the most popular and scientific bartenders” during his time in New Orleans, this might place the Bijou’s date of origin circa 1869.

gaz regan 17 Feb 2009
5:35 am

And the drink is included in Johnson’s 1900 book.  I looked it up this morning.
Bijou Cocktail
(Use a large bar glass)
3/4 glass filled with shaved ice;
1/3 wine glass chartreuse (green);
1/3 wine glass vermouth (Italian);
1/3 wine glass Plymouth gin;
1 dash or orange bitters.
Mix well with a spoon, strain into a cocktail glass; add a cherry or a medium-size olive, squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top and serve.

xian 17 Feb 2009
5:35 am

Robert, the Bijou is my favorite cocktail ever since reading about it in Jason Wilson’s spirits column in the Washington Post.  I tried the Ritz Bijou last week but it didn’t have the flavor of the original for me.

SiMcGoram 17 Feb 2009
1:25 pm

A delicious drink indeed! I’ve even got bottle of the lovely aged Chartreuse (VEP) to give it a whirl tonight! Just need to get hold of some Regans’ ...

An RSS feed would be superb!

Seamus Holman 17 Feb 2009
10:29 pm

RSS feeds for blogs (be sure to get both SSN and The Cocktail Spirit) now available in the sidebar and via auto discovery.

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