22 April 2009

Benito vs. the Cocktail: Bijou

A while back, MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow mixed a Bijou on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. (Watch the video!) Maddow is a fan of the classic aspects of mixology, and I'm glad she's out there spreading the gospel on some of the lesser-known cocktails. Someone has to take a stand against the flood of sugary, neon-colored abominations popular with kids today.

For the first attempt, I followed Maddow's recipe:

Bijou Cocktail
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Sweet Red Vermouth
1 oz. Chartreuse
Stir in a shaker with ice, and strain into a martini glass. Add a dash or two of orange bitters.

(The labels were obscured in the video, but it looks like she was using Regan's Orange Bitters #6. Also, I prefer to add bitters to the glass, not the shaker--no need to dilute those or let any of the essence remain behind in the melting ice.)

The result was heavily aromatic with a deep licorice element, and big green flavors from the dose of chlorophyll in the Chartreuse. This has a big percentage of alcohol, so watch out. It's got a unique and distinct flavor, but you might want to make one for yourself before pouring a dozen for a cocktail party. A Manhattan is a similar cocktail that's a lot more approachable for most folks.

When I first saw New Amsterdam Gin, I was hesitant. I'd read a few reviews that described it as "gin for people that don't like gin", and as someone that is happy to drink straight such lovely gins like Citadelle and Hendrick's, I saw no reason to try this newcomer. But my friend Fredric tried it out, and with my trust in his experienced palate, I took the leap. It's nice and smooth with a citrus element to it. Not the most complex gin out there, but it's good for the price and excellent for cocktails.

Chartreuse is a powerful, herbal, French liqueur originally made by Carthusian monks and currently produced under deep secrecy as to the ingredients. This bottle was kindly provided by my friend Paul, who got really interested when I first mentioned the recipe. It's flavor is quite intense, and so for comparison I made a more modern adaptation of the Bijou, using 1 part Chartreuse, 1 part Sweet Red Vermouth, and 4 parts Gin. This is much smoother and provides the same Bijou flavor in a much lighter fashion.

If you want to try one of these at home, be cautioned: a 750 mL bottle of Chartreuse costs $55 and isn't necessarily as versatile as say, Dry White Vermouth. Of course, my living room is starting to look like a Victorian pharmacy, making this an incredible gift that I'll really use for cocktail research. For those unwilling to take the plunge, keep your eyes open. If you're in a well-stocked bar that leans more towards the older style of cocktails, and you see the four ingredients, kindly ask if the bartender will make one for you, and let your taste buds travel back one hundred years.


fredric koeppel said...

thanks for the mention and the link. mixing cocktails on late night television! how civilized ....

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh I think I would dig that drink, Gin is my drink and I LOVE Patis so licorice is one of those happy flavors for me, gonna have my favorite bar make one for me!

Benito said...


The wild part is that with the cocktail recipes she's not promoting a book, any particular brand, or anything related to her job. She just really loves talking about classic cocktails, and is using her media appearances as a bully pulpit.

I'm trying to imagine something similar with wine. Yes, Gary Vaynerchuk has done the talk show circuit, but he's all about wine and has a few books out there (congrats, Gary V!). This is more like if The Amazing Kreskin spent part of every appearance on Johnny Carson talking about different wine regions.

Benito said...


If you find a bar that will make you one, let me know what you think of the cocktail. I'll warn you: this is sweeter, richer, and deeper than pastis. Think more like Jagermeister or absinthe rather than the delicate flavors of pastis.