Monthly Archives: June 2016

A Bronx? Yes thonx

So Ogden Nash wrote almost these words in a poem for the New Yorker in 1931.220px-ogden_nash

He was, of course, referring not to the cocktail (which I can only assume that the writer of “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” would have wholeheartedly approved of), but to one of New York’s five boroughs when he wrote “The Bronx? No Thonx” a witty but cruel sentiment he publicly recanted some decades later.

Nash wasn’t alone in deriding The Bronx, and for years it had a reputation of being a rough, working class borough.

bonfirewolfIn Tom Wolfe’s 1987 novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, the problems start for Wall Street Bond Trader Sherman McCoy when he takes the wrong exit and finds himself in The Bronx. McCoy panics and hits a young African-American man with his car before fleeing the scene.

The book was a reflection of the excesses of Wall Street and the social inequities in NYC in the 1980s (a bit like Sydney in 2016).

Incidentally, McCoy drinks Sidecars not Bronx Cocktails.

I don’t know what Roxy Jacenko drinks.

32466_ctek_indie80s_truelove_613x463Rather than watching the just ok 1990 movie of the same name though, I’d highly recommend a bit of a Bronx history and language lesson in the form of 1989’s movie True Love about a young Italian-American couple Donna and Michael planning their wedding in The Bronx.

Watch it if only for the genius idea of dying the mashed potato the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses. In their case, a rainbow palate.

If I hadn’t eloped, I would totally have made my nearest and dearest enjoy pale blue mashed potato.

Being the 80s, the drinks would have been terrible too. Not a Bronx Cocktail in sight.

I had not heard of the Bronx Cocktail until recently, in preparation for World Cocktail Day on May 13.

Breaking with usual SSM protocol – yes, we have protocol here, rich traditions dating back as far as last December – I One-for-the-road-tested a cocktail that is not on the International Bartenders Association’s list of Official Cocktails.

If you’re worried that I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s borrow some wisdom from82da9b00-9612-0133-9835-0a6c20e5e327 one of The Bronx’s finest, J-Lo – don’t get put off by rules I break, I’m still Carolyn from the blog.

Described by David Wondrich (in his 2007 book Imbibe!) as having done in the early 20th century what the Cosmopolitan did at the end – made it safe for a “nice, middle-class person to have a Cocktail before a meal” – I stumbled across the Bronx Cocktail in descriptions of the very first cocktail party.

We’ve touched on this briefly in THIS POST, but in May 1917 in St Louis, Missouri, a Mrs Julius S. Walsh Jnr invited a few people over for drinks at midday on a Sunday.

The whole shooting match finished – as planned – at 1pm, but in that single hour, The St o-cocktails-facebookPaul Pioneer Press reported that the 50 guests downed cocktails including Martinis, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Clover Leafs, Gin Fizzes, Mint Juleps, Sazeracs and Bronx Cocktails and had a rip-roaring time.

How could they not have?

The Bronx is essentially a Perfect Martini with some orange juice.

A Perfect Martini (as we’ve discussed in one of my favourite posts HERE) has equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

It also has a gin to total vermouth ratio of 2:1, compared with the IBA’s recipe for a Dry Martini which calls for a 7:1 ratio with the vermouth being exclusively dry (with other recipes calling for 10:1 or 15:1).

A Perfect Martini is a little sweet for my liking but a great way to have a Martini if you find the other too astringent.

It’s also not as strong as a Dry Martini. Generally speaking, the alcohol content of vermouth is 15-18%, compared with gin’s alcohol 2016-06-10 20.24.02.jpgcontent which is 40 – 50%.

My maths career was short-lived, but if you have a perfect martini, you’ll have a drink that’s somewhere north of 32% alcohol by volume (ABV), compared to a Dry Martini that weighs in at more than 37% ABV.

Compare them both with a glass of wine which is about 12.5% ABV.

The Bronx doesn’t seem as strong as a Perfect Martini because of the juice, but that’s deceptive.

So much so that the first alcoholic drink one William Griffith Wilson can remember having was when a socialite pressed a Bronx Cocktail into his hand during WW1. After his second, the shy Wilson said he felt that his “gaucheries and ineptitudes magically disappeared”.

If the name doesn’t seem familiar, the organisation he founded certainly will.  Better known as Bill W, Wilson was a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.

So take it easy.

Here’s your basic Bronx Cocktail recipe – it’s an easy to cocktail to make at home and to make well.

2016-05-13 18.51.2630mL Gin

15mL Sweet vermouth

15mL Dry vermouth

30mL Orange juice – squeeze it yourself (or get your guests to do it), the finished product is so worth the additional effort

Shake or stir with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with orange slice or twist



In 1934 film, The Thin Man (a bit like Hart to Hart with a wealthy husband and wife crime-solving team – and if you watch THIS CLIP, aren’t they just the teensiest bit like Malcolm and Lucy?), William Powell coaches the bartenders to shake cocktails with a rhythm – martinis in waltz-time and Bronx in two-step time.

Watch and learn.

Back in 1934, the first full year post-Prohibition, the Bronx came in 3rd on a list of the 10 most popular cocktails, behind only Martinis and Manhattans (which you now know to shake to foxtrot time).

It was an official IBA cocktail but has since been dropped (for reasons unknown and doubtlessly unjust) and has fallen into relative obscurity.

Its origins are disputed but there is credible evidence to suggest that it wasn’t named after the borough, rather the Bronx Zoo. The theory behind this is that one of the bartenders who claims to have invented it (Johnnie Solon at the Waldorf) had been to the Zoo earlier in the week and made some parallel between animals in the zoo and the behaviour of some of the Waldorf regulars.

What a wag.

Regardless, there are five cocktails for the five boroughs of New York.

2016-05-24 20.12.14.jpgManhattan – rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, maraschino cherry (pictured)

Brooklyn – like a Manhattan but with maraschino liqueur and Amer Picon bitters instead of Angostura (I’m not trying that and you can’t make me – send me a photo if you do though)

The Bronx Cocktail

Queens – like a Bronx but with pineapple instead of orange juice

And finally, deliciously…

Staten Island Ferry – simply a Malibu Rum and pineapple juice. I love this because at about logo-164x128the same time as Donna and Michael were considering potato hue options, I was favouring quite a zany drink order when I’d go to Friday’s on Brisbane River every Friday night.

I’d order, not one, but TWO drinks – a Malibu and pineapple (I wish I’d known to ask for a Staten Island Ferry) and a Southern Comfort and Lemonade. (This was long before anyone asked – and failed – to get me to call it SoCo).

I’d put one in each hand and sip simultaneously through two straws for a sugary-sensation and a super-cool image-builder in one hit.

You can totally use it if you want.

Ah, the 80s.

Setting aside this delightful stroll down memory lane, from a cocktail perspective, there’s only two NY boroughs worth exploring, the Manhattan and its less-known but delicious cousin, the Bronx Cocktail.



PS Hey, we’ve got a  Facebook page now – upload your cocktail adventures. Sharing is caring folks

An Ode to Gin (with apologies to Dr Seuss)

It’s World Gin Day on Saturday, across the whole planet,

So get out and drink your fair share dammit!

This juniper liquor, so crisp and delicious,Bloody Mary cropped

And with the right garnish, undeniably nutritious.


I’ll list many ways to enjoy this fine spirit,

And if you think of another, well I want to hear it.

Before Gin was Genever, so thanks to the Dutch,

For foresight and cleverness that’s given so much.

Now there’s Plymouth, there’s Sloe, or a classic London Dry,

And boutique local gins, all worth a try.


2016-05-13 18.51.26A Bijou, a Bloodhound, a Bronx or a Rickey,

Yes, choosing gin cocktails can sometimes be tricky.

A Fizz, a Tom Collins,

Or a Singapore Sling,

A Pink Lady, a Gimlet,

Perhaps The Last Word’s your thing?




Or maybe you fancy a Martini that’s Dirty?

Try Nicholson’s, from London, since 1730.

Or if you want gin from a Down Under Land

Try Archie Rose or Four Pillars in your Monkey Gland.2016-02-29 13.14.30


You can sashay on up to your bartender Toni,

And ask for a London Fog,

A Salty Dog,

Or a classic Negroni.


2015-12-06 17.23.46-2

Just remember to pause on Gin’s special day,

And savour its fabulousness in your own way.

Because Gin’s been delighting for hundreds of years

It deserves to be toasted, so here’s to Gin – Cheers!




Negroni, how do I love thee? Let me Count the ways

If you visit Sydney, you need to know this.

If you live in Sydney, you need to be reminded of this.

Just beside the northern pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a public swimming pool
2014-10-23 10.46.17that offers some of the best – and most peaceful – views of the Harbour and the Opera House. It’s heated, salty instead of chloriny and is rarely as busy as it deserves to be. With a Negroni-buzz, it is paradise.

But they have no bar.

Upstairs, over-looking the pool and with even better views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, is a restaurant that could conceivably claim to be one of the inspirations behind this blog and to which my thoughts return as I contemplate next week’s Negroni Week.

Who knew the Julian calendar was packed full of so many cocktaily days we need to mark? 2016-02-29 13.14.30.jpgGreat, isn’t it?

But it is Negroni Week that has brought forward the post on the favourite cocktail of Muddler Laura Dalrymple of Sydney providore Feather and Bone (if you care about where your food comes from, check out their website HERE and if you have a cocktail request, let me know).

Aqua Dining has sadly changed their signature Negroni offering (the one with the blood orange juice ice ball), but I will continue to reflect affectionately on it and will keep asking for it until they get sick of me. You always remember your first.

Ask most people what’s in their Negroni – the cocktail Conde Nast magazine has described as being this decade’s response to the Cosmopolitan – and they’ll likely list gin first. And while gin is one of the three ingredients of a Negroni – the others being, in equal parts, Campari and Vermouth – it is perhaps more historically correct to call it a Campari cocktail. Or even a Vermouth cocktail.

2016-05-06 20.24.52See, back in the early 1900s, the Negroni’s precursor was the Americano. The Americano contains Campari, Vermouth and soda water (like the one on the left from Gardel’s Bar).

Legend has it, a bloke with the fabulous handle of Count Camillo Negroni sauntered up to the bar at Caffe Casoni in Florence and asked the bartender to beef up his Americano.

Camillo had just returned from a stint in the wild west of the USA where he acquired a taste for strong liquor as he plied his skills as a rodeo clown (bet you didn’t see that one coming). Fast forward to Florence in February (I don’t know if it was February but the alliteration was too tempting) and Camillo needed a real belt.

So bartender (most reports name him as Fosco Scarselli but the Campari website says it was Luca Picchi) replaced the soda water with gin and switched out the lemon twist for orange. Hey presto, a star is born.

So perhaps it is a gin cocktail since that’s what changed and since that’s what really lifts the Americano, but Campari has pretty well stamped a claim on it – including launching Negroni Week with Imbibe Magazine in 2013.

Celebrated English writer and drinker Kingsley Amis wrote of the Negroni that “it has the power, rare with drinks and indeed with anything else, of cheering you up”.

Negroni Week should make it doubly so.

The basic thrust of Negroni Week is that you go to a participating bar (find your nearest HERE), order a Negroni and a $1 from each goes to charity.

It is at this point in most posts that I make you watch an 80s movie. I’ve struggled to find a lot of references to the Negroni in movies, primarily because it isn’t an American cocktail.

220px-roman_springA notable exception is the The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, a 1961 offering based on Tennessee Williams’ book of the same name from 1950 (and a 2003 telemovie remake).

The basic themes of this movie are;

  • Italians are evil and will corrupt Americans
  • Rome makes women lose their better judgement

The 1961 version stars Vivien Leigh in one of her last movie roles, and Warren Beatty in one of his first. After this, I think old Wazza was channeled into roles that called for a little less in the exotic accent department and more of the just being Warren. Quite right.

Vivien plays Karen Stone, an actress who is too old to play the roles she has become famous for (isn’t it marvellous how consistent Hollywood is? This book was written more than 60 years ago but we still let men in their 70s be sex symbols while we value female actors over 40 as much as a fungal nail infection. Amy Schumer deals with it beautifully below – white spiders people).

Anyway, Old Lady Stone’s husband dies suddenly and she is in Rome when handsome gigolo Paolo (Warren) is paid to seduce her 48 year old near-corpse. Paolo’s paycheck comes from the conniving Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales, played by scene-stealer Lotte Lenya.

THIS LINK shows a short clip (4 mins) from the movie where you can see Lenya at her fabulous best AND see Wok’s Italian’s accent at its fabulous best.

Lotte also played the sadistic Colonel Rosa Klebb in 1963’s From Russia with Love. Klebb wasrosa_klebb_by_lotte_lenya the first female villain in a Bond movie (there wasn’t another until 1999’s The World is Not Enough – female henchmen, but not a villain) and has inspired many other on-screen villains, including Mindy Lee Sterling’s Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers series.220px-frau_farbissina_apimom

Mrs Stone’s corruption is symbolically represented with her move from drinking Americanos to Negronis in the movie. A scarlet woman with a scarlet drink.

campari_no_gocce_100cl_new_low_rgb_2Until 2006, the bright red of the Campari came from carmine – crushed up cochineal insects. Those who have made a study of such things will tell you the  distinctive bitter orange taste did change – not for the better – when they replaced the carmine with artificial colouring, but it is still a fine liqueur and has provided a solution to what I call TPP.

The Pub Problem.

TPP started for me when I really threw myself into the field research component of this blog.

I love pubs, but most do not do either cocktails or wine particularly well.

Campari offers a solution. There is usually a bottle behind the bar and mixed with soda water or orange juice, makes for an aperitif that even an 18 year old can usually manage to present well.

There is a Milanese theory that you need to drink Campari three times before starting to like it and I would suggest that it needs the sweetness of the vermouth or orange juice to guide the first-timer.

At home though, a Negroni is easy to make, and easy to make well.2016-05-29 17.12.37

The recipe calls for equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth over ice with a twist of orange (even though we used a slice of orange here).

Start there and adjust your recipe to your taste.

Apparently there is a Vodka Negroni, but for mine, I would stick with the less alcoholic Americano since the vodka won’t do the job for the taste of the cocktail the way the gin does.

If you don’t like the gin, there’s also a cocktail called the Boulevardier which substitutes whiskey (almost always bourbon) for the gin.

But the one thing you can’t substitute is the Campari.

And on that, an 80s movie.

The Campari website has examples of their advertising campaigns since it was invented in 1860. Not only did they have likes of David Niven and Humphrey Bogart, but another great campaign. With Kelly Le Brock.

Campari’s webmaster allowed this comment through “During the eighties, a period of great economic and cultural growth” which says to me that the 1980s were different in Italy than they were in Brisbane.

220px-womaninredposterThe link is obviously the movie “Woman in Red” – another example of how brilliant Hollywood has been to women.

Kelly Le Brock’s skirt blows up, causing Gene Wilder’s Teddy Pierce to believe he is in love with her. Man sees woman’s underpants, man loses his mind.

Doesn’t reflect well on anyone but on the other hand, does have both Gene Wilder and  Gilda Radner, the comic who inspired most of today’s biggest female stars of comedy before her death from ovarian cancer at age 42.

So this weekend, stay in and turn your hand to Negroni making as you watch Woman in Red.

Next week though, head out to a bar listed HERE and see how the professionals compare.

And take photos of both – I want to see them.



2016-06-05 17.22.00.jpg