Earlier this week, Rachel Maddow's appearance with Jimmy Fallon sent countless thirsty web-surfers Googling for the Bijou Cocktail. I consider this a public service on her part: the Bijou is one of those full-flavored cocktails that defined drinking in the late 19th century, with the kind of big, elaborate character that fell out of favor once vodka martinis and Bud Light came to dominate the bar.
The earliest listing I know of for the Bijou is in Harry Johnson's Bartender's Manual, which was first published in 1900. With equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and green Chartreuse, accompanied by a dash of orange bitters, the Bijou is bombastically herbaceous—too much so, some might say. If you find yourself fitting into this camp, there's no need to turn away from the Bijou; the recipe is easily updated for 21st-century palates by raising the amount of gin by a half ounce, and by rolling back the other two ingredients by the same amount. This will result in a somewhat drier, crisper drink with all the flavorful interplay of the original.
Whichever way you decide to play it, the Bijou is worth seeking out. Thanks to Rachel Maddow, this may just be the drink guests are talking about this weekend.
- 1 ounce London dry gin
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 ounce green Chartreuse
- 1 dash orange bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with cracked ice. Stir well for 20 seconds and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and use as garnish.
For a more modern version, use 1 1/2 ounces gin, 1/2 ounce vermouth, and 1/2 ounce Chartreuse.