The Bijou isn’t a cocktail that frequently appears on even the hippest of speakeasy and fine cocktail bar menus, and it’s a shame that it isn’t. However, this “jewel” of a cocktail deserves proper shine, and we think it fits well with the temps getting cooler.
Harry Johnson, known as the “father of professional bartending,” introduced the Bijou in his book, New and Improved Bartender Manual, first published in 1900. Basing the drink’s concept on the French word “bijoux” for jewelry, the cocktail’s gin represents diamond, the sweet vermouth stands in for ruby, and the green chartreuse for emerald.
Back in Johnson’s day, the cocktails were big and boozy, and his recipe called for equal parts of the drink to be stirred over ice and served up. The drink fell out of favor after the 13-year period of Prohibition in the United States, only to be forgotten despite being close cousins to the enduring Martini and Manhattan cocktails, as many have noted before.
Dale DeGroff, who probably knows more about cocktails than anyone, discovered the recipe in Johnson’s book in the 1980s but softened its boozy approach by toning down the green chartreuse and sweet vermouth and bringing the gin forward.
While DeGroff’s version, now commonly used in most bars, certainly makes it a more approachable cocktail, especially for the chartreuse novice, those of us who love the French liqueur might appreciation the version we put together. For this piece, we made both versions of the cocktail and depending on what you’re going for, either approach works.
Below, we’ll feature both recipes.
Dale DeGroff’s Bijou:
1.5 oz gin
0.5 oz sweet vermouth
0.5 oz green Chartreuse
1 dash, orange bitters
Combine the gin (a London dry is preferred), vermouth, Chartreuse, and the bitters dash in a mixing glass with ice, stirring for 15-30 seconds. Transfer the blended and chilled drink to your cocktail glass, take a lemon peel and twist to get those oils and aromatics in there, and serve it right away. A garnish such as a Luxardo maraschino cherry is fine, but it doesn’t break or make the drink.
Here’s what DeGroff’s Bijou looked like…
Updated Bijou Recipe:
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz green Chartreuse
1 oz sweet vermouth (could even match the Chartreuse pour)
1-2 dashes orange bitters
Follow the same method as the DeGroff version and garnish if you like. Then enjoy.
Here’s what the updated version looked like…
So the verdict? Again, it’s all in preference. If you love gin –and why wouldn’t you– then DeGroff’s version makes that spirit the star. There’s gin still prominent in the updated version but takes a back seat to the vermouth but not in any dominating way. And like any recipe, different variations will bring about different results.
As always, sip safely and surely, friends.