The Bijou is a more obscure classic than others. It’s as old as the Manhattan and Martinez, but with much less fame than its classic brethren.
The Bijou (which is French for jewel) first appeared in the 1882 Bartender’s Manual by Harry Johnson. The timing of this cocktail’s creation coincides with the introduction of sweet vermouth to American bartenders in the 1870s and 1880s. This newfound availability of sweet vermouth explains the appearance of the powerhouse cocktails that are still some of today’s most popular.
But why isn’t the Bijou as popular as the Manhattan or Martinez?
It most likely comes down to the fact that it’s a strong drink, with strong flavours. One third of the drink is green Chartreuse, a 55% ABV herbal liqueur made by Carthusian monks in France. To many seasoned cocktail aficionados, green Chartreuse is (very strong) liquid candy. However, to the uninitiated palate it may knock you over like a freight train.
So what rounds out this fine cocktail?
It’s not a big secret: gin. In Harry Johnson’s original recipe, he calls for the less fragrant Plymouth Gin, however a London Dry (Bombay, or Tanqueray for example) gin will do just fine.
The drink can be played around with, considering Chartreuse is the only component that has no substitute. The rest of the drink — gin, vermouth and bitters — are ingredients allowing you to use your favourite bottles on hand.
To make this simple cocktail at home, I’ve included my favourite version of this classic:
1 oz Star of Bombay Gin
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Green Chartreuse
2 dashes Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Combine all of the ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Stir for 20 seconds. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a lemon twist or cherry. Enjoy!