In 1931 and again in 1934, the iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel published cocktail books, capturing the drinks of the day and perhaps even more so the drinks of pre-Prohibition (and some from when drinking, well, er, wasn't so legal). "That's when blossoms [drinks with orange juice] became popular, because they hid the less-than-great liquors of the time," Frank Caiafa, author of the new Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, out this week, explains.
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Caiafa, who is the general manager of the hotel's Peacock Alley bar spent the past five years combing through the old books and updating the recipes for the modern palate. "My living room is an ode to cocktail and drinking books," he jokes. His bar, at least at work, is pretty well stocked, too.
The result of his research is a book dedicated to the art of bartending and the history of some of New York's favorite cocktails during the 20th century. Though, the main thing Caiafa wanted was to create a bar book that's approachable for the novice home bartender. And it is. The recipes are concise and include directions about serving with garnishes, which the earlier books largely lacked. But the book is perhaps most useful as a reference guide to the history of American drinks.
As for The Bronx cocktail, Caiafa writes, "Of all the cocktails associated or attributed to the Hotel, no one—not even the venerable Rob Roy—was as popular as The Bronx. Sometimes referred to as the Cosmopolitan of its day, it was one of the most requested cocktails prior to Prohibition." With the addition of bitters, it has a strong orangey note that might be best in the evening, but as Caiafa writes, "I love to imagine a time when rivers of gin and juice were consumed before three p.m. Those were the days." Indeed, they were.
This is the modern version of The Bronx cocktail. If you would like to try the original version, omit the orange juice and replace it with two orange peels, squeezed over the glass and then added in. Instead of shaking, stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel.
The Bronx Cocktail
Recipe adapted from 'The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book,' by Frank Caiafa (Penguin Books)
Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: N/A
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Ice, for shaking
1½ ounces Beefeater London dry gin
1 ounce orange juice
½ ounce Cinzano Rosso sweet vermouth
½ ounce Noilly Prat extra-dry vermouth
1 dash Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
1. In an ice-filled shaker, combine all the ingredients. Shake well, then strain into a chilled coupe glass and serve.