DrinkWire is Liquor.com's showcase for the best articles, recipe and reviews from the web's top writers and bloggers. In this post, Boozes and Boxes offers a recipe for an old-time gin cocktail.
We’re celebrating a few luminaries this week at boxes and booze. Going all the way back to the origins of the Karakuri Creation Group, we have another puzzle box by the legendary Japanese artist Akio Kamei. One of his earliest original designs was the “Top Box”, which he created in 1983. The top box was revolutionary in its design and mechanism, the likes of which had never before been seen. Kamei said that to open it required “a flash of genius”.
To toast this Top Box I need to take you on a little journey back to the turn of the twentieth century, when cocktails were still in their original, pre-prohibition heyday. Harry Johnson, a legendary barman of historic significance, is cited as the inventor of the Bijou, a thoroughly modern creation at that time which first appeared in Johnson’s 1900 edition of his Bartender’s Manual. Swanky clientele who frequented the posh hotel bars of New York and Boston wanted sophisticated European flavors, and the Bijou provided with Italian vermouth and herbal Chartreuse combined with gin and a dash of orange bitters.
Johnson was quite literally expanding the “color palette” of his cocktails in appearance and flavors, and created the Bijou to reflect these new tastes with three “gems:” gin for diamonds, sweet vermouth for rubies, and green Chartreuse for emeralds. He named it the Bijou, which is French for jewel.
The drink was immensely popular at the time and might be considered the Cosmopolitan of the day. A very similar (practically identical) cocktail emerged a few decades later, named the Tailspin. It first appears, as far as one can tell, in the 1936 edition of Mr. Boston’s DeLuxe Official Bartender’s Guide, and was essentially the Bijou with a different name.
This nonsense went on for some time, but eventually the Tailspin distinguished itself with the addition of a little Campari. Two more luminaries merit mention ere we’re through with this tale. Dale DeGroff, known fondly as “King Cocktail,” resurrected the Bijou in the 1980s (around the time that Akio Kamei was creating his Top Box) for the newly reopened Rainbow Room in New York City, where the modern cocktail renaissance was reborn. His friend and fellow vintage cocktail fanatic, Robert Hess, ensured the Tailspin’s survival with a contemporary spin – a rinse of Campari in the glass prior to adding the other ingredients. Here’s to new spins on old designs and keeping our passions on top – cheers!
1 barspoon Campari
1 oz dry gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz green Chartreuse
Coat a favorite glass with the Campari. Stir the gin, vermouth and Chartreuse with ice and strain into the glass. Express the lemon peel over the drink and garnish.
For more about Akio Kamei’s revolutionary Top Box see:
Boxes and Booze: Top Shelf