A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 15, 2004
Bronx Cocktail
The Bronx cocktail was invented around 1900. An article in February 1901 credited "J. E. O'Connor of the Waldorf-Astoria, inventor of the 'Bronx Cocktail.'" A 1932 article and The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book (1934) credited Johnny Solan (frequently spelled "Solon"). Supposedly, the name came into Solan's mind after a visit to the Bronx Zoo. The Bronx cocktail was famous in its day (1900s until 1930s) as a rival to the Manhattan cocktail, but the Bronx borough's drink had faded considerably since then.

There are other origination claims. A 1908 article in The Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH) in credited Colonel Frank H. Ray. A 1909 article credits its invention to a member of the Forty-second Street Country Club, A 1921 article in the New York (NY) Times credited Peter Sellers' bar at 887 Brook Avenue in the Bronx, but stated that "Billy Gibson's Criterion Restaurant also claims that distinction." A 1939 article in the Daily News (New York, NY) credited Joe Sormani, who had a restaurant at Pelham Parkway and Boston Road in the Bronx.

The other borough cocktails are Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.


Wikipedia: Bronx (cocktail)
The Bronx Cocktail is essentially a Perfect Martini with orange juice added. It was ranked number three in "The World's 10 Most Famous Cocktails in 1934", making it a very popular rival to the Martini (#1) and the Manhattan (#2). Today, it remains a popular choice in some markets, and was formally designated as an Official Cocktail by the International Bartender Association. Like the Manhattan, the Bronx is one of five cocktails named for one of New York City's five boroughs, but is perhaps most closely related to the Queens, which substitutes pineapple for the Bronx's orange.

Chronicling America
15 February 1901, The Virginia Enterprise (Virginia, MN), pg. 7, col. 3:
The committee consists of Frank Curtis of the Gilsey house, inventor of the "Long Branch Punch," J. E. O'Connor of the Waldorf-Astoria, inventor of the "Bronx Cocktail," and William Gilbert of the Manhattan hotel, inventor of the "Clover Club Mystery."

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
2 January 1904, The National Police Gazette (New York, NY), pg. 14, col. 1:
RECIPES RECEIVED.
The following recipes have been received for the bartender's contest:
(...)
P. C. Flanagan, New York city, A Rover's Kiss, Martinique Cocktail, Gladiator Cocktail, Bronx Cocktail.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
6 February 1904, The National Police Gazette (New York, NY), pg. 14, col. 1:
BRONX COCKTAIL.
(By Patrick C. Flanagan, manager, Waubun Cafe, 66 Cedar Street, New York City.)
Use regular mixing glass; two dashes orange bitters; one-fourth Italian Vermouth; one-fourth French Vermouth; one-half live whiskey; add ice; stir well; serve with slice of orange after straining.

14 July 1905, Eau Claire (WI) Leader, pg. 4, col. 5:
A down-town favorite in summer is the "Bronx" cocktail, which is precisely similar to the Sergeant Brue, minus the absinthe and benedictine. The fad is to have a cocktail frappe and not stirred with ice. Irish whiskey is gaining in popularity, while Scotch is losing. -- New York Correspondence St. Louis Republic.

25 August 1906, The National Police Gazette (New York, NY), pg. 14, col. 1:
BRONX. COCKTAIL.
(By Francis S. Burns, Pearl Cafe, Bronx, New York.)
Mixing glass half full cracked ice; two dashes Maraschino; one dash of Orange bitters; four drops Absinthe; half wine glass Gordon dry gin; half wine glass Dry French Vermouth. Use the shaker, strain in cocktail glass, add cherry.

11 January 1908, The Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH), "Paternity of 'Bronx Cocktail,'" pg. 16, col. 1:
New York, January 10. -- Hooray! The history of the "Bronx cocktail" has been given to the public. And let it be said that the mouthpiece through which the gladsome tidings are passing belongs to one Charles E. Evans, comedian, some folks say, and bonvivant.

Evans waltzed into the Astor House buffet this week and asked one of the barkeeps to prescribe. The individual forthwith recommended a "Bronx cocktail." Doubtful, but willing to take a chance, Evans soon was wearing the inward smile and asked for another, at the same time imploring the mixer to call of the various components in order used, and also give the history of the whole.

"You're the first one to be put wise to it," began the barkeep. "Colonel Frank H. Ray, who made Colonel Paul B. Sorg, of MIddleton, Ohio, so successful, wafted in here one day and ordered his own private dish. What you're drinking is it. Frank De Haas Robison, of Cleveland, joined him and asked him the name of the wash.

"'It ain't got any,' replied Colonel Ray, 'but I've just put through a big real estate deal in the Bronx, so I'll christen it, "Bronx cocktail".'"

As to the ingredients, you take one third French vermouth, add one third Italian vermouth, then Gordon gin and through the result into a mixing glass half full of ice, with a slice of orange on top. Let this be well frapped, then pour into a cocktail glass and, as a finished touch, add a dish of orange extract."

24 January 1909, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), "Is The Maryland Mint Julep Association A Fraud?," pg. 15, col. 1:
"In New York City, for instance, there is a Forty-second Street Country Club, whose members devote themselves especially to the high ball and the cocktail. The Bronx cocktail was invented by a member of this club."

Vintage Cocktail Books
Jack's Manual
By J. A. Gruhusko
New York, NY: McClunn & Co.
1910
Pg. 34:
BRONX COCKTAIL.
50% dry gin
25% French Vermouth
25% Italian Vermouth
Twist of orange peel.
Fill glass with ice, shake and strain, serve.

25 December 1921, New York (NY) Times, pg. 3, col. 3:
BIRTHPLACE OF BRONX COCKTAIL BRINGS $10
Former Owner, After Sale of Saloon, Expresses His Feelings in Message to Volstead.
A saloon was sold yesterday in the Bronx for $10.

In pre-Volstead days the cafe at 887 Brook Avenue, within the shadow of the room where Grand Juries deliberated in the Supreme Court, was the gathering place for jurists, court attaches and attorneys. It was said to be the place where the Bronx cocktail had its inception, although Billy Gibson's Criterion Restaurant also claims that distinction.

Peter Sellers, the owner, through a bill of sale executed by City Marshal James J. Haggerty, who has an office adjoining the cafe, yesterday transferred "all right, title and interest in the said cafe to one Oscar Zuttell, formerly of Caransie, for the sum of $10."

According to City Marshal Haggerty, Sellers epitomized his feelings "for the new order of things" by dispatching a telegram to Congressman Volstead.

Vintage Cocktail Books
The Savoy Cocktail Book
By Harry Craddock
London, UK: Constable & Company, Ltd.
1930
Pg. 37:
BRONX COCKTAIL.
The Juice of 1/4 Orange.
1/4 French Vermouth.
1/4 Italian Vermouth.
1/2 Dry Gin.
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

12 July 1932, Durham (NC) Sun, "In New York" with Gilbert Swan, pg. 4, col. 5:
New York, July 12. -- It was Johnny Solon's name which bobbed up, naturally enough, in the conversation concerning the Democratic party's repeal plank.

For Johnny Solon was inventor of the Bronx cocktail, a concoction mixed today with varying results all over the world. Solon, it seems, was past master of mixology in the days of the old Waldorf bar. Until the creation of the drink, Solon was known chiefly for his mint juleps. Something like one half-hour was spent on each julep.

And the "old timer," cogitating on whether or not such days would return, recalled a certain afternoon in the early nineteen-hundreds. Solon had recently returned from the Spanish-American war. He had taken a job in a St. Louis hotel and had drifted into New York looking for work. The only job open at the Waldorf was at the bar. Solon rose from an assistant to a bar maestro.

How Come?
One day a head waiter hurried in and went into whispered conference with Solon. It seemed there was a very special customer who had wearied of the drink routine and had challenged the place to produce a new one. Solon looked about and, varying the ingredients of the then popular Duplex, handed it over. The head waiter tried it. And then ordered a batch made at once.

Within a week, the word had whispered around town. The rounders flocked in for a trial. And not so many months afterward, the Duplex had begun to slip out of favor. Johnny Solon had won mixological fame.

Asked casually why he named it the Bronx cocktail, Johnny replied: "Well, they asked me to call it something. And I had been to the Bronx zoo the Sunday before. And I had heard fellows talk of all the animals you'd see if you mixed drinks. So I calls it the Bronx!"

What Shall We Drink?:
Popular drinks, recipies and toasts
by Magnus Bredenbek
New York: Carlyle House
1934
Pg. 13:
MIXING A BRONX COCKTAIL

The Bronx Cocktail, strange to say, was invented in Philadelphia, of all places! There it might have remained in obscurity had it not been for one Joseph Sormani, a Bronx restaurateur, who discovered it in the Quaker City in 1905.

The original recipe has been greatly distorted in the course of years, but here's the original to guide you and to compare with the other recipes being used:

Four parts of gin, one part of orange juice and one part of Italian Vermouth. Shake thoroughly in ice and serve.

The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book,
Giving the Correct Recipes for FIVE HUNDRED COCKTAILS AND MIXED DRINKS...
The Whole Flavored with Dashes of History Mixed in a Shaker of Anecdote and Served with a Chaser of Iluminative Information.
By Albert Stevens Crockett (Historian of the Old Waldorf-Astoria)
New York: Dodd, Mead and Company
1934
Pg. 41 BRONX...Many claimants to the honor of inventing the Bronx have arisen. It was an Old Waldorf tradition that the inventor was Johnnie Solon (or Solan), popular as one of the best mixers behind its bar counter for mostof the latter's history. This is Solon's own story of the Creation -- of the Bronx:

"We had a cocktail in those days called the Duplex, which had a pretty fair demand. One day, I was making one for a customer when in came Traverson, head waiter of the Empire Room -- the main dining room in the original Waldorf. A Duplex was composed of equal parts of French and Italian Vermouth, shaken up with squeezed orange peel, or two dashes of Orange Bitters. Traverson said, 'Why don't you get up a new cocktail? I have a customer who says you can't do it.'

"'Can't I?' I replied.

"Well, I finished the Duplex I was making, and a thought came to me. I poured into a mixing glass the equivalent of two jiggers of Gordon Gin. Then I filled the jigger with orange juice, so that it made one-third or orangejuice and two-thirds of Gin. Then into the mixture I put a dash each of Italian and French Vermouth, shaking the thing up. I didn't taste it myself, but I poured it into a cocktail glass and handed it to Traverson and said: 'You are a pretty good judge. He was.) See what you think of that.' Traverson tasted it. Then he swallowed it whole.

"'By God!' he said, 'you've really got something new! That will make a big hit. Make me another and I will take it back to that customer in the dining room. Bet you'll sell a lot of them. Have you got plenty of oranges? If you haven't, you better stock up, because I'm going to sell a lot of those cocktails during lunch.'

"The demand for Bronx cocktails started that day. Pretty soon we were using a whole case of oranges a day. And then several cases.

"The name? No, it wasn't really named directly after the borough or the river so-called. I had been at the Bronx Zoo a day or two before, and I saw,of course, a lot of beasts I had never known. Customers used to tell me of the strange animals they saw after a lot of mixed drinks. So when Traverson said to me, as he started to take the drink in to the customer, 'What'll I tell him is the name of this drink?' I thought of those animals, and said: 'Oh, you can tell him it is a "Bronx."'"

10 November 1939, Daily News (New York, NY), "Mainly About Manhattan" by John Chapman, pg. 64, col. 2:
This afternoon at the new bar of the Concourse Plaza Hotel, in the Bronx, the man who invented the Bronx cocktail will shake up a few to show how it should be done. It is, he says, almost a lost art because bartenders are lazy.

The inventor is Joe Sormani, now 77 and retired, who used to have a place of his own on Pelham Road. Maybe forty year ago when he was tending bar at the Hermitage a party of stews got him to experimenting with cocktails. They sampled everything and liked one drink in particular. Next night they came back to have more of the same, but SOrmani couldn't remember how he'd made the new drink. This necessitated more practical research. Finally he rediscovered the formula and the Bronx was born.

The right way to make it, says its creator, is one part gin, one part French vermouth, one part Italian vermouth and two slices of orange. Slices of orange, not juice.Shake hard until the fruit is beaten to a pulp. The reason bartenders don't make it right, but use orange juice, is that the pulp sticks to the shaker and is hard to wash off.

The spurious Bronx reached its popularity peak during prohibition. All one did was open a can of juice and pour it into a slug of bathtub gin. Several bartenders have told me they hardly ever get orders for Bronxes these days.

17 August 1947, New York (NY) Times, pg. 17, col. 2:
JOSEPH S. SORMANI
Joseph S. Sormani, retired Bronx restaurateur, who was said to have originated the Bronx cocktail, died Wednesday night in his home, 2322 Fish Avenue, the Bronx, after a brief illness. His age was 83.

Born in Lake Como, Italy, Mr. Sormani came to the United States at theage of 18. He was proprietor of Sormani's restaurant at Pelham Parkway and Boston Road for thirty years until his retirement twelve years ago.

Google Groups: soc.motss
Happy May Day
Chris Hansen
6/2/07
(...)
Manhattans are supposed to be made with bourbon, I think. There is a recipe and lots of controversy in the comments at:
http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink580.html .

>And then there was the Bronx, which I assume is extinct as the great
>auk. Back in the 30s it was one of the three most popular cocktails
>served in the U.S.; it's specifically mentioned is several of my
>favorite movies of the period, most notably _The Thin Man_ where Nick is
>teaching the bartenders what dance rhythms go with which drinks. The
>Bronx is a "perfect martini" with orange juice added. The screwdriver
>has probably replaced it among the health conscious and breakfast drinkers.

http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink1619.html is the recipe for a Bronx cocktail. The only comment says that it's good for a cold.

>Oddly enough, I've never heard a Queens cocktail.
http://www.drinksmixer.com/drinkl12m404.html replaces the OJ in the Bronx with pineapple juice. Sounds vile.

Brooklyn: http://www.drinksmixer.com/drinkl12m404.html sounds even viler: replace OJ with maraschino cherry juice!

Chris "There doesn't seem to be a Staten Island cocktail (nor a "Richmond"); pity, as it would be fun to drink your way through the entire City of New York." Hansen

Daily Beast
How Immigrants Created America’s Cocktail Culture
American drinkers owe a debt to a truly multicultural group of bartenders.

David Wondrich
12.02.16 1:02 AM ET
(...)
Even the Irish finally broke down and got into the mixology game, producing one of the great successes of the early twentieth century, the Bronx Cocktail. This drink was a product of the famous bar at the Waldorf-Astoria, whose staff was mostly Hibernian, although experts disagree on whether the individual responsible was Johnnie Solan, Curly O’Connor or Michael Killackey.

Tavern on the Green (New York, NY) -- Fall 2018 Beverages (COCKTAILS)
BRONX
Dorothy Parker Gin, Orange Juice, Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino, Dolin Blanc Vermouth
14

BROOKLYN
Ragtime Rye, CioCiaro, Maraschino Liqueur, Dolin Dry Vermouth
15

MANHATTAN
Breukelen 77 Rye Whiskey, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Angostura Bitters
16

QUEENS
Bootlegger Vodka, Velvet Falernum, Hibiscus Syrup, Pomegranate Molasses, Lemon Juice
13

STATEN ISLAND
Owney's Rum, Coconut Water, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice
15
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Thursday, July 15, 2004 • Permalink


Hi Barrie,
Johnnie Solan was my grandfather and he was an inspiration to all in our family. Although he passed away a few months after I was born in 1951.  I listened to many stories about him growing up. The main thing was his commitment to going to church everyday of the week and being a non drinker. My Mother said after coming home from the Waldorf which was early in the morning he would bring home a shopping bag of leftovers from the parties at the Waldorf and would leave the light on to signaling the neighbors to come have coffee and a sandwich (it was a poor neighbor in the Bronx). He had a smile for everyone and left everyone the way he found them never criticizing.I saw his name spelt Solon in the news clippings my dad had and asked how come? He was always interview in the papers due to his job behind the world famous bar and it kept his home life more private.
Thanks Mike Solan

Posted by mike solan  on  02/17  at  12:48 PM

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