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. Supposedly, the name came into a bartender's mind after a visit to the Bronx Zoo. It was famous in its day as a rival to the Manhattan cocktail, but the Bronx borough's drink had faded considerably since then.

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:
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, pg. 14, col. 1:
(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, pg. 14, col. 1:
(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.

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

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.

17 August 1947, New York Times, pg. 17, col. 2:
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.

The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book,
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
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 ItalianVermouth, 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 acustomer 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 mizing 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 wereusing 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."'"
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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