Friday, April 12, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: The Income Tax

It’s too easy, spotlighting the Income Tax around April 15. I should have thought outside the box and featured the Millionaire instead. But I don’t have any apricot brandy on hand. There’s always next year.

Plus, the drink deserves to be remembered, and not just during the IRS’s busy season. That’s because its foundation is a classic that once stood astride the cocktail world like a colossus. In the 1930s, the Bronx was mentioned in the same breath as the Martini and the Manhattan. In the film version of The Thin Man, William Powell’s Nick Charles counsels bartenders to shake the drink in two-step time.

The Bronx is a perfect Martini – gin plus equal parts sweet and dry vermouth – tarted up with orange juice. (I don’t have to tell you fresh orange juice, right? I assume you bon vivants know to treat yourselves well.) Popular lore has it that the drink was created by Johnnie Solan, fabled barman at the then-Waldorf Hotel, and is named not after the borough but the zoo. Johnnie visited it soon after the gates opened and said that it and his domain were virtually indistinguishable.

The Income Tax takes the Bronx and simply adds bitters, an act I am wholeheartedly in favor of. I put bitters in my breakfast cereal. Well-chosen bitters add complexity to any drink and, lest we forget, were an original ingredient in the Martini. Angostura and OJ work particularly well together. The thinking is that the presence of bitters is how the Income Tax got its name. No one’s exactly happy about kicking in their fair share to the government.

Where it gets confusing is that a drink called the Maurice turns up in several older cocktail books including my trusty Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual with the identical recipe. Where it gets more confusing is that there are alternate versions of the Maurice where the only difference is the presence of absinthe instead of bitters.

So think of it this way: you just got three cocktail recipes for the price of one. The Bronx, The Income Tax, and The Maurice. Good luck getting that kind of return from Uncle Sucker come Monday.

The Income Tax

1 ½ oz. gin
¾ oz. dry vermouth
¾ oz. sweet vermouth
juice from ¼ of an orange
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Shake in two-step time, just like William Powell advises. Strain. Garnish with an orange twist.