The Bijou Cocktail Remains an Untouchable Classic
The Bijou cocktail (pronounced BEE-shoo) is a classic drink consisting of gin, Green Chartreuse, sweet vermouth and a dash of orange bitters. Thought to be created in the late 1800s, its current formula is usually attributed to bartender Harry Johnson, who lists the cocktail among those in his book Bartender’s Manual. The name Bijou, which is French for “jewel,” is said to have been named after its ingredients’ resemblance to diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
The drink is similar to a Negroni in its use of gin and sweet vermouth, but rather than Campari, it substitutes the highly aromatic liqueur Green Chartreuse. This adds sweetness and layers of licorice and herbal notes, creating a unique cocktail that may be hard to compare to anything else you’ve tasted. An earlier recipe printed before Johnson’s, found in the 1895 book The Mixicologist (or How to Mix All Kinds of Fancy Drinks) by C. F. Lawlor, also named the Bijou Cocktail, calls for Grand Marnier rather than Green Chartreuse. That combination would create a quite sugary drink, however, and Johnson’s version became the standard.
How to Make a Bijou Cocktail
The original Bijou cocktail recipe calls for all three ingredients in equal parts, much like a Negroni. However, this creates a drink that many modern drinkers may find cloying, so updated versions, like the one you’ll see below, increase the proportion of gin to other ingredients.
Early recipes specifically call for Plymouth Gin, a style historically made in Plymouth, England, which tends to be sweeter and offers a bit of herbal spice to go with citrus notes that pair well with the Bijou’s orange bitters. For those looking to expand beyond the classics, Philadelphia-based Bluecoat Gin is another option with a citrus- and fruit-forward profile that works well in a number of cocktails. Ford’s Gin is another fantastic option, juniper-centric but incorporating a fair amount of lemon, grapefruit and bitter orange that will help lighten and create a more refreshing Bijou.
For bitters, Regan’s remains the standard at many bars for orange bitters, but many alternatives also work. Hella Cocktail Co.’s Citrus Bitters play well with the cocktail’s ingredients, and Dram Apothecary’s Lavender Lemon Balm bitters bring an added floral component that could set your Bijou apart.
Combine all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir for 30–45 seconds until well chilled. Strain into Nick & Nora glass or martini coupe. Garnish with lemon twist and maraschino cherry, if desired.