The Carderock Golden Jewel

In which I inflict my “talent” on my neighbors in an update of the classic Bijou cocktail.

I “created” this one for a homegrown talent show in my community, in which I was invited to demonstrate my, um, “talent” in mixology at halftime of the festivities.

You’ve reached a sad point in life when your most recognizable skill involves alcoholic beverages.

And yet, here I am. Best to make the most of any  opportunity life hands you, I say.

The Bijou: A jewel. A really big jewel

Since “Carderock’s Got Talent” was a song-dance-performance event, I searched for “theatrical” allusions in the cocktail canon. This led me quickly to a pre-Prohibition classic called the Bijou. Early in this century “Bijou,” a French word meaning “jewel,” was a common name for a town’s theater.

The Bijou cocktail, debuted in the 1880s, was given the name because its high dose of Green Chartreuse gave the drink a hue of a dusky emerald.

Problem is: The original Bijou is a snoutful, intensely herbal from the Chartreuse, busy with the cutting notes of gin, fragrant with vermouth. Some say it disappeared with Prohibition not because it was forgotten but because it was too intense, as tastes drifted to simpler settings for gin, like a Martini.

The original Bijou has a dusky emerald hue.

A more accessible jewel?

But this was for a community event, where palates probably were more used to TGIFridays’ beverage menu than, say, that of a grand hotel bar filled with robber barons and their retainers.

Could I turn this big, uncompromising classic into something suburban showgoers might enjoy sippin? Let’s see, shall we?

The Carderock Golden Jewel recipe

    • 1 oz Plymouth gin
      • Plymouth is a quieter gin than most, without a lot of the buzz and burrs of the more aggressive entries. Bonus: It dates from around the time the drink was invented. Early recipes called for Plymouth by name.
    • .75 Yellow Chartreuse
      • I decided to use Yellow Chartreuse, the better-behaved version of the liqueur — sweeter, tempered with honey notes, and missing some of the more badass herbs and botanical explosives that make the green version jump out of the bottle and call you a wuss.
    • .75 oz sweet vermouth
      • I used Noilly Pratt, a slightly dry French version. This works well since,  combined with the dryness of the gin, it counteracts some of the sweetness of the Chartreuse.
    • 2 dashes St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
      • Here was my chance to innovate. How could I add a touch to the drink that would complete it without overwhelming my neighbors with good intentions?
      • Ours is a very international community. So far I had English gin, French Chartreuse, and Italian vermouth. Time to break loose from Europe.
      • St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram, from the island of Jamaica, is a distinctive, assertive, rum-based liqueur redolent with cloves.
      • What could go wrong?

Stir with ice 50 times. That’s a lot. But this is a very boozy drink, and the Chartreuse has a thickness to it. The drink benefits from the extra dilution, producing a velvety mouthfeel but not a heavy winter blanket.

My new “jewel” was now  a rich amber — quite a beautiful color. Better looking than the Bijou, I aver.

Better tasting…?

The reviews

Decidedly mixed. As the tasting servings were passed out, I saw quite a few smiles and nods. I saw furrowed brows. Most samples were duly drained. A few were abandoned.

It looked beautiful in the glass, the crowd agreed.

So do I have “talent” worthy of my community show? Make the drink yourself and judge. Or start viewing this Carderock’s Got Talent highlights video at 1:41. You’ll see that, while I had the entire drinks category to myself, there are some 8-year-old dancers living around here who way outperformed me.

Author: Craig Stoltz

Suburban boulevardier. Former Washington Post journalist, entrepreneur, ex-Time.com Top 25 blogger. Foodie. Cocktail geek. Proudly work in digital communications for you, The American People.

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