A Classic Cocktail as April 15 Approaches
“April is the cruellest month” — that’s what poet T. S. Eliot wrote. Anyone who’s struggling with a tax return will be tempted to agree.
It’s a shame that a month like April — when the weather is finally beginning to turn pleasant — finds so many of us indoors working on taxes. Cruel indeed.
So when you’re finally finished with this yearly burden, why not celebrate (or console yourself) with a cocktail? And what could be more appropriate than the Income Tax?
Recipe: The Income Tax Cocktail
As is the case with many classic cocktails, the origins of the Income Tax are obscure. It probably began as a variation on the Bronx cocktail (it’s the same recipe, but with the addition of Angostura bitters). The Bronx was extremely popular in the pre-Prohibition era, although some of the more hardcore drinkers considered it “weak” because it contained orange juice. Sort of the way some people today regard the Cosmopolitan as a “girly” drink.
Speaking of orange juice, try to use fresh squeezed, not the pre-made stuff, when you mix an Income Tax (or Bronx) cocktail. It really makes a difference.
This recipe yields one drink.
- 1½ ounces gin
- ¼ ounce sweet vermouth
- ¼ ounce dry vermouth
- ¾ ounce orange juice (freshly squeezed!)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Orange wheel or twist for garnish (optional)
Preparation and Serving
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker that is half filled with ice. Shake well for 20 – 30 seconds.
Strain mixture into a cocktail glass. If you want a garnish (I usually don’t), add an orange wheel to the rim of the glass (or toss an orange twist into the glass).
Note that the recipe directs you to shake the drink. There are three reasons for this:
- It makes the drink cold.
- Shaking with ice somewhat dilutes the drink, which adds an important dimension to the final flavor.
- Orange (or any citrus) juice is difficult to incorporate into a drink merely by stirring. So it’s better to shake a drink that contains citrus.
|Oxo Brand 2-ounce Measuring Cup|
- Most cocktails taste better if the ingredients are measured rather than poured by eye. Balancing the various ingredient flavors is a key skill for the mixologist. When measuring small quantities, I prefer the 2-ounce Oxo brand angled measuring cup rather than the more traditional jigger. The angled surface lets you read the measurement from above, which is very handy.
- Some people find it hard to achieve the right ratio of vermouth to gin to orange juice. If you like vermouth, a good alternative is to increase the amount to ¾ ounce each of dry and sweet vermouth. You may also want to increase the amount of orange juice to 1 ounce. It all depends on how the drink tastes to you.
- As noted above, if you omit the Angostura bitters, you’ll have a Bronx Cocktail (though I recommend increasing the amount of orange juice to 1 ounce in this case).
- If you omit both the OJ and the bitters, you’ll have a “Perfect” Martini (in drinks terminology, “Perfect” usually refers to equal parts of dry and sweet vermouth). Sweet Vermouth is, of course, sweet; the original Martini was a sweet drink. I haven’t tried a Perfect Martini and don’t intend to.
- I prefer smallish cocktail glasses (4 ounces or so). Cocktails should be served cold and they should remain cold while you drink. A smaller drink will be more likely to remain cold as you sip. If you want more, you can always prepare another fresh cold one. That way, your drink is always at its best.
About Classic Cocktails
Many classic cocktails flourished before the enactment of the Volstead Act, the 1919 legislation that enabled the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which established prohibition in the United States. Prohibition ended in December 1933, when the Twenty-first Amendment was enacted.
Drinking didn’t disappear during Prohibition, of course, but it did change. Some ingredients became difficult to obtain, and many people started craving simpler drinks (a highball rather than a mixed drink, for example). As a consequence, some of the cocktails that used to be popular became less so, and some were simply forgotten.
A few classic cocktails escaped obscurity and are still widely known today, even to nondrinkers. The Martini, Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Daiquiri, Margarita, Sazerac), Sidecar, Mai Tai, Mint Julep, and Whiskey Sour all come to mind.
Others lost popularity, but are now enjoying a renaissance on many cocktail menus. The Corpse Reviver, Pegu Club, Aviation, Jack Rose, 20th Century Cocktail, and Clover Club are just a few examples.
And then there are the “classic” cocktails that comparatively few people know about today. I’d include the Bronx, the Brooklyn, the Monkey Gland, Satan’s Whiskers, The Seelbach, and Brandy Crusta in this category. And of course the Income Tax.
|Ingredients for Income Tax Cocktail|
There’s a wealth of information available about cocktails and their recipes. The online sources I usually consult first are Robert Hess’ DrinkBoy and Martin Doudoroff and Ted (Dr. Cocktail) Haigh’s CocktailDB, the Internet Cocktail Database.
For a good historical introduction to cocktails and their recipes, I recommend David Wondrich’s Imbibe!. Ted Haigh does a great job on classic cocktails, particularly some of the more obscure ones, in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.
For a general introduction to cocktails and how to mix them, I recommend Gaz (Gary) Regan’s The Joy of Mixology or Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. By the way, one of DeGroff’s many claims to fame is that, while at the Rainbow Room in New York City, he popularized “a definitive recipe [for the Cosmopolitan Cocktail] that became widely accepted as the standard.”
So How Is It?
Ever since we discovered the Income Tax Cocktail, it’s become a yearly ritual for Mrs Kitchen Riffs and me to drink one when we’ve completed our tax return. We always forget what this cocktail tastes like, so we “rediscover” it every year about this time.
I think it’s a decent enough drink. Not one I’d want too often – once a year is perfect! – but tasty.
Mrs Kitchen Riffs? Well, after the first healthy sip, a look of dawning memory generally starts to cross her face. She then takes another dainty sip or two and comments on how interesting the flavor is.
What she means is she’d really rather have something else. I always volunteer to fix her a substitute drink — an offer she happily accepts.
Not wanting the extra glass to go to waste, I always have my Income Tax and hers too. Which works for me. At tax time, I usually need a double.
Should you have one? If the drink sounds appealing — and you have the ingredients at hand — I’d definitely give it a try. You’ll be drinking a piece of history, and the cocktail has its refreshing qualities. Even Mrs Kitchen Riffs doesn’t dislike it — she has consumed her entire drink on more than one occasion — it’s just not her favorite.
And because it’s ritual, I’m quite sure that next year, once we’ve completed our taxes, we’ll be celebrating (or consoling ourselves) again with an Income Tax Cocktail.
Two, actually. One for me and the other for — well, me.
You might also enjoy reading about:
Mai Tai Cocktail
The Classic Daiquiri Cocktail
The Corpse Reviver Cocktail
The Sazerac Cocktail