Bijou means “jewel” in French, and this drink is a true gem
The Bijou is a classic from the 1890s. Its name refers to the ingredient colors, which represent three different jewels: Clear dry gin for diamonds. Red sweet vermouth for rubies. And green Chartreuse for emeralds.
When you mix those ingredients together, the result is an amber hue—and of course amber can be used as a jewel, too.
Best of all, the flavors combine to create a polished, multi-faceted cocktail that’s perfect before dinner. We’re betting you’ll declare it a crown jewel.
Recipe: The Bijou Cocktail
The Bijou was invented by Harry Johnson, a legendary mixologist (Imbibe Magazine lists him as one of the 25 most influential cocktail personalities of the last 100 years). His Bartenders’ Manual, originally published in 1882, stayed in print for decades. You can still buy a copy of the 1934 reprint.
We adapted our recipe from Johnson’s. This drink takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.
- 1 ounce dry gin (Johnson specifies Plymouth; but see Notes)
- 1 ounce Chartreuse (the green, not yellow, variety; see Notes)
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (Italian vermouth—the red stuff)
- 1 dash orange bitters
- garnish of lemon peel or twist, plus maraschino cherry if desired (see Notes)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir briskly until well chilled (20 to 30 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that has been chilled. Garnish and serve.
- When garnishing, it’s best to hold the lemon over each drink as you cut off a peel or twist. When you cut into the lemon, you’ll release some of its oils—and by holding the lemon over the drink as you do so, you’ll let the oils impart additional flavor and fragrance.
- Johnson suggests garnishing with an olive or a cherry in addition to the lemon. Just say no to the olive—we don’t think it works in this drink. But the cherry? That works well. Besides, it looks a bit like a ruby, so it’s more appropriate.
- Why stir rather than shake this drink? Because the ingredients are clear. Shaking tends to introduce small bubbles, which can make a drink cloudy. This is not a problem when the ingredients are opaque (think citrus juice), but it can be unattractive when the ingredients are clear.
- For this drink, Johnson suggests Plymouth gin, which has a somewhat lighter (and fruitier) flavor than many other dry gins. It’s nice in this cocktail, but really you can substitute any name-brand London dry gin.
- Chartreuse comes in two versions: Green and yellow. You definitely want the green version for this drink. BTW, the color chartreuse got its name from the hue of Chartreuse liqueur.
- Chartreuse is sweet, with a strong herbal flavor (it’s made from a mix of 130 herbs, roots, and leaves). The liqueur is extremely pungent, so a little goes a long way.
- Carthusian monks began making Chartreuse during the 1740s in the town of Voiron (close to Grenoble and the French Alps in southeastern France). Production hasn’t been continuous, though. The brothers were expelled from France in 1793 and again in 1903. They produced Chartreuse in Spain from 1903 to 1927, when they regained possession of their distillery in Voiron.
- Harry Johnson’s manual was innovative for its time. Unlike many bartending guides, his included more than just directions for mixing drinks. He also told readers how to behave behind the bar. For example: No spitting on the floor. And don’t clean your fingernails while on duty.
- Johnson invented a number of other drinks, including the Morning Glory Fizz, which is meant to be a morning “hair of the dog” remedy. It’s one of the few mixed drinks that uses Scotch whisky to advantage (the flavor of Scotch just isn’t right for most cocktails). We owe you that recipe.
Diamonds in the Rough
“Lovely drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And perfect for June.”
“Yes, it’s a great apéritif,” I said. “But what’s the June connection?”
“Weddings, of course,” said Mrs K R. “Not to mention graduations. It’s the season for jewelry and diamond watches.”
“Oh, right,” I said. “Guess I don’t pay much attention to the bling thing.”
“Which is fortunate,” said Mrs K R. “Since we have a cubic zirconia budget.”
That’s what I call a pearl of wisdom.
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Thanks for giving me a reason for stirring rather than shaking a cocktail! I never knew that. It looks beautiful—and delicious.
Definitely a unique blend of ingredients. I've thought about adding Chartreuse to my liquor cabinet (actually liquor closet!) but so far it hasn't happened. It sounds intriguing; a bit along the lines of Campari.
Had to laugh about the olive. My first thought John? Ewww...good call on that cherry!
Really lovely colour, sounds delicious.
Hi Terry, although we'll often shake drinks that "should" be stirred, you really do want to stir this one. And this is an outstanding drink -- really good flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Barb, Chartreuse is expensive but worth getting. And it's so high-proof it lasts forever! And the idea of an olive in this drink just doesn't work. Yuck. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Caroline, it is! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I can't decide which one of the cocktails and drinks you post is the most beautiful? They are all so pretty but I love the name and the story behind this one. Well, it's my birthday this week so I'll take this as my birthday jewel :)
I included this drink in my Savory Cocktail book solely for the fact of the olive! In my book I used a black olive (which is fruitier, but adds the same lovely "dirt" to offset the herbaciousness of Chartreuse). However, the editor removed the olive from the final galleys. I never knew if it was an editorial choice or a goof because I didn't notice til after publication! GREG
Hi Nazneen, they're all good! But this one has outstanding flavor -- definitely worth trying. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Greg, interesting story! I have your book -- and just looked at your version. I noticed you don't use the orange bitters (a lot of versions of this drink don't) -- I think you'd find they'd mellow the Chartreuse a bit. Or maybe no. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love chartreuse! One of my favorite drinks is chartreuse and tonic over ice. Totally deadly. But that may have to change now that I see this!
I love all your wonderful tips - and cutting the lemon over the drink to capture the oils is brilliant! Another beautiful drink and gorgeous photos :) Maybe ... just maybe I'll have to try gin again and see if my more grown-up tastes have evolved!
Hi Abbe, Chartreeuse & tonic? I gotta try that! And I believe it's totally deadly. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Tricia, a lot of people had a bad experience with gin in their youth. Try Plymouth gin -- it's a bit less "ginny" than some of the other brands. Thanks for the comment.
Hi John ,
This is beautiful drink and I know the taste will be just lovely . I try all your cocktails on hubby , they all got a thumbs up . (giggling) I have a board on Pinterest with most of your cocktals . That way I have them at my fingertips . Thanks for sharing :) Pinning
The color of your cocktail is gorgeous, I like it. Liked your photos so much.
An olive?! Well I'll try anything once especially if it looks this beautiful. Thanks for this recipe.
Hi Nee, glad your hubby enjoys the cocktails! Bet he'll like this one -- really interesting flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, so many cocktails are pretty, aren't they? It's really their great good looks and interesting stories that got us interested in them. Of course their wonderful flavor is nice, too! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, we did try the olive. It's interesting, but just doesn't quite work in this drink. The cherry is much better. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
That is so beautiful, John!
Hi Pat, thanks so much!
I AM TOTALLY using the word BiJOU!!!! I am French, so I mean, I MUST! And I think I am a Bijou in the rough? LOL!!
You make the most beautiful cocktails!!! Like all of your cocktails, I'm sure this one taste as good as it looks.
Hi Gigi, I'm sure you do think you're a Bijou in the rough! :D Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, we never put up a cocktail we don't like on the blog, but this one really is good -- very interesting, complex flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Your cocktails still look so amazing! Love the colour of it.
You really do make the most beautiful beverages, John. I went to an event earlier today, the food served was so dry and unappetizing I have experienced in a really long while. My colleague said he'd shout a drink to wash down the feed. I told read him your blog, we went to the nearest bar asked the bar dude to make this. :)
It went down a treat. Thanks for making my Thursday awesome. :)
Mrs. KR is so wise! Beautiful cocktail...
I agree, lovely drink! Who does not love jewels! Great pics and love the tip about cutting the lemon over the drink.
Hi Jenny, it's really a wonderful drink -- lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anna, so much fun you had this! It has a nice flavor, don't you agree? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Debra, she is so wise! And I say that without any arm twisting. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi CEE, originally the whole point of the lemon (or any) garnish was to get that little bit of oil when you cut the garnish. Most bars today seem to have forgotten that! Thanks for the comment.
Another beauty! It sounds tasty too.
Love the stories and history behind your drinks, this one looks especially delicious!
Hi Pam, this really has a nice flavor. Perfect for a before dinner drink. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cheri, this really is a good drink! And the history of cocktails is fun, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
I just like saying the name of this drink. I'd like to order it the next time I'm out ... although I'm not sure if the bartender would know about it ;)
Hi Laura, no worries if the bartender doesn't know this drink (and many won't): just whip out your smartphone and show them the recipe here! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Well now, we learn something new every day! I had no idea there was a logic behind shaken vs stirred. :)
Beautiful cocktail and a lovely story, as usual. Cheers, Rocquie
Hehe, I think I have a cubic zirconia budget too. This cocktail is stunning and definitely looks like a jewel. It's a very pretty colour and I like the idea of releasing some of the lemon's oils into the drink xx
Hi Lydia, I don't always follow the rules, but they are there, and at have some logic to them. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rocquie, isn't this nice? And so yummy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, that trick with releasing the lemon's oil is really worth learning! Makes a difference -- small, but it's there. Thanks for the comment.
I have a moon rock budget but I'd love a taste of this Bijou! What a beautiful drink and you photograph cocktails better than anyone I know.
Hi Maureen, this is a really nice drink -- bet you'd like it. Thanks for such a nice comment!
Diamonds, emeralds and rubies may beyond my budget. But at least I can enjoy a cocktail that pays homage to them. (wink, wink)
Such a pretty name for this cocktail...the color and its intensity is very impressive...indeed nice to sip before dinner.
Have a great weekend John :)
I really love that name - Jewel. I am surprised that the green colour mixing with the red colour doesn't create a grey mixture. Where does the green do?
awesome, hmm your glog made me know a little more about cocktail.....
I think this is the most beautiful series of drinks you've done yet. They all look like gems! Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Hi Carolyn, way beyond our budget, too! But we can think about them -- and pretend -- while we drink this. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
HI Juliana, really nice color on this drink! Good flavor, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Suzanne, I need to dig out my color wheel to answer! Probably it's an amber shade because the reds and greens aren't pure primary colors -- the red of the sweet vermouth is a bit muddy, and the green of the Chartreuse is, well, chartreuse. ;-) But I just looked for my color wheel and couldn't find it -- it's buried someplace. :-( Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dedy, awesome is indeed the word for this! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Beth, this drink truly is a gem not only for how it looks, but its terrific flavor! Thanks for the comment.
This is so pretty John. Even though I rarely drink this is one Id like to try. I wish I knew what each ingredient actually tasted like. Looks wonderful!
Hi Vicki, it's a great drink -- hope you have a chance to try it sometime! Thanks for the comment.
I'm loving the color of this drink! So elegant.
oh yes! I love this drink! Looks delicious and elegant!
I am with Mrs Riffs - cocktails are for parties, celebrations and definitely a time to wear jewels.
Hi Peachy, it's a really pretty drink, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcela, it's totally delish! My kind of cocktail. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lizzie, me too -- but I always agree with Mrs KR! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love the etymology of the name! Such a beauty!
Hi Liz, it really is a beauty, isn't it? And a tasty one to boot! Thanks for the comment.
Knock em dead photos John!!! Wow! So defined and perfect lighting! I see where this would be a stirred and not shaken type of cocktail and so tasty. Perfect for a June gathering. Sharing, of course!!!
Another beautiful cocktail. I think that the cherry would work much better in this cocktail than the olive too. John,you have to be the King of Cocktails and the King of taking pictures of cocktails. Great job as always!!
It's Saturday night here and I wouldn't mind a beautiful drink like that. Love the name and meaning behind it.
Hi Bam, this is a wonderful drink! Tastes better than it looks. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dawn, I can actually understand about he olive, just don't like it! Cherry all the way. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Asha, definitely a drink you should try sometime. And it doesn't have to be a Saturday! Thanks for the comment.
Everything about this drink is gorgeous: the combination of flavors, the color and of course the name! A true crownjewel - cheers!
Ahh, what a lovely drink to have before the onslaught of World War I (little did they know). Nice picture, John, as always. I could use a drink, or three, right now!
Wow.....what a wonderful drink..........its really a gem.looks awesome.
Hi Daniela this really is a crown jewel, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, there were a lot of cocktails developed in that era, weren't there? And ironically enough, after it during Prohibition. And many of them so good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Sudha, this is a gem! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Just beautiful! I just caught up on your posts, and pinned them all. I miss popping in, but with writing my romance books, like is a bit insane. I love all your cocktail posts, they always teach me something new, and sound delicious! I hope you are doing well, Take care, Terra
Hi Terra, you've been busy lately! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Plymouth and London Dry are two separate styles / categories of Gin. Even the names suggest it - Plymouth and London are two different cities in England.
Hi AR, you make a good point; originally (and still) these were different styles of gins (although fairly similar). But these days, at least as far as I know, the Plymouth brand is the only gin still made in Plymouth (and didn't they stop making it for a few years? or maybe just didn't distribute it in the US). And of course a lot of "London" gin isn't made in London. But although the gins are quite similar, they're really distinct; thanks for the reminder.
Another work of art. I'm sure it's gonna be a party blast.
The color is truly jewel-like, isn't it? Another delicious looking drink. One of these days, we'll connect so I can taste one of your works of art!
Hi Lux, this is perfect for a party. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, it'd be fun to serve you a cocktail! And this is a really good one. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
This is definitely my idea of a great cocktail, John! It sounds delicious and is a gem!
Hi Pam, this really is a gem, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Lovely color - great name - and yes, a true jewel!!
I wish I were a legendary mixologist! :) Wouldn't it be fun to invent beautiful cocktails like this?
Hi Ashley, this really is a jewel, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, it'd be fun being a legendary mixologist, wouldn't it? Or legendary anything. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
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