Spicy rye and bitter orange usher us into autumn
We’re starting to notice the change of seasons. The sun slants lower in late afternoon, the breeze seems to be freshening.
So let’s sip something autumnal. The Brooklyn Cocktail hits just the right note of spicy and astringent (much like its New York City eponym).
Meet you across the Manhattan Bridge.
Recipe: The Brooklyn Cocktail
Several cocktails have celebrated the borough of Brooklyn. But this rye and vermouth version wins the popularity contest. It’s similar to the better-known Manhattan Cocktail (named after that other borough).
Both drinks contain whiskey and vermouth, along with bitters to boost their flavor. The Manhattan relies on Angostura bitters. The Brooklyn uses a mixture of Maraschino liqueur and Picon (a bitter liqueur, which is why it’s often called Amer Picon – “amer” means bitter in French).
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (or dry vermouth if you prefer; see Notes)
- ¼ ounce Amer Picon or substitute (we used Bigallet China-China Amer; see Notes)
- ¼ ounce Maraschino liqueur
- garnish of a lemon twist or maraschino cherry (optional; see Notes)
- Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half filled with ice. Using a long-handled spoon, stir briskly until the ingredients are well chilled.
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that’s been chilled). Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- This drink is traditionally served “up” in a cocktail glass. We also like to serve it over ice in a rocks glass.
- Why stir rather than shake? Because all the ingredients are clear. Shaking introduces tiny oxygen bubbles, which can cloud the drink.
- But shake away if you want. Cocktail rules are made to be broken (and the bubbles dissipate quickly).
- The Brooklyn Cocktail (this version of it, anyway) was probably invented by bartender Jacob “Jack” Grohusko in the early 20th century. Competing “Brooklyn” cocktails have come along throughout the decades (most made with very different ingredients). Grohusko’s version won out mostly because it’s a very good drink. But also because recipes for it were printed in several cocktail guides, including the influential Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930.
- The Brooklyn originally was made with equal parts of rye and sweet vermouth, along with healthy dashes of Amer Picon and Maraschino liqueur. Over time, the ratio of rye to vermouth became to 2:1, and many people opted to substitute dry vermouth for sweet (that variation showed up in the recipe published in the Savoy Cocktail Book). These days, using dry vermouth is probably more common. But we much prefer sweet vermouth in this drink, so that’s how we make it.
- Gaétan Picon developed his namesake liqueur around 1837. Picon, who lived in Algeria for a time, may have developed Amer Picon as a malaria remedy. The mixture contained quinquina and other botanicals mixed with oranges. Orange is the most noticeable flavor in Amer Picon, though the botanicals get to play, too.
- Amer Picon became quite popular in Europe during the 19th century. Later on, it found a home in several cocktails.
- The Brooklyn Cocktail fell out of favor for a while, partly because Amer Picon stopped being produced (better malaria remedies, you know). Amer Picon is back now, although the formula is different – and it’s almost impossible to find in the US.
- Fortunately, there are some good substitutes for Amer Picon. And the Brooklyn Cocktail has become popular again in many craft bars (probably because its amaro-heavy flavor is one that bartenders like to experiment with these days).
- What are the popular substitutes for Amer Picon? Torani Amer (a California brand) is widely available in the western part of the US. We haven’t tried it, though we’ve read that it’s an OK (but not ideal) substitute. Golden Moon Amer dit Picon (from a Colorado distillery) is supposed to be quite good. Bartender Jamie Boudreau has devised a recipe that supposedly tastes very much like the original Amer Picon – but it makes a much larger quantity than most of us will ever use in a reasonable period of time.
- Several liqueurs from France and Italy are similar enough to the original Amer Picon to be used in cocktails – and they’re fairly easy to find in the US. We opted to use French-made China-China Amer, produced by Bigallet. From what we’ve read, its flavor is very close to the original Amer Picon.
- Italian Amaro CioCiaro might also work well as a substitute. Or you could try Amaro Montenegro (we’ve read that adding a dash of orange bitters to this one will yield a flavor closer to the original Amer Picon). Ramazzotti Amaro may be another workable choice.
- Several other classic cocktails use Amer Picon as an ingredient. Over the next year or so, we’ll be exploring some of them. If you’re interested in sampling them, you might want to find a bottle of Amer Picon substitute.
- BTW, the best source we know for drinks history is cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich. He writes for a number of online sources and is currently working on the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails for Oxford University Press. We followed his suggestion to use Bigallet China-China as an Amer Picon substitute.
- We like to use Rittenhouse 100 rye for cocktails. It’s fairly inexpensive and probably not great as a sipping rye. But as a cocktail ingredient, it’s superb.
- Some drinkers substitute bourbon for rye in this cocktail. We think that’s a mistake, but give it a try if you’d like.
- Dry or sweet vermouth? Sweet vermouth makes for a more complex and interesting drink, in our opinion.
- Maraschino liqueur is fairly bitter. It tastes nothing like the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries, so don’t try to substitute that.
- We recommend using ¼ ounce each of Maraschino liqueur and Amer Picon substitute in this drink. But you might prefer less (maybe ½ to 1 teaspoon of each).
- We’ve mentioned quite a few brands in this post, so our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial and don’t get compensated for mentioning brands. We buy our booze with our own money, and discuss only what we like and use (or would use).
- What garnish to add? Maraschino cherries seem to be popular, but we think a lemon twist works better (the extra hint of citrus is nice in this drink). Or you can just skip the garnish – we often do.
Falling into Place
“Lovely as an autumn leaf,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I could fall for this drink.”
“Hard to believe this one ever fell out of favor,” I said.
“They found better meds for malaria,” said Mrs K R. “So Amer Picon went away for a while. To the distress of cocktail drinkers everywhere.”
“We had to do some serious research before we found a substitute,” I said. “Say, how many tabs can I have open before my computer melts down?”
“Fortunately, we never reached that limit,” said Mrs K R. “But we did work up quite a thirst.”
“Is that a hint?” I said, eyeing her empty glass.
“Maybe another round,” said Mrs K R. “To toast the imminent arrival of autumn.”
But just one more. Don’t want to take a fall.
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I am happy that Fall arrives :-) that means holiday season is not far any more! That's a really beautiful drink to welcome a new season, John.
Hi Angie, we love fall recipes, so it's our favorite season. :-) Thanks for the comment.
As usual I love your recipes and of course the puns. A nice cocktail for fall while sitting on the deck is a great way to celebrate fall. I still have to wait a while for it but it is the price you pay when living in the south.
Hi Anne, we lived in Texas and Florida for years, so I do know about late falls. But this drink is worth waiting for. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Looks really pretty!
Hi Natalia, isn't it? Delish, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
You know, I would love to see your "hooch" cabinet! Perhaps you have an entire wing?
The Brooklyn looks wonderful and I just forwarded to my friends in Brooklyn who are cocktail aficionados... They will love this.
I was just writing about the seasonal change -- although it's still summer (and will feel like summer) for a while, the beginning of school always says "autumn" to me... And here we are...
Stay safe and well!
Those beautiful autumn colors in the Brooklyn cocktail are stunning. I think this drink might pack a punch. Maybe 2 of these and the word "fall" means more than the seasons.(smiling) Wishing you a lovely week.
We don't have any refreshing cool weather yet but that wouldn't stop me from enjoying this cocktail.
Hi David, hooch is such a great word, isn't it? We have way too much. But we keeping making new drinks, so we kinda have to. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, this drink does pack a punch. It's the sweet vermouth that really gives this such pretty color. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, you can just adjust your AC until it feels like fall. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hooch is, indeed, a great word. We always refer to our stash as the hooch cabinet, whether it is all in one place or not.
Hi David, we have our main hooch cabinet in our kitchen, and a considerable overflow in the basement. That's where we store all the stuff we don't use that often, but of course plan to use. Eventually. :-)
Oh this has all the feels of the Fall season.
We're getting a few fall like days here. Love it....and this is the perfect cocktail to celebrate!
Hi Dahn, it does, doesn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, definitely a few cool days, and the quality of the light is changing so! Really noticeable in the late afternoon. Which just happens to be cocktail time. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely cocktail to welcome fall. I look forward to it. The season and the drink. :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, we love fall! And this drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful Cocktail, as always! I love the red color, perfect for the cool season
Hi Holly, great color and flavor both. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Due to storm Laura, its rainy and windy for past couple of days here in Alabama. The brooklyn cocktail looks so beautiful, it’s the kind of thing I am, more or less, always in the mood for. ;)
I feel like this cocktail almost has to be drunk in front of a roaring fire, it sounds delicious.
This is another lovely cocktail. The days are starting to get that more autumn-like feel lately, even if I'm not quite ready for summer to end!
Hi Rahul, hope Laura didn't cause you too many problems! This would be the perfect antidote to the storm. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Caroline, roaring fire would be perfect! Gotta try that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amy, it's still just hinting at autumn here, but I know it's coming. So we're looking forward to drinking many more of these. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi R, yup! :-) Thanks for the comment.
YUM! I'm a rye whiskey girl. Bookmarked this recipe.
Hi Pam, this drink is definitely for whiskey drinkers. :-) Thanks for the comment.
The drink is looking amazing and has got the colors of the fall! Bookmarked!Thanks for sharing.
Hi Sosnia, it really has wonderful flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
You had me at Brooklyn, John! And this sounds wonderfully autumnal. Thanks for the deep dive bitters class—I would love to peek in your liquor cabinet sometime. Is it a walk-in?
Hi Terry, it should be a walk in! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks wonderful! Perfect for fall. Loved getting the drink's history as well!
Hi Lauren, it's rather nice, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks wonderful!
Fall is coming quickly in our part of the world and your Brooklyn Cocktail would suit us just fine. But, I've just checked and can't find Picon Amer of any substitutes. As a former Manhattan drinker this one intrigues me. I shall continue my search for a proper substitute.
Great images, you know I'm falling for your photography.
Hi Unknown, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ron, finding the Amer Picon substitute can be hard. We first wanted to do this drink (and some other ones that use Amer Picon), 4 or 5 years ago and at that time we couldn't find any substitute that was sold locally. These days there are two or three. Maybe make a quick trip to Denmark? I'm *guessing* the stores there might have something that would work. Thanks for the comment (and the pun).
I love this cocktail!! And your photography is beautiful!!
Hi Mary Frances, isn't it a great drink? Thanks for your comment.
This is really interesting. I love a Manhattan, and I always ask for it to have a bit of the maraschino juice dirty it up. I think this Brooklyn cocktail sounds kind of made for me.
Hi Jeff, bet you'd like it! It's a neat drink. Manhattans are one of our favorites, too. Thanks for the comment.
This reminds me of my trip to NY two years ago -- which, given these changing times, now seems like a lifetime ago. I don't know when I'll feel comfortable again boarding a plane for a trip like that. But at least I can sip on this lovely cocktail and pretend I'm in NY again.
What a lovely little cocktail. I didn't know there was such thing as Maraschino liquor. That could be dangerous. :) Why am I not surprised that you have a 1930's cocktail book.
It looks like its going to autumn there and spring here. Need to bring out those spring cocktails I saved from this site. Lovely cocktail BTW
Hi Carolyn, we're with you in being really uncertain when we'll fly again. Not until after a vaccine, for sure. But we can visit NYC virtually, by drinking this! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, we actually have quite a few cocktail books. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Raymund, this could well be an early spring cocktail, too. One of those windy, rainy spring days. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Have you heard of a Red Hook? It's a classic cocktail made from rye, maraschino liquor and Punt e Mes (a “sweet” vermouth with a “bitter” edge). In case you didn’t know, Red Hook is a neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. So I have to wonder how all these regional riffs on a Manhattan got started. GREG
Hi Greg, I have heard of a Red Hook -- it's one of the many "Brooklyn" drinks. No idea why all the regional riffs -- I assume every bartender who invented one wanted to cash in on the fame of the Manhattan. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Fall is here atleast technically with the nip in the weather. Your puns and the lady cocktail drink is awesome.Loved the click absolutely.
Hi Hasin, there's definitely a change in the quality of light here, and we're getting some cooling breezes. Time for this drink! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful cocktail. I am so ready for fall. I never make Manhattans. Why is that? Must try one for cooler weather.
Hi Debra, Manhattans are wonderful -- we really like the flavor profile, a lot. So we like this drink. A lot. :-) Thanks for the comment.
i'm not much of a cocktail drinker these days (unlike my hedonistic youth) but this sounds amazing. and strong! great photos as usual:)
I have never had Amer Picon, but now I am dying to try it. I had Amaro Montenegro once and loved it. I'm often very into those bitter drinks that wake up taste buds.
Hi Sherry, it's really a fun drink -- great flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, it's so interesting what the right amount of "bitter" can do to wake up those taste buds! Sounds weird, but such a pleasant taste. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I have noticed the sun setting just a bit earlier, but I'm still waiting for a fresher breeze. I'm happy to sip this cocktail while I wait, though! Love the curl of lemon on the edge.
Hi Lisa, those fresh breezes are coming. And if you sip this, you won't care when. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Came by to say hi and wish you a great day.
Hi R, thanks, you have one too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
The evenings are getting shorter and the days are cooler. Sounds like the perfect cocktail for the autumn weather.
Hi Dawn, yup, a great fall drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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