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The Bijou Cocktail Remains an Untouchable Classic

The Bijou Cocktail / Photo by Tyler Zielinski

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.