Each week the iFanStaff passes along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail (or beer, or wine, or booze) and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.
The bijou is a cocktail I first learned about when I was at one of my favorite bars with a trusted bartender at the helm. I noticed they had recently gotten a bottle of a type of gin I liked and asked him what cocktails they were making with it. He said they hadn’t developed any in house recipes but he could play around if I wanted. I said, sure, go nuts (pro tip: good bartenders like it when you give them an outline, e.g. I like that spirit and I want something refreshing, and let them do their thing). He came back with a bijou.
The bijou dates back to at least 1900 when it appeared in Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender Manual. Harry Johnson was the best bartender of his time, according to himself, and was known for specializing in very complex drinks. The bijou, however, is about as simple as cocktails get. I often like to steal Alton Brown’s simile in saying a good cocktail is like a 3-note chord, there’s a dominant sound that can only be achieved through the blending of components, and the bijou is as simple to make as it’s flavors are complex.
1 oz. gin
1 oz. green Chartreuse
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Combine all ingredients (with a dash or two of orange bitters) and stir in an ice-filled mixer then strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry and an expressed lemon zest.
It really is that simple. Other recipes may call for other ratios, but I assure you that keeping the 1:1:1 is the way to go. I have yet to find a gin that this recipe does not work with, but do be diligent in using green Chartreuse (not yellow) and sweet vermouth (not dry). The reasons for this are two-fold: 1) it tastes better and 2) the name bijou in French means “jewel.” The reason this cocktail is called jewel is because each spirit represents a precious stone; gin is a diamond, green Chartreuse in an emerald, and sweet vermouth is a ruby. And for those wondering, yes, the color chartreuse is named after the spirit.
A note on the garnish. The neon maraschino cherries you’re probably most familiar with aren’t likely to do this drink any favors, either consider making your own at home, or consider leaving this garnish out. Also, an expressed lemon zest is when you take the lemon zest (avoid the rind, it’s too bitter) and twist it over the poured drink. The twisting breaks the tiny packets of oil contained in the peel. If you’ve ever seen a bartender use a lighter on a lemon peel they’re doing the same thing, just with flame instead of force. I like to rub the zest around the rim of the glass then drop it in, but that’s just me.
The end result is a hearty spirit-forward cocktail that blends herbal and sweet in a way few other drinks achieve.
Cowboy Ninja Vikingis another comic where three individual elements combine into something wonderful. The story is by A. J. Lieberman and the art is by Riley Rossmo. In comic reviews, I often find it easy to get bogged down in talking about the story, with only a perfunctory mention of the art, but in this book Rossmo is the star. I don’t want to completely neglect the story, however, so here’s my elevator pitch: patients with multiple personalities are trained to be Jason Bourne level assassins, and each personality is built into a different type of killer. The main character, Duncan, is a cowboy, a ninja, and a viking. There are loads of other silly and inventive combinations throughout the book, but I’ll let you find them yourselves.
From and art and design sense, this book took some thought. There are a lot of scenes where one character is talking to themselves through three different personas. Rossmo had to essentially create four looks, one for their normal self plus their triplet personalities, for every character yet still have them be recognizable. Then the letter, Clayton Cowles, had to design an iconographic word balloon for each personality. Some of his solutions are exceedingly clever, while others do fall a bit flat.
I’ve been a huge fan of Rossmo’s art since I first saw it in Proof, and in Cowboy Ninja Viking I feel like he played it even looser with a lot of his penciling. I find the end result aesthetically pleasing panel by panel, but was also sometimes lost in the storytelling. There are a few characters I could just never keep straight, and while by and large this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book, it did leave me feeling like I didn’t quite get all there was to get from each issue.
Regardless, the concept is strong enough to carry the book when the story-telling gets a bit muddled. Like the bijou, its three ingredients combined just right and with a little zest to achieve some awesome results. It’s not a drink or a book for everyone, it’s not even a drink or a book you want all the time, but when the mood is right there can be nothing better, and if you’re in the mood then I humbly suggest this pair of threes.
Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy the comics that make you happy and spread the love.