The Brooklyn is a classic cocktail made of Rye Whiskey, Dry Vermouth, Amer Picon, and Maraschino liqueur. And when garnished with a Maraschino cherry, the Brooklyn cocktail is reminiscent of other traditional cocktails like the Manhattan or Martinez. Also, in the last couple of years, more and more riffs on the Brooklyn cocktail appeared in bars and home bars. Fittingly, these riffs are mostly named after neighborhoods within the borough of Brooklyn.
The original recipe uses Amer Picon, a bittersweet, Belgian aperitif made of orange and gentian. Regrettably, this liqueur is quite hard to get outside Europe. But don't worry, I have some recommendations on how you can replace Amer Picon and still create a decent Brooklyn cocktail.
History of the Brooklyn cocktail
The first time the Brooklyn cocktail appeared in written form was in 1908. Jacques Straub published the drink in his cocktail book "Drinks". However, Straub's original recipe is different from the one he published. A misprint turned Sweet Vermouth into Dry Vermouth. But most bartenders continued creating the cocktail out of his book. Therefore, today, that version is the standard recipe for a Brooklyn cocktail.
Should you intend to mix a Brooklyn cocktail as Straub envisioned it, replace the Dry with Sweet Vermouth. But Vermouth isn't the only ingredient that offers opportunities for substitutes. As I said, Amer Picon, the famous Belgian liqueur, is quite hard to get in many places. That's also a chief reason why the cocktail disappeared from bar menus for a long time.
So, if you don't have it at home and can't order it, there are some ways to replace it.
How to substitute Amer Picon
Besides Rye Whiskey and Vermouth, the Brooklyn consists of an equal mix of Maraschino liqueur and Amer Picon. Due to the limited availability of the latter, bartenders came up with various ideas to replace it without changing the overall identity and character of the cocktail.
One popular take is replacing Maraschino and Amer Picon with one single ingredient. A suitable Amaro like Ciociaro works really well and creates an enjoyable cocktail that's quite close to the original version. Other alternatives only replace the Amer Picon.
The taste of Amer Picon is herbal and citrusy with intensive orange notes. Therefore substituting it with a similarly citrusy Amaro is possibly the best way to replace the original ingredient. Amaro Tosolini, Amaro Ciociaro, or Bigallet China-China Amer are all excellent options.
However, if you don't want to invest in such a specialized liqueur, there's also a more practical approach. You can replace the Amer Picon part with two dashes of Angostura bitters. That seems far off the original recipe, but it results in a surprisingly similar drink.
Other cocktails named after NYC boroughs
No doubt, the Brooklyn cocktail is inspired by the Manhattan cocktail. And obviously, New York City has even more boroughs worthy of lending their name to a cocktail.
For instance, the Bronx Cocktail is an easy-to-make three-ingredient cocktail mixed with Gin, Vermouth, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The IBA used to list it for quite a long time, and it was very famous in the 1930s. A ranking from 1934 even rewarded it as the 3rd most popular cocktail worldwide.
The relation between the Brooklyn and Manhattan cocktail is comparable to that of the Bronx and the Queens. The Queens is also a three-ingredient cocktail based on Gin and Vermouth. But instead of orange juice, its creator Harry Craddock decided to use fresh pineapple juice instead.
And also, Staten Island has its own recipe, at least if you want to call it a recipe. The simple formula asks for an equal amount of Malibu Rum and pineapple juice. The result is a very sweet and unbalanced cocktail reminding of a subpar Piña Colada. So, for obvious reasons, the Staten Island is my least favorite one amongst all NYC-inspired cocktails.
- 2 oz Rye Whiskey
- 1 oz Dry Vermouth
- ¼ oz Maraschino liqueur
- ¼ oz Amer Picon
- 1 pcs Maraschino cherry (garnish)
- Add all ingredients except the cherry into a mixing glass with plenty of ice.
- Stir until the drink is well chilled.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a Maraschino cherry skewered on a cocktail pick.