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On this episode of the “Cocktail College” podcast, host Tim McKirdy is joined by Frank Caiafa of Handle Bars NYC to discuss the Bronx, a classic NYC borough cocktail, adjacent to the Manhattan and the Brooklyn. The two discuss the cocktail’s origins, ingredients, and Caiafa’s specs before learning a bit about Frank himself. Tune in for more.

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Frank Caiafa’s Bronx Recipe


  • 1 ½ ounces London Dry gin
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Garnish: orange twist


  1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake until chilled.
  3. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass.
  4. Express and discard an orange twist garnish.

Check Out the Conversation Here

Tim McKirdy: You can keep your Pescis and your De Niros because for today’s “Bronx Tale,” we got one of the best in the business. Genuine New Yorker here today as well. Frank Caiafa. Thanks for joining us.

Frank Caiafa: Hello.

T: How are you doing today?

F: Very well, thank you.

T: I’m right in saying that right? Genuine New Yorker here in the studio today.

F: Born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

T: You’re feeling okay for us to make a detour into a different borough today?

F: Sure.

T: No beef there?

F: No. I’m not a Yankee fan either.

T: What about just the Bronx, right? Most iconic cocktail from a New York borough of course is going to be the Manhattan, right? What about the Bronx? How do you feel about this drink? I’m hoping you like it. That’s why we’re here today.

F: I do like it and I like it in many various iterations as well. I think it’s pretty pliable. I think it can go from anywhere to a stirred, augmented perfect Martini to a full-blown brunch type on the rocks Royale, afternoon quaff as well, and everywhere in between. If you look at most recipes through time, they did hit almost every variation in between with augments of absinthe and egg whites all the way down.

T: Nice. Not like that Manhattan mold there where you have one where, OK, you can tweak the ratios and maybe add a little bit of this or that, but the formula there has remained pretty much the same throughout time, right?

F: Right. Well, actually it’s the exact opposite, because the Manhattan is meant to be augmented through time, it’s been augmented and different names have come out of it. Brooklyn or Cobble Hill and all these other variations.

T: Spins and riffs. Yes.

F: Right. The funny thing about the Bronx is that mostly, except the ones with Champagne and absinthe, they’ve been just variations on the same few ingredients. More are those-

T: What are those ingredients for those who might not be familiar?

F: Well, typically it’s London dry gin, sweet and dry vermouth, and orange juice.

T: We’ll get into this in the ingredients section, but when you say sweet and dry there, we’re talking like a sweet red vermouth right, or a bianco?

F: Yes.

T: A sweet red. Nice.

F: Sorry, I should clarify.

The History of the Bronx

T: No, no, no. I think of anything that, I think it was implied, but — myself there. This is a drink that’s steeped in history as have been many of the places you’ve worked in throughout your career too. Let’s start with the drink’s history though. Can you tell us about that and then maybe weave in your own journey along the way there, if that makes sense for us to do so?

F: Sure. Well, this certainly goes back to the turn of the last century. The 1800s into the 1900s. The first time it’s in print is 1901 with attributing John “Curley” O’Connor, the bartender from the Waldorf on 5th Avenue, as the creator. His version, that particular aversion, they don’t list, so you don’t know, but I’m going to assume it’s somewhat similar to the one in Jock Straub’s drinks, which is based on, he had a good viewing and borrowed the old hotel book from Oscar Tschirky, Oscar of the Waldorf. In that one, it’s a perfect Martini shaken with peels of orange.

T: Shaken?

F: Right.

T: The peels of orange, again, some people these days maybe want to call that, what is that? The royal shake? I don’t know. Get into that book.

F: Right. The peel.

T: Do we know anything? Were they too fussed about the whole shaken versus stirred argument back then?

F: No, but I would argue that when it first shows up in print in William “Cocktail” Boothby’s book from 1908, “World Drinks And How To Mix Them,” he just says, “Serve cold.” His is with an actual augment bar spoon of orange juice, which I tend to like to think whether I’m wrong or not remains to be seen. I like to think, since it’s the only one besides the El Floridita one, which specifies being stirred, it’s the only one that you can get away with stirring officially since it doesn’t say either way. The rest of them all direct the drink to be shaken.

T: That’s because of that citrus component there in the orange juice?

F: Yes. Right. I would think so, yes.

T: How much does that, just pulling aside from history for a second, how much does that really change the profile of this because you list the first couple of ingredients and like you said, it’s like a perfect Martini, but then you introduce this orange juice, like profile-wise, does that shake things up, excuse the pun.

F: It does. To me, a stirred version with a small augment of peel and or a bar spoon of juice is a great way to go as more of a Martini pre-dinner.

T: Cocktail.

F: Stiffer cocktail. The shaken one with a full ounce of orange juice, if you may, with full doses of vermouths and gin, shaken, it’s more in the line of a pleasing afternoon cocktail, I would think. A crowd pleaser along the lines of as, I think David Wondrich has called it, the Cosmo of its time.

T: Absolutely. It’s interesting that you start to do those classic gin cocktail roundups in your head or whatnot. Maybe this is just a failing of myself but the Bronx again, it really is not one of the first ones that comes to mind. It’s often an afterthought if even a thought.

F: It’s also not looked upon fondly by the modern-day bartender or drinker. It’s probably the only major cocktail as popular that never had a heyday post its main heyday like the Aviation, which is not looked upon fondly right now. Again, at least that had a resurgence at the beginning of the aughts when people started finding maraschino liqueur and all the old ingredients came back.

T: Bring that back in, those guys. What about why do you think that is?

F: The orange juice is definitely a dividing ingredient. To have it you have to prepare à la minute so you have to be prepared to prepare it à la minute and then to do it for a full bar. That’s a challenge, I guess, for some busier bars. Then deciding on what it is you want to serve. Do you want to serve something juicier and then if you go that way, I think there’s better cocktails to get that point across.

T: Maybe you could argue that a lot of this rediscovering of drinks and a lot of cocktail-making over the past 25 years has been this real pursuit of balance. For that, we usually turn to citrus like lemon and lime for the acidity where the orange doesn’t quite have that. I don’t know. It’s weird, it feels like and I’m not trying to sh*t on the Bronx here. It does feel like a drink with a bit of an identity crisis. Kind of resembles a Martini, but then we’re shaking it. It’s got the citrus, but maybe no sweetness to it as well. You’re only getting the sweetness from the vermouth, so it’s all over the place and never all together.

F: I think for its time, I’ll say this, it was innovative. It used juice, probably the first one that became popular using juice. It incorporated fairly new items like vermouth into the mix. Probably the first London dry gin, not really focusing on genever at the turn in the last century. There were a lot of new things in it that lent itself to popularity. Also, you have to realize the back bars of the day didn’t have that much as much as we have today. They worked with what they had.

T: Exactly. You’re pulling from fewer ingredients. Then what happens after that too, it’s like if I’m having a gin and vermouth drink, chances are I’m probably going for the Martini first. I pulled you off on a little tangent there while we’re doing our historical deep dive. Are there any other moments that we want to highlight here?

F: The most famous origin story is of course the Johnny Salon, bartender at the Waldorf that Albert Stevens Crockett wrote in “Old Waldorf Bar Days.”

T: Can I interrupt you here for a second there as well? For any folks maybe not familiar, there’s an old Waldorf and there’s a new Waldorf. I know people will be like Waldorf-Astoria, their mind immediately goes to New York and classic New York.

F: I guess we’re into mach three now.

T: We’re into mach.

F: You have the original hotel that was on 5th Avenue where the Empire State Building stands today.

T: Just out the window there near us.

F: Current location is Park and 50th, takes the entire block and it’s been there since 1933. Then it’s been closed for renovations since 2017. When it reopens, it’ll definitely be mach three. It’s not going to be a renovated old version of the second hotel.

T: Wow. The same location, but it’s going to be completely redesigned.

F: More or less. There’s a few landmark locations within the building, but by and large, it’ll be brand new.

T: Nice. So then it’s mach two where we have this origin story.

F: My book represents, like Albert Stevens Crockett, he wrote a book for a hotel that didn’t exist anymore. During Prohibition, he wrote his homage “Old Waldorf Bar Days” about the first hotel. I wrote my version of the Waldorf-Astoria bar book, but I really didn’t know when I started it, of course, that I would be doing the same type of service to the hotel that he did. It turned out that right after my book was released, a year later, the hotel closed.

T: That’s a bummer.

F: It is what it is.

T: It is what it is. That origin story you had there in that bar?

F: In that bar. Johnny Salon, the bartender of the day, was apparently making Duplexes, which were simple drinks, wine-based drinks, half-sweetened, dry vermouth. The lunchtime bartender challenged him to make a new drink. He did so by adding gin and juice to the Duplex, apparently shaking it up, and it became the hottest new thing. He went from less than a case of oranges a day to over three or four cases a day.

T: Wow.

F: I often say that being around at the time that rivers of gin and juice were flowing at lunchtime must have been some sight.

T: Snoop Dogg would have enjoyed it. Johnny Salon, what a bartender name.

F: Even a lot of them had good names. Curly O’Connor.

T: Was that a “Christian name” or was that more of a moniker he went by? Maybe his name was Johnny, but it is Johnny Salon.

F: Right, Johnny Salon.

T: Makes me think of the old “Good Fellas,” Frankie. Was it Frankie Two Times?

F: Yes, everyone had a nickname.

T: Everyone of them had a nickname. Going to get the papers, get the papers. Where does the story go from there?

F: By the time the new hotel, that hotel opened, it starts immediately falling out of favor. It was probably a crowd-pleaser during Prohibition as the juice and the vermouths hid flawed gin that was floating around during Prohibition, but it immediately falls out of favor and never reaches its heights again.

T: That’s it.

F: Soon after Prohibition, it was in”The Thin Man,” right? When he described shaking it to the two-beat or samba or whatever it is, going through it all. Yes, but soon after, that’s it and never to really reach popularity again.

T: What about your own career and experience with this drink, then, and also your own career leading up to being at the Waldorf-Astoria? When did you first come across this drink? How does that all come together?

F: My parents were into drinking, so we had a fair amount of bar books and whatnot and things from liquor stores. Even back then, it was still included in the calendars of the local liquor store or whatnot because it was so popular in its day and it’s fairly easy to make. Anybody can do it. It did hang around. It wasn’t made with honey, but I was aware in the classic cocktails of the world, the Bronx, everyone heard of it. It wasn’t the Rob Roy, that’s for sure. The Rob Roy is also a cocktail associated with the Waldorf, that’s probably maintained popularity throughout the 20th century.

T: Somewhat polarizing or not really, the Rob Roy? I feel I don’t know. No, I’m thinking of the Blood and Sand. There’s a Scotch cocktail and orange juice as well in that one.

F: Yes. I still say, though, I worked on a recipe that I placed in my book. I think as long as you don’t make the Blood and Sand equal parts, you’re fine. If you lean on the Scotch, it’s OK.

T: Yes, I’ve definitely had good versions in my time, but I’m aware of that connotation and there being what, basically two, three Scotch cocktails, it may be sometimes easy to mix them up. When did you begin at the Waldorf, then?

F: In 2005. Actually, Peacock Alley was closed since 9/11. With fanfare, we re-opened in 2005. I tried to wiggle in as many appropriate free-flow cocktails as I could within reason. I never tried to incorporate the Bronx into the list.

T: Really?

F: Yes. Awareness was the big ingredient missing from the guests on down, Martinez, no one heard of that now in 2005, everything, anything challenging I placed on the list just for consistency. The whole staff would have a common backstory, a common recipe, and be able to totally guess why these drinks are on the list. That was the fun part of the job. Growing along with everyone’s awareness of the cocktail.

T: It’s interesting. We kind of had this conversation recently with another guest, Eric Castro, about ebbs and flows and trends in cocktail culture. Maybe early aughts being this full-on speakeasy style or like pre-Prohibition classics. Rediscovering all of those. Maybe you want to go a little bit further and say stirred boozy drinks. People not taking tiki seriously and then moving into tropical, then experimentation, technology, all this stuff. Keen to hear what do you think? What kind of era are we in at the moment? I don’t see a place these days without a Martini on the menu. It feels like two or three out of every five bars has a Martini menu. What do you think we are like in broader terms? Where are we with cocktails at the moment? What’s going on?

F: I think it’s very dependent on the operation and the concept of the operation, you can have a lot of fun. I think it’s more varied than ever. I think you can be as tight to the classics as you want. Innovative as you want. I could give examples of each. You could be as fun as you want. Each week, there’s a new fun place. I think that’s important. Bringing fun and keeping fun and going out to all can be free throw, stirred, boozy.

T: Because it’s like the old adage about why you invest in property, they ain’t making any more land, ain’t making any more pre-Prohibition cocktails. They’ve all happened. It’s impossible.

F: To be fair, let’s say when I started at Peacock Alley in ’05, that’s when everyone was delving into these old books. Soon you just simply run out of material. Everyone ran out of material at about the same time. That’s when the ’70s, tiki and all of that started picking back up because you had to fill the next hole.

T: It’s fascinating how it happens. I guess the other part of that question there was, is now the Bronx’s time?

F: I don’t know. It can be. I think people just have to be a little more adventurous and open-minded about it. I think you can make variations that are very good. Like I said, in the old books, they call a version with extra juice a Jazz. If you put that on the rocks, there’s nothing wrong with it. You make a classic Bronx build, add another ounce of juice, you could probably build the whole thing in the glass and everyone’s happy. You put a touch of Champagne on top of that. It’s even better.

T: Yes, there we go. Just you know, the subtle, maybe one or two other things come into it and there you go.

F: Also, I think a version with the dash of absinthe really blends with the spine it needs. I think that’s the most important ingredient that it’s missing when most people make it. Either by adding peel maybe with some pith when you shake it or stir it, or orange bitters is somehow you can incorporate a spine into it, it becomes a whole other drink.

T: I think that’s it. I think that’s when I was talking earlier about this drink slightly being all over the place. It’s like yes, you need that, can’t describe it better, the spine of the drink. Even if it’s just small like the bitters, it’s not a large addition but just adding that maybe it’s like the old seasoning of peppers. They like to describe it.

F: It does something.

T: It does something, yes. If you’re a wine drinker, you might be familiar with the term “flabby,” like the very loose, and then it brings it all together. Is that how you would describe a really well-executed version of the Bronx as having spine, how else would you describe this?

F: Yes. If I had one, that’s what I would expect. If I didn’t have one. It’s certainly a one-and-done. If you have one with a spine, whatever it is, however the bartender decides to make that happen. I’ve done them even with drops of acid phosphate.

T: Tell us about that. What’s that?

F: It adds the citrus note of a lemon and a lime without the flavor.

T: Kind of like citric and malic acid.

F: Right. You hit a couple of dashes of that and it gives that puckering without tasting lemon or lime flavor. You can also just simply add a dash of lemon or lime.

The Ingredients Used in Frank Caiafa’s Bronx

T: Nice. How about we get into the ingredients now, break those down bit by bit. Starting with gin, the star of the show.

F: Traditionally, you have it with London Dry gin, but I’ve made it with genever, I’ve made it with Old Tom. I think Old Tom works well, too, but then you’re leaning on looking for more spine, right, because it’s lower in proof, it’s sweeter. You’re not really helping the cause.

T: No.

F: As a crowd pleaser, if I was serving them at brunch with a little lower alcohol, probably works best, right?

T: Oh, really?

F: In fact, that’s how I really see, if this was to become popular again, it can be popular as a brunch cocktail.

T: That’s a good point. Yes. I certainly feel like that would appeal to a drinker such as myself, where I do like my whatever cocktail that I’m having to have a good presence of spirits. With that-

F: Also that takes care of the fresh orange juice problem of orange.

T: You’re already juicing them for Mimosas, I bet, you’re just getting through that.

F: It’s lasting ability, right? You don’t have to worry about it lasting six or eight hours from 4 in the afternoon and becoming flabby at the end. You’re only serving brunch a couple of hours, you make as much as you need, and call it a day.

T: Done. Nice. Question for you about gin in general. You say London Dry definitely feels like that, feel like a good juniper presence, too, might help with that spine that you spoke about. How interested are you in ABV of gin? I asked that because when we’ve had people on the show talking about whiskey cocktails, a lot of the time, it’s like a non-negotiable, it’s like it has to be 50 proof, minimum, 100 proof, sorry. 50 percent ABV. Do you have a low end for gin when it comes to making cocktails, or are you not really concerned? Is it an afterthought?

F: It’s dependent on the cocktail. For sure. A Martini, everybody knows about Beefeater lowering it’s proof.

T: What’s your take on that, by the way? Not necessarily good or bad, say whatever you want, but feel free to. Also, have you noticed the difference yourself?

F: In a blind tasting, there’s not that much difference, but I have some old bottles at home and there’s not that much difference. Taste-wise, profile, no. Heat, not in the Martini, you wouldn’t notice a difference, I would think, realistically. As far as proof of ABV in gin, 94 is nice, it gives you some room. Even the 86 is good, depending on what you use it for, I’ve had some good expressions in 86. Navy strength, an ounce of Navy strength in a Bronx would probably take care of everything as well. You lower the amount that you put in the drink, but the strength of the gin would add its spine, right?

T: I love it, I love that idea. Also, I feel like I’m occasionally looking for uses for my navy strength gin because I like a strong Martini, I like a dry Martini, but sometimes that navy just doesn’t quite hit right with it. It’s too much.

F: They’re also drier, from whatever it is. Maybe it’s the alcohol or the botanicals they use. You have to face that. That’s why they’re good in cocktails as a layered portion of the whole mix, as opposed to the star, which I think in the Bronx that, especially in a Bronx-type cocktail, the gin is the star, so you want to make sure you-

T: Do you have a preference on a London Dry or a navy? You personally, just as a-

F: Only, brand-wise, if I had to, I would say Tanqueray only because there’s a citrus note already going on, so it kind of meets it halfway, so nothing’s really battling. Like you said, having a more juniper-forward gin might prop it up as well.

T: I feel like a Junipero might be a good one for this one.

F: Yes. Right. I was thinking that too.

T: It’s a real good one. Underutilized, and what was it as well? Phil Ward comes up a lot on this podcast because he’s never going to come in the studio. I was down there recently, Long Island Bar, he was saying very, very good Last Word gin — Junipero. Haven’t tried it myself.

F: No, I’m not really a fan of the Last Word.

T: No?

F: One of the classics I didn’t even include in my book.

T: Why is that? What’s going on there?

F: I don’t know. I just never liked it. Every iteration I tried tinkering with it, I just never liked. There’s better uses for Chartreuse, Green Chartreuse, I think.

T: It’s funny. Well, this was a topic again of a recent episode and we were talking about that last-

F: Don’t come at me, folks.

T: Well, again, rationing that Green Chartreuse these days, but the Last Word is, it’s one of those cocktails, very little margin for error.

F: Right.

T: How about the Bronx, then, on that front, like, is there a good decent amount or not? Like if I’m shaking it for 5 or 10 seconds too long, does this thing start to become like way too thin or?

F: No, I think just the ingredient level makes the most identity, will give it the most identity. I find that lately, a stirred version with an augmented small amount of fresh orange juice, a Martini version is the way I would go. I think it props itself up better with bitters nice and orange and as a hint. Then there’s the fun way. That’s what I find interesting. The popular, fun shaken Blossom is probably the no-fail.

T: Nice.

F: You can tinker with it all you want, tinker with it all you want, for personal taste, but like I said, using a genever in there brings a whole new element to it.

T: Yes, changes that. Let’s move on to vermouth off the bat, sweet and dry. Are you going same brand, same family, or do you have a preference of each one for each opponent?

F: No. What I would say is try to get the most pliable, like not over-the-top renditions of either vermouth you want, because it’s already got a lot of flavor profiles going on and botanicals from the gin. You don’t want too many botanicals from the vermouth and overpowering.

T: Some people might describe these as you’re talking about maybe a workhorse.

F: Yes.

T: Which I think is sometimes taken as a negative connotation, but it doesn’t have to be.

F: No. In some cocktails, that’s what you want, right? You want just a little whatever they add, but a little of it. You don’t need to swing for the fences every time. Like, oh boy, we have a vermouth here.

T: Again, any preferences there or for this one or it’s more of an afterthought than the gin?

F: French vermouth, keep it traditional for the dry and Italian vermouth for the sweet. That would be-

T: Nice.

F: -a good place to start.

T: Sharing the love.

F: Yes. It is, I like the orange bitters, that’s up to you. I like a dash in either variation or shaken with peel, you can do that.

T: Will that have some of the same effect there? Obviously, there’s not as much going on as an orange bitters, but-

F: I think this is a fun drink for the audience to find these things out, and we can put up different recipes up on the site. They can tinker with it as well, and see, because so much is personal taste and part of the experience that I learned from writing recipes for not only a bar, but then for a larger audience for a book. You want to play the middle, or you get caught playing the middle more times than you want, but I think the middle is a good place to start when you’re trying to reach the most people.

T: I think you’re doing such a great job today of also talking about like, here’s where you can go with this, and here’s where that’s going to take you to, right? If you’re doing the stirred version versus the shaken, and this is what it’s going to bring, like yes. Start with it. Start with maybe a classic version or not, but-

F: There’s also an old Caipirinha type where you muddle the orange peel, like in a Caipirinha.

T: You can’t see this listener, but my eyebrows are just raising here. I’m like, OK, tell me about this Caipirinha-style Bronx.

F: It’s the same. Only you start with muddling the peel of the orange, building it, adding the ingredients, shaking that, and then you have a new cocktail.

T: I got to try that. I like the sound of that. That’s true fun.

F: Yes. Orange juice.

T: Just orange juice. We’ve covered it a few times over this episode, but you’re juicing it fresh.

F: Fresh is the way to go without a doubt.

T: For lemon and lime, you would prep a bit beforehand or you going fresh, fresh with everything.

F: If it was a menu item, if it was on a brunch menu, I would batch in advance for sure, a quart or two. You only need an ounce at the most, in most renditions. A quart of orange juice will go a long way.

T: I asked that as well because there are certain schools of thought, of course, we’re all familiar with fresh is best versus packaged right? Then there do become certain schools of thought of where’s the peak for lemon or lime juice, and how long does it last? I think we spoke about this off-air actually, where I was like, part of what I love about having these conversations is it’s getting to see each bartender’s approach the things too, because there’s only so much you can rely on science for and other things are just preference or maybe pseudoscience that you believe in when it comes to things like this. What’s your take there?

F: Lemon, lime, any fresh fruit, is dependent on seasonality. Right off the bat. Right there, every few weeks, you should be tasting along and seeing what it is but I guess lemon and lime are more impervious to time. They just last for the day. You could squeeze fresh juice at 9 in the morning and do it again at 3 in the afternoon, and you’re good. People argue that lime juice at the end of the shift tastes better than at the beginning. There’s all of that. I say it’s very dependent on what you use it for. If you’re making a fresh Daiquiri, and you’re simply adding sugar and rum, that would probably make an impact. If you’re making a Last Word, you’re probably not going to notice the difference.

How to Make Frank Caiafa’s Bronx

T: No one is competing with all those other ingredients. That’s a great point. All right, how about we ask you to commit to one recipe for this recording? At least we can share some others, but let’s build with your preference.

F: The basic crowd-pleasing through time. I would recommend an ounce and a half of London dry gin, a half an ounce of sweet vermouth, and a half an ounce of dry vermouth, an ounce of orange juice, and a dash of orange bitters. Ice, shaken, strained, and then an expressed peel of orange on top. There you have it. Your classic.

T: Nice.

F: Bronx cocktail.

T: Express and discard or-

F: Lately, I’ve been expressing and discarding. In a restaurant setting, you might want to leave it.

T: What’s your preferred glassware for this?

F: Cocktail glass. Nick & Nora would be great of its time or a vintage set, like your grandmother’s.

T: Actually, I think some of the stuff in my collection might be even older than that. It’s wild. Talking about pseudoscience, do you buy into this? Nick & Nora glass is going to stay slightly colder than a Coupe glass. Are you buying into that?

F: No.

T: I tell you when I’m not, not when it’s 95 degrees outside on 5th Avenue.

F: I think where you hold the glass is the most important thing. Yes, I see, cup the glass, it’s over, right? Soon enough. If you’re holding it by the stem, they’re fine.

T: Also this being what I’m trying to do the mental addition here, it seems slightly more than three ounces, maybe not. Are you getting three?

F: Oh, three and a half. It’s a weird build. I tried to make it go four because sours or tight blossoms, I like to have a four-ounce build, and stirred, I like to have a three-ounce build. This drink was virtually impossible. It’s better just to make it a three-and-a-half ounce.

T: Obviously, there’s a glassware component to this question, but what is that to do with? How do we land upon the three-ounce and the four-ounce build? Why did three become the magic number for the Martinis and the Manhattans?

F: You could argue that pre-Prohibition cocktails were actually smaller, even smaller than that.

T: The old wine-glass measurement that we’re not quite sure of.

F: A lot of drinks, maybe came in at two and a half. In order to somehow meet the middle from the ’80s fishbowl amounts of booze, I think that three ounces landed as a fair amount of spirit to have in a sensible amount of time.

T: That’s a good point.

F: Before going warm and being able to drink it at its maximum deliciousness.

T: From a sobriety perspective as well, right? You want to have at least two cocktails. Chances are, right you have one, you want to have another or maybe-

F: Be able to have a glass of wine as well.

T: Exactly.

F: Segue.

T: I’m just getting you off on all topics here today. What about this?

F: No, and also I like the idea that sours are like four ounces only because people tend to drink those faster and larger gulps. It still buys time for the floor to get another round of drinks out while quickly downing these Cosmopolitans.

T: I was going to ask you about one final trend here, though, on that front. This trend of mini cocktails we’re seeing at the moment, is this something you come across?

F: Yes. I tried doing it at Peacock Alley actually, when we first opened, I did samples. That’s how a lot of these variations came about. I had let’s say a dessert one, for instance, come to mind. I would have a classic Grasshopper and then an augmented version of them. What I found was people were just ordering the new one. I trained the staff well enough for them to know where the original came from. We had a house recipe book, and if people wanted it, they could have it. Nothing inspires sales post-theater like a green milky cocktail with chocolate shavings on top.

T: Oh my God.

F: I’ll have one of those.

T: What a drink. We just had our VinePair staff party recently, our holiday party recently, and finished the night with a round of mini Grasshoppers and it’s a great way to top things off.

F: Yes. That’s a good one. They are labor-intensive if your bar is very busy. I guess there’s batching you can do, but then you move into are you overindulging very quickly? Even if you gave two-ounce pours, you want to give a fair shake that you are paying for them, even priced accordingly, you’d still have to give at least six ounces.

T: It’s an interesting concept that we talk about.

F: Then are they staying cold enough as well?

T: Yes. It’s not one for me. Again, the only other thing, the wheels are going up here. The cogs are turning. We’ve seen with wine and craft beer in recent years where people have had to say, “Hey, have a little pour of this to say maybe you might like this more than your macro lager. This is a different type of beer.” The mini cocktail, maybe it works from a point of view of like, “Well, you can’t make someone a sample of a cocktail.” They either like it or they don’t.

F: I do like the idea, if you have a house cocktail, we had the Peacock at Peacock Alley and you greeted them or you gave it to them gratis.

T: Oh, nice.

F: As a welcome gift or an amuse to the bar, kind of thing. That works.

T: I like that. That’s a nice way.

F: Two ounces cold. Here you go. Get the ball rolling. Everyone likes something on the house.

T: You feel like you’re winning. You feel like you got one over already. All right then, Frank, any final thoughts on the Bronx before we move into the next section of the show?

F: No. Try them, folks. That’s my-

T: Try them. Don’t be afraid. Hey, definitely better than a Mimosa at brunch, right? Better use of orange juice.

F: Try them on the rocks too.

Getting to Know Frank Caiafa

T: Yes. Nice. Then let’s hit you with the five weekly questions to finish the show here, beginning with number one.

F: Hit me.

T: What style or category of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on your back bar? Now that could be in a professional setting or that can be at home, up to you.

F: Either or. It’s probably gin and whiskey of some kind. I think they’re varied enough flavor profiles within those two categories for you to really expand and turn people onto new things. Years ago, I would probably not include agave, but today you would have that as well.

T: Agave. If you don’t have that, you’re leaving money on the table these days, right?

F: No, a varied — you can have more. Yes. Years ago that wasn’t the case. Now for sure, I would definitely include a large.

T: On the gin front. This is part B of the question here. It’s not on the prep list. What’s the last new or interesting gin you had that could either be a London Dry, but London Dry is pretty well covered, but what’s the last one you had that you’re like, “All right, this is really cool. This is something different that I haven’t tried before, but still also feels like gin,” you know what I mean? Some of these new gins don’t really feel like gin.

F: They sent, the folks at Blue Coat sent a barrel-aged gin that I thought was very interesting and worked great in the Bronx because then that adds to the spine. Also, a Martinez as well but barrel-aged gin came a long way. We used to have to do it ourselves. I used to buy barrels from upstate at Towel Town and fill it with New York Distilling gin, the full barrel, and aged them ourselves, buy a pallet of gin, and put them back in the bottle and that’s how we made the house Martinez.

T: That’s crazy.

F: Now there’s brands that do it.

T: That Blue Coat there, they’re standard gin. I like that. I made a recent batch of Martinis with that for the Super Bowl. Sadly, that didn’t go down so well for the, I thought I was back in Philly there with that one but it’s the second time in two weeks that I’ve just given a dig to the Eagles.

F: I thought the Philly Eagles were going to win.

T: I thought it was a good game. It was a good Super Bowl, by the way, not that this is a sports podcast but like-

F: Action to the end.

T: It was, it was good. All right then question number two, which ingredient or tool do you believe to be the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?

F: Without thinking too much, I’ll let you know what comes to my mind, which is hospitality. I think all this aside and it’s great to know the history of cocktails and it’s great to know what you’re serving in your particular establishment, it’s also better to be hospitable and have an eye on what’s going on and taking care of the guests because at the end of the day, that’s why we’re there. I hear this often enough but I don’t think it could be said enough because I see it when I go out. Why not? Also, it’s nice to have friends come visit your bar but they’re not your main reason for being there. I see that a lot going on, a little clubbiness that could be down ticked a little bit.

T: I hear you. I’ve seen it.

F: In establishments where guests are paying. I think that’s important. Who said that the drinks are free, people pay for the hospitality. I like that line a lot.

T: I like it too. We all have that perspective from the pandemic recently. A lot of people learned to make cocktails during that time, but either way, we could drink during the pandemic but the thing we realized what we missed if we didn’t beforehand.

F: Right. The crowd is about being serviced properly.

T: Having someone take care of you after a long day at work. Nothing better. Question number three, what’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in this industry?

F: I guess that came to mind. I was told, I don’t know if it was Gary Regan or somebody said the drinks are free, people pay for the hospitality. I always keep that in mind. If they are old, the people out there will laugh, time to lean, time to clean. The classics.

T: It is a classic and you know what? I used to hate it when I worked in kitchens and one of those got thrown your way. You were like you were guilty of it and I was like, damn, yes.

F: I just heard a million eye rolls out there.

T: It’s true though. It might be cliche but it’s a cliche for a reason. Question number four. If you could only visit one last bar in your life, what would it be?

F: The nearest one. Really. I think what I would order would be based on what the nearest bar had. If it was lucky enough to be in a fine establishment, I’d order something a little wilder but at the end of the day, the last one would be the nearest one.

T: Is that you then answering the next question here for me as well, too? No, no, no. OK. I was going to say because the last question here we have is if you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?

F: That, I would just direct them to a five-to-one Martini.

T: Five-to-one.

F: Sure. Six-to-one even depending on if it was my last one or not or second to last one.

T: Frank, you’re making me feel good here because sometimes, the way I make a Martini at home and the way I ask bartenders this trend of 50-50s or wet or Martinis makes me feel like, guys, this is just how I take it. I don’t want to feel like I’m a, you know, but that’s how I like it.

F: I’ll say this, I feel like the 50-50 is an original rendition of a Martini and that’s fine, but I feel like I grew up on a drier version. That’s what I need to fill that hole, fill that cavity when I want a Martini. If I wanted something lighter, I would order something lighter. To me, the talk about not being fish nor foul, I think the 50-50 Martini is neither fish nor foul. The better the vermouth, you’d want some vermouth on the rocks. The better the gin, give me more gin. I’m not getting it all with the vermouth. Like I said, you can have a 50-50 Martini. I think it’s essential in a 50-50 Martini to have bitters of some kind because that has no spine then.

T: Maybe pick up a bottle of the DeGroff before that goes out. We’re not sure whether Dale is hanging on there. We did have him on there for that one, so check that one out listener if you haven’t heard that. Dale DeGroff Bitters, if you didn’t hear it there, stock up while you can.

T: All right then. Frank, well, thank you so much for your time today. Thanks for joining us on the show. Any final thoughts, just yourself?

F: No, this was great. If we could think of something cool to do again, I’m down.

T: Always.

F: All right.

OK, that was a lot of info, but here’s the good news. Every single episode of VinePair’s “Cocktail College” is also published on as a transcript. So you can check it out there all over again.

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Now, for the credits. “Cocktail College” is recorded and produced in New York City by myself and Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director and all-around podcast guru. Of course, I want to give a huge shout-out to everyone on the VinePair team. Too many awesome people to mention. They know who they are. I want to give some credit here to Danielle Grinberg, art director at VinePair, for designing the awesome show logo. And listen to that music. That’s a Darbi Cicci original. Finally, thank you, listener, for making it this far and for giving this whole thing a purpose. Until next time.