Rediscovering New Orleans Cocktails

While the city of New Orleans may not have invented the cocktail, its place in cocktail history is very important. It’s the birthplace of the Sazerac, a cocktail that was once considered the world’s first—its origin dates somewhere in the late nineteenth century.

The Sazerac isn’t the only New Orleans cocktail (although as of 2008, it’s the official cocktail of the City). There’s also the Vieux Carré and the Ramos Gin Fizz (perhaps a truer New Orleans cocktail than the Sazerac).

I started thinking about New Orleans cocktails reading a piece in the New York Times about a Brooklyn bar that built its own absinthe fountain, based on one from the Olde Absinthe House in New Orleans. This Brooklyn bar, the Maison Premiere, also serves something called the Cocktail à la Louisiane.

Curious, I looked that cocktail up, and was led to an excellent website that I’d found very useful before. Chuck Taggart’s has a cocktail section boasting a huge recipe list (go here to see them alphabetically, and here to see an easier to use index).

The Cocktail à la Louisiane is, like the Sazerac, a rye drink. It was once the house cocktail at a long-gone New Orleans establishment called Restaurant de la Louisiane.

Cocktail à la Louisiane

.75oz rye whiskey
.75oz sweet vermouth
.75oz Bénédictine
3 dashes Herbsaint, pastis or absinthe
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

The Ramos Gin Fizz, a favorite of Huey Long’s invented in the late nineteenth century by Henry Ramos of Meyer’s Restaurant in New Orleans, isn’t like most popular classics; it has both egg whites and heavy cream. Because of that, it may take some extra shaking time to get it all mixed. There are many variations, but here’s the one posted by Gumbo Pages:

Ramos Gin Fizz

2oz gin. (Old Tom gin recommended, otherwise Plymouth is good.)
1oz cream
1 egg white
.5oz simple syrup
.5oz fresh lemon juice
.5oz fresh lime juice
3-4 small dashes orange flower water

They recommend shaking the ingredients first without ice to mix, and then again with ice to cool and mix further. I’ve never tried one, so I’m going to have to find some orange flower water.

Finally, the Vieux Carré, yet another New Orleans bar’s signature cocktail. It was created in 1938 by Walter Bergeron for the Monteleone Hotel. The Cocktail à la Louisiane is a variation on it.

Vieux Carré

1oz rye whiskey
1oz cognac
1oz sweet vermouth
1 tsp Bénédictine D.O.M.
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Gumbo Pages’ cocktail section is full of great non-New Orleans recipes, too, like Tequila por mi Amante, an aged tequila and strawberry infusion from Mexico in the 1930s, and the Oriental Cocktail, a rye drink from Harry Craddock’s famous Savoy Cocktail Book.

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3 Responses to Rediscovering New Orleans Cocktails

  1. Brian says:

    All excellent drinks. The Ramos Gin Fizz is like drinking a fluffy cloud (scented with juniper.)

    A few tips on shaking anything with an egg white and citrus (based on consultations with others, research and personal experience:)
    – combine all ingredients -except- citrus juice in a shaker. leave out the ice.
    – Pull the spring off a hawthorn strainer and throw it in the shaker.
    – “dry shake” the ingredients vigorously
    – remove the spring, add ice and citrus juices
    – shake the crap out of it.

    The Ramos Fizz should be shaken literally until your hand is about to fall off (and freeze solid to the shaker.)

  2. Thanks for the advice! As soon as I find the orange flower water, I’ll make myself one. I know I’ve seen it in some specialty grocery stores.

    I’ve read that Ramos himself employed mutiple bartenders to ensure a lengthy shake. And I suppose, as Gary Regan has apparently said, there’s always a blender.

  3. Pingback: More New Orleans Cocktails |

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