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Fizzing in the City

It takes a strong arm to make a Ramos Gin Fizz.

A portrait of Henry C. Ramos from the 1907 edition of Southern Buck, for members of the Elks of Louisiana and Mississippi. Ramos was a member of Lodge No. 30 (the New Orleans-based group). Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library.

The Ramos Gin Fizz has been a favorite of the Crescent City since the late 1880s. Created by Henry C. Ramos, it gets its unique flavoring from orange flower water and its froth from beaten egg whites.

Ramos bought the Imperial Cabinet Saloon (at the corner of Carondelet and Gravier streets) in 1888, and it was there that his Gin Fizz earned its reputation. In 1907, he sold the Imperial Cabinet, auctioning off all the interior pieces, and purchased the Stag Saloon (near the St. Charles Hotel, also on Gravier Street). From there, the drink took on legendary popularity.

Making the Ramos Gin Fizz requires patience and a strong arm. The Gourmet’s Guide to New Orleans Creole Cookbook (first printed in 1933) says it best: “The real art in making a Gin Fizz is in proper shaking. Don’t just shake it up a few times and think you have done the job, because it is only started.” In case you aren’t convinced, they repeat this advice after listing the ingredients: “Shake vigorously. Add beaten egg and shake until tired. Shake again.”

The Stag Saloon employed dozens of “shaker boys,” who would trade off as their arms tired from all that shaking. However, even the 35 shaker boys of Mardi Gras 1915 were unable to keep up with the demand.

In 1919, when Prohibition began, Ramos famously announced, “I’ve sold my last Gin Fizz.” As a gift to his loyal customers, he published his secret recipe in the New Orleans Item-Tribune. Ramos went on to start the Ramos Gin Fizz Paint Company; with the end of Prohibition in 1933, The Roosevelt Hotel trademarked the name Ramos Gin Fizz, and continues to make them today.

With thanks to Tales of the Cocktail’s 2010 session: “The Hotel Grunewald, Roosevelt and Fairmont – Over 100 Years of Cocktail History,” led by Phil Greene and Chris McMillian, founders of the Museum of the American Cocktail.

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