Crescent City Cocktail Classics
Prior to the birth of the current cocktail era, which made a first appearance around 1985, no city on the planet could claim the birth of more styles of cocktails than New Orleans.
Even now, those classic cocktails invented in the Crescent City have a special place in the cocktail world. These wonderful combinations of spirits, bitters, water or some neutral liquid, maybe a bit of fruit or citrus have provided many a moment’s pleasure with the possibility of a negative response from our bodies later. The last item in that list is not necessarily a good thing.
Historians are still at odds about New Orleans’ place in the long period when such beverages were created and why this city was such fertile ground not just for ingredients but also for society’s attention to the category. Lucky for us we don’t have to voice into the discussion. We can sit back and reap pleasant rewards as willing participants at Ground Zero.
Here is a short list of cocktails that were invented here and have stood the test of time, hence the designation, Classic.
There are no Fuzzy Navels, Sex on the Beach, nor Harvey Wall Bangers in the group – for all sorts of very good reasons.
THE ORIGINAL SAZERAC
As created in New Orleans in the mid-1850’s
- 1/4 oz Absinthe,
- 1 sugar cube
- 1 1/2 oz Cognac
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the absinthe
- Add crushed ice and set it aside.
- Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside.
- Discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass
- Strain the drink into the glass.
- Add the Lemon peel for garnish.
Likely entered the New Orleans cocktail scene around 1880
- 1 cube sugar
- 1½ ounces (35ml) Sazerac Rye Whiskey
- ¼ ounce Herbsaint
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- Lemon peel
- Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with iceIn a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube
- Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar
- Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint
- Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel
As created at the Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans, 1938
- ¾ oz. rye whiskey
- ¾ oz. Cognac
- ¾ oz. sweet vermouth
- 1 bar spoon Benedictine
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Tools: mixing glass, bar spoon, strainer
- Glass: Old Fashioned
- Garnish: lemon peel
- Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice.
- Stir well, strain into an ice-filled Old-Fashioned glass and garnish.
RAMOS GIN FIZZ
Created by New Orleans Saloon owner, Henry C. Ramos, at the end of the 19th century | Courtesy Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel
- 1½ oz. Old Tom Gin
- 1 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
- ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
- ½ oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 oz. fresh egg white (pasteurized if you like)
- 2 oz. heavy cream
- 3 dashes orange flower water
- Chilled club soda
- Tools: shaker, strainer
- Glass: Collins
- Add ice to the glass to chill and set aside.
- Add all the ingredients (except the soda) to an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously 50 times.
- Remove the ice from the glass and strain mixture into the glass from a distance to ensure froth.
- Top with club soda.
Created at The Jewel of the South Bar, Joe Santini, around 1850 | Courtesy Dr. Cocktail’s Vintage Spirits and Cocktails
- 1 lemon
- 0.5 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Bar or table sugar
- 2.0 ounces cognac (Hennessy specified)
- 1 teaspoon orange Curaçao (Marie Brizard specified)
- 1 dash Boker’s Bitters (or substitute Angostura)
- Cut the lemon in half. Pare the full peel off half and squeeze the juice from the lemon. Moisten the glass rim with the lemon juice, and dip it in bar or table sugar.
- Insert a lemon peel into the glass, Mix the liquors in a cocktail shaker of crushed ice.
- Shake, and strain into the prepared glass.
- Add 1 small lump of ice and serve.
There are other cocktails that claim a relationship to the Crescent City, but they were not invented here. Pimm’s Cup, for instance. And there are other cocktails that were indeed invented here but that have not achieved a lofty status, for whatever reason. Brandy Milk Punch, as an example.
But there is one undeniable fact: New Orleans has a special relationship with her cocktails. That love affair has been going on for over 150 years. Let’s drink to that.
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com on Wednesdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails every month in New Orleans Magazine.