Birth of the Cocktail
New Orleans lays claim to the creation of classics like the Ramos Gin Fizz, Sazerac and Vieux Carre.
It’s questionable whether the cocktail originated in New York, New Orleans or elsewhere, but there’s no guessing the impact bartenders from the Big Easy have had on cocktail culture. Since the 1800s, bartenders have created what are now considered classics. Drinks like the Ramos Gin Fizz, Hurricane, Vieux Carre and, of course, the Sazerac, all have origins rooted in New Orleans. Here, a quick history of some of the drinks made famous by New Orleans.
The drink appeared sometime in the mid-1800s at Sazerac Coffee House, which had originally been called the Merchants Exchange Coffee House. The name change came after the original owner started importing Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils cognac, and the new owner began concocting a cocktail with it also using a new product from apothecary owner Antoine Amedie Peychaud. At some point, an absinthe wash (or Herbsaint) was added and rye was used in lieu of cognac. Peychaud’s bitters and a sugar cube round out the recipe. To this day, it remains one of New Orleans’ most iconic inventions. Head to the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel to try one of the best.
Ramos Gin Fizz
Sometimes also known as a New Orleans Fizz, this drink was first mixed up at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon by its owner, Henry C. Ramos, in 1888. The drink, which comprises gin, fresh lemon and lime juice, egg white, cream, orange flower water, vanilla extract, simple syrup and soda water, was reportedly so popular that Ramos employed more than 20 bartenders to simultaneously mix the time-intensive drinks for all its patrons demanding it. Pop by the Carousel Bar or a more neighborhoody spot like Bar Tonique to try one for yourself.
The drink, which some think appeared in 1840 when bartender Joseph Santini created it at the New Orleans City Exchange, is reportedly the first cocktail to incorporate citrus, hence making it the first-ever sour. Combining cognac with lemon juice, orange curacao, maraschino liqueur and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters, it can knock you off your barstool. Swing by Arnaud’s French 75 (where you can also have a French 75) to try one in a sugar-rimmed glass.
Meaning “old square,” the Vieux Carre was crafted at the legendary Hotel Monteleone in 1938 as a nod to the old name for the French Quarter. The drink comprises a whole bunch o’ boozy goodness: cognac, rye, Benedictine liqueur, sweet vermouth and both Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters. Why go anywhere other than the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone for this?
This really is a party in a glass. Concocted originally in the 1940s at Pat O’Brien’s as a way to go through a lot of rum, the Hurricane has become synonymous with good times. When made well, with rum, passion fruit syrup and lemon or lime juice, it can be delicious, but the one you’ll likely get will get you good and wasted and almost guaranteed a hangover. Get thee to Pat O’s for the original to try to save face.