Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Cocktail: Two New Orleans Classics

In preparation for my wedding anniversary trip to New Orleans this weekend, I thought it was appropriate to hit a couple of classic Crescent City cocktails.  Outside of New York, New Orleans may be one of the best cocktail destinations in the country. It is host to the awesome Tales of the Cocktail festival hosted every summer and is also responsible for classics such as the Sazerac and Vieux Carré.

Adapted form Wiliam Boothby, World Drinks and How to Mix Them, 1908

The Sazerac is the cocktail most synonymous with New Orleans. In fact, the Louisiana legislature made it the official cocktail of New Orleans in 2008.  As with many cocktails, it was originally made with cognac at the Sazerac Coffee House. When Thomas H. Handy became the owner of the establishment in the late 1800s, he replaced the cognac with rye.  It was this recipe that was published in Boothby's classic, World Drinks and How to Mix Them in 1908. It is an Old Fashioned variant that is served without ice and takes on a lot of anise flavor from both the New Orleans staple Peychaud's bitters and the absinthe or Herbsaint rinse. There are very few cocktails that are its equal.

- 2 oz. Rittenhouse or Sazerac Rye 
- 3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 Demerara Sugar Cube or .25 oz. Demerara Simple Syrup
- St. George Absinthe Verte*

Muddle the sugar and bitters with a few drops of water (or add the simple syrup). Add whiskey and ice, and strain and stir into an ice cold absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Twist lemon peel over surface and discard.

*For an interesting variation, rinse the glass with a peaty scotch like Laphroaig instead of the absinthe.

Vieux Carré
Adapted from Stanley Clisby Arthur, Famous New Orleans Drinks, 1937

The Vieux Carré was invented at the Hotel Monteleone by Walter Bergeron, and the Monteleone's rotating Carousel Bar is still my favorite place to order one. The story is that the ingredients in the Vieux Carré were meant pay tribute to the different ethnic groups of the city. The cognac and Benedictine were an homage to the city's French influence, the vermouth a nod to the Italian heritage, the rye referenced the American influence, and the bitters represent the Caribbean. It picks up plenty of sweetness from the Benedictine without becoming cloying.

- 1 oz. Rittenhouse or Sazerac Rye
- 1 oz. Cognac (I use Leopold or Pierre Ferrand Ambre)
- 1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
- .25 oz. Bénédictine
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- 1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Stir with ice and strain over large ice cube into a chilled rocks glass. Twist and discard lemon.

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