A shared love for liquid Louisiana, trickles down from the Mississippi, quenching the palates of those after refined dimension. In amongst the classics there are two residents of the ‘Big Easy’ that mingle in the French Quarter for an encounter, typically not for the faint of heart.
Taking attendance for what is thought to be New Orleans in a glass, is the Vieux Carré and the De La Louisiane. Akin in their love for Rye Whiskey and Peychaud’s Bitters, but diverse in both their lasting impressions. Join us as we take our seat on the Carousel, to show you how to recreate these New Orleans icons straight from your kitchen counter.
HOW TO MAKE A VIEUX CARRÉ
A little history before we start…
The Vieux Carré (vyur kaa ray) was first sighted in print in ‘Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix’Em’ by Stanley Clisby Arthur 1937, which directs credit to head bartender, Walter Bergeron, at the Hotel Monteleone.
Hotel Monteleone is home to the iconic rotating Carousel Bar. A favourited and enticing cocktail experience that houses 25 seats, turning on 2,000 steel rollers, which makes a complete turn every 15 minutes! Although it would be a tad difficult to simulate this event at home, it’s fun to know that the locals blame the cocktail for making the room spin and not the bar!
With an age requirement in substitution for a height restriction to enjoy this spinning ride, the Carousel Bar for decades has invited its discerning drinkers to involve themselves in the heritage, flavour, and pioneering cocktail excellence, that is New Orleans. Seeing as there are as many curious sippers walking through the door as the day it opened, who doesn’t enjoy a tipple at a vintage fairground?
Meaning ‘Old Square’ in French, The Vieux Carré symbolises America’s crosscurrents and brings to life the vibrant neighbourhood and cocktail culture of New Orleans’ French Quarter. The city not only encourages flavours to mingle on the palate, but to do so in abundant company – we invite you to do the same if you want to properly savour a moment from the Big Easy at home.
Our Vieux Carré Recipe
20ml Rye Whiskey
10ml Sweet Vermouth
3 dashes Peychaud's
3 dashes Angostura
In a cocktail beaker, add in all of your ingredients and fill it up with ice.
Stir to chill, dilute and mix (10-15 secs) before straining into an old-fashioned glass, filled with fresh cubed ice.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
With Cognac from France, Vermouth from Italy, and Rye Whiskey trickling down from the Mississippi, the Vieux Carré channels boozy, bitter, yet balanced dimensions that reveals more of itself in every greeting.
What draws us into this slow sipper is its ‘split-base’ construction. Typically, you would encounter Cognac or Rye in their own spotlight, acting alone as the hero foundation of a drink. This is why the Vieux Carré hits different. Each component is allowed to steal a moment of its own, while encouraging each individual part to melt seamlessly together. In other words, it's a synergetic reminder of Louisiana's spirited waterhole.
STEPPING UP YOUR SERVE
We must warn you, although the Vieux Carré may hail from ‘The Big Easy’, it does take a bit of practice to perfect the proportions to suit your individual palate. More Bénédictine for those who like it sweeter, more Rye for those who want the attack…let’s break it down further.
Why Rye: This drink calls for Rye Whiskey, injecting a muscular spice and strong backbone to build upon. Keep in mind when adapting any recipe, is that balance is always key. It’s the Rye’s relationship with the soft, harmonious, and fruity lead of the Cognac that is so sought-after. You need that spiciness for it to be a VC.
Cognac Choices: We suggest opting for a V.S.O.P such as the likes of Rémy Martin, Hennessy, Martell or Courvoisier. V.S.O.P. means that the youngest Cognac in the blend was aged for at least four years, so you know it will hold its own in a cocktail.
Befriending Bénédictine: The addition of Bénédictine not only cements the French cultural influence and adds its own touch of honeyed sweetness, but it also introduces an herbal and aromatic surprise. Add more to sweeten but be aware that its botanicals come in tow. You want it to be subtle, not overpowering.
Be BITTER: If you are going to stick to one rule when adapting the Vieux Carré – let it be this: The Peychaud's and Angostura Bitters are two things you cannot skip. This is what defines the VC as a VC, without it, it will not taste the same. It's what adds all that Creole magic. Despite it being only a small addition to the cocktail, it is worth having that one ingredient in your cabinet as you'll need it for others like the Sazerac.
Get these parts right and it will only elevate your concoction for a worthy seat on the Carousel…
HOW TO MAKE THE DE LA LOUISIANE
If after one sip of the Vieux Carré you find yourself fan-girling over Clisby Arthur’s cocktail enthusiasm, we suggest giving the De La Louisiane a try.
For this cocktail, we are venturing a little deeper into the French influence and embracing the sweeter side of NOLA’s creole prominence. ‘La Louisiane’, ‘Cocktail à la Louisiane’, or ‘De La Louisiane’ traditionally, is an equal parts concoction tailored towards those who want to drink ‘whiskey and rye’ with a more refined edge.
If you’re wondering what to expect, here’s how to picture it: Think, Rye from the Sazerac, Bénédictine and Peychaud’s from the Vieux Carré, and Red Vermouth from the Manhattan – and you’ll find yourself slotted rather comfortably in the middle. However, with a splash of absinthe, this cocktail provides a different experience entirely. More on that later.
First, a quick sip of context…
As with plenty of New Orleans cocktails, many are introduced to fame through association of their home-base. Think, Hotel Monteleone for the Vieux Carré, Pat O’Briens for the Hurricane and of course the Sazerac Bar for the Sazerac. Clisby Arthur notes Restaurant La Louisiane, in Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em, as the birthplace of this once forgotten cocktail. Notable for it’s Creole cuisine, the De La Louisiane found its spot on the menu as their house cocktail, a respectable and well-balanced pairing to reflect the flavourful food.
30ml Rye Whiskey
30ml Sweet Vermouth
5ml / 3-4 dashes absinthe (or substitute)
3-4 dashes Peychaud’s / Creole Style Bitters
In a cocktail beaker, add in all of your ingredients and fill it up with ice.
Stir to chill, dilute, and mix before double straining into a chilled Nick & Nora / Coupe
Garnish with Maraschino Cherry
DECONSTRUCTING THE DE LA LOUISIANE
Rye: This drink calls for a Rye Whiskey that can cut through the rich sweetness of the liqueurs (Bénédictine + Vermouth). Think of this as an even sweeter Manhattan that teeters between a bold yet balanced mouthfeel. You need a Rye that can stand up to dilution and fusion with other ingredients, whilst still being the main character. For this we recommend: Sazerac 6yr, Knob Creek Rye, Bulleit Rye or Woodford Reserve Rye, but don’t be afraid to up the ratio, to counteract the cocktail’s apparent sweetness.
Vermouth: When selecting your Sweet Vermouth, we suggest picking one that can be considered a ‘cocktail workhorse’, such as Cocchi Di Torino, or one known to flawlessly interact with Rye, like Carpano’s Antica Formula Vermouth.
Absinthe: For the absinthe it’s interesting to keep in mind, that the spirit became illegal in the US in the early 20th century. So, whether you opt for real absinthe like La Fée Absinthe Parisian (68% ABV) or Pernod Absinthe, an aniseed aperitif like Pernod (40%) works just as well in substitution.
Choose between ‘rinsing’ the glass with absinthe via an atomiser, or simply dashing the liquid in with the rest of the ingredients before mixing. Either way, this is one step you cannot overlook.