In 1926 a Louisiana native named Mayo Bessan bought the Caballo Blanco bar in Nuevo Laredo and changed its name to The Cadillac Bar because he wanted "a rich sounding name." He moved the location a few years later and re-opened on July 4th, 1929, with signs advertising his New Orleans heritage and the "Famous Ramos Gin Fizz."
Although there were Mexican dishes on the menu, they were in the minority. It was a place to go drink, socialize and dine on green turtle soup, frog legs, lobster, steaks and Italian food. There were seven other featured egg white drinks on that menu: Silver Fizz, Golden Fizz, Royal Fizz, Whiskey Flipp, Rum Flipp, Sherry Flipp and Sherry & Egg. There is no mention of the Margarita.
I quote from the cover page of the menu of that period: "Great achievements partake of the personality and individually (sic) of the doer of things. The individuality is merged into the deed and the deed is a reflect (sic) of the personality.....and so, the Ramos Gin Fizz, a masterpiece of modern achievement, makes us think of the artist who was its creator....Could I but pluck a rosebud from every clime, I would with the effusion of the muses' art weave a bouquet of the sweetest perfume for H.C. Ramos, whose name is inseparable (sic) linked with the highest order of enlighted (sic) and progressive citizenship of a great metropolis. Is not the Ramos Gin Fizz the reflection of the superb character that name represents?"
The Ramos Gin Fizz appears to date from 1888.
Skip ahead to 1969. It's spring break and a buddy of mine and I head to Nuevo Laredo for what is to become a semi-annual pilgrimage to visit the ladies of the "zone of tolerance." One of his college friends is the granddaughter of Mayo Bessan and is also home for Spring Break. We meet up with her at the Cadillac for a fantastic meal and I have my first but not last Ramos Gin Fizz. The place blows me away. Any trip south of the border in the future will include a stop there.
Today, I dropped by the Cadillac Bar on Shepherd at I-10.
"I'd like a Ramos Gin Fizz, please."
"We don't do that anymore."
"No, it's been years."
Bring Back the Ramos Gin Fizz!
1 1/2 ounces dry gin 1/2 ounce lemon juice 1/2 ounce lime juice 2 tablespoons cream 1 egg white (fresh) 1/4 ounce club soda 1 tablespoon powdered sugar 3-4 dashes of orange flower water (available at Central Market and Phoenicia)
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Club soda to taste
Shake all the ingredients with ice for at least one minute. Strain into a wine glass and top with the club soda. Alternatively, try whipping up the drink in your blender.
Egg white alert: There's always a danger of salmonella contamination when using raw egg whites. I would recommend washing the egg shell under the tap with warm water and some liquid detergent before you crack the egg open. Alternately, Spec's sells egg white powder for mixed drinks.
-- Jay Francis