People often ask bartenders what their favorite cocktail is, but a good bartender draw out patrons to find out what they like. Still, if there was ever a time for one cocktail to be noted above others, it would be now - following the Saints' Super Bowl victory, Mardi Gras, and the ongoing nationwide appreciation for the attitude of New Orleans - a city that boldly stares at all of America with a cocktail in one hand and fist full of beads in the other and begs us all to just chill out. Only in New Orleans could so many great cocktails have been created. And when the bar finally is empty and clean, we'd like to envision bartenders everywhere opting for a Vieux Carre.
- ¾ ounce rye
- ¾ ounce cognac
- ¾ ounce sweet vermouth
- ½ teaspoon Benedictine
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
Stir on ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
- A 100 proof rye, preferably Rittenhouse Bonded, works best here.
- Vermouth is a wine, and like all wines, it spoils. Do not use vermouth that is over three weeks old or vermouth that hasn't been capped and kept cold at all times. There is a reason why people claim to detest cocktails that have vermouth - nobody likes spoiled wine that has been open for months with a pour spout sticking out of it.
After the jump, the history of the drink -- and tips on building your own home bar.
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The Vieux Carre was invented in the late 1930s by Walter Bergeron, former head bartender of the bar at Hotel Monteleone, now famously known as the Carousel Bar - a rotating wonder that haphazardly mixes dizziness in with your cocktails by rotating you slowly around the room. Until recently, the Vieux Carre was the house cocktail of the Hotel Monteleone. The name means "the Old Square," an early French term for New Orleans's French Quarter. The cocktail has all the elements of a Manhattan, but with more New Orleans in it - a deeper old structure from the cognac, and slightly sweeter notes from the addition of Benedictine. Throw in a couple of dashes of the iconic New Orleans apothecary Antoine Peychaud's Bitters in addition to the Angostura, and you have a cocktail that sings like a trumpet in the hands of Charlie Miller.
Another question bartenders frequently get is, "What should I keep at home to make cocktails?" People who seem interested in cocktails and want to mix them at home should take it one cocktail at a time - meaning, buy all the ingredients for one drink and master that cocktail. Then move on to your next chosen libation and buy everything needed for that one. You would be surprised how quickly you can build you home bar this way.
Each week we plan to discuss a different cocktail for this new Eating Our Words feature, so if you're interested in building your own home bar, start with the Vieux Carre. Admittedly, it isn't the cheapest beginning cocktail, but the ingredients are staples in tons of other drinks.
But don't blame us for the inevitable fights that will ensue with your wife, husband, or significant other over cabinet space. We just write about the drinks; we've never been very good at putting away the dishes anyway.