Despite the popularity of Hand Grenadesand sickly sweet Hurricanes on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, New Orleans’ history of the cocktail can be traced back to its beginning, when drinks were built simply from spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. The city may not be the birthplace of the very first cocktail, but it is where many of the most enduring drinks were invented. To honor the Crescent City for Mardi Gras, Los Angeles cocktail blogger and New Orleans native Chuck Taggart—a verifiable cocktail geek and student of cocktail historiansTed HaighandDavid Wondrich—details the history of the Big Easy's classics. From the well-known Sazerac to the more obscure Café Brûlot.
Drink name:Sazerac Where it was invented:According to legend, the Sazerac was born at Antoine Amédée Peychaud’s pharmacy on Royal Street. It was then popularized atSazerac Coffee House,a saloon on Exchange Place in the French Quarter. The drink and eventually its primary source were named for the brand of Cognac that favored the drink, Sazerac de Forge et Fils. The primary ingredient was switched to rye whiskey in 1870 due toimbibers' changingtastes and an absinthe dash/rinse was added. Who invented it:Apothecary Antoine Amédée Peychaud, who did indeed concoct Peychaud’s bitters, served friends a brandy cocktail spiked with his bitters. What is it:Absinthe (or Herbsaint), rich simple syrup (sugar to water ratio, two to one), Peychaud's Bitters, rye whiskey. It is New Orleans’ own cocktail in the truest historic definition. It actually bears more resemblance to what Jerry Thomas (considered the father of American mixology) referred to as an "improved" cocktail (an old term from the beginning on the cocktail, basically referring to an Old Fashioned with something added to it) with absinthe, but the Peychaud’s bitters makes it New Orleans’ own.
Drink name:Brandy Crusta Where it was invented:Jewel of the South, the bar at the New Orleans City Exchange, Gravier Street, New Orleans. Who invented it:Joseph Santini. What is it:Cognac, Grand Marnier, maraschino, simple syrup, lemon juice, Angostura. Perhaps the first sour, and the precursor to the Sidecar.
Drink name:Brandy Milk Punch Where it was invented:Although the drink is now heavily associated with New Orleans, milk punch recipes date back to the 17th century, and one version appears in Jerry Thomas’ first ever bar guide in 1862. What is it:Cognac, whole milk, simple syrup, vanilla extract. It may not have been invented in New Orleans, but this drink is very much part of the city's culture and history.
Drink name:Absinthe Frappé Where it was invented:Aleix Coffee House, later called The Absinthe Room and now known as Old Absinthe House. Who invented it:Cayetano Ferrer, head bartender of Aleix Coffee House and later proprietor of the establishment, which he renamed. What is it?Absinthe, rich simple syrup, anisette (optional), chilled soda water.
Drink name:Ramos Gin Fizz Where it was invented:Imperial Cabinet Saloon, Gravier St., New Orleans. Who invented it:Henry C. Ramos, who popularized the drink at his own bar on Gravier, The Stag, from 1907 on. What is it:Gin, heavy cream, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, orange flower water. The Ramos Gin Fizz is Henry C. Ramos' gussied up version of a Silver Fizz (gin, lemon, sugar, egg white, soda water). It is a silky, rich, beautiful, elegant drink.
Drink name:Café Brûlot Where it was invented:Antoine’s Restaurant, French Quarter, New Orleans. Who invented it:Jules Alciatore, son of the restaurant’s founder Antoine Alciatore. What is it:Cognac, Grand Marnier or Cointreau, dark brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, strong New Orleans chicory coffee. A grand after-dinner flaming coffee drink prepared tableside with lots of ceremony and showmanship. At New Orleans’ grander restaurants (and certain grand homes as well), a special brûlot set with a ladle for straining out the fruit peel and spices is used, some of them made from sterling silver.
Drink name:Roffignac Where it was invented:Signature cocktail at the former Maylie’s restaurant, New Orleans. Who invented it:Obscure, but named for Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac, who was mayor in the 1820s. What is it?Raspberry shrub, cognac, simple syrup, soda water. It's like a brandy highball with raspberry shrub. Stanley Clisby Arthur’s classic tome Famous New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix ‘emgave a recipe with whiskey and an odd ingredient called "red Hembarig." Nobody could figure out the ingredient until food writer Robert F. Moss realized that it was a conflation of the German words for "raspberry" and "vinegar" —himbeeressig, aka raspberry shrub. *The Roffignac gained popularity around this time but exact year of creation is unknown.
Drink name:Cocktail à la Louisiane Where it was invented:Restaurant de la Louisiane, New Orleans. Who invented it:Obscure; Stanley Clisby Arthur lists it in his 1937 book. What is it:Rye, Bénédictine, sweet vermouth, Herbsaint or absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters. A cousin to both the Sazerac and the Vieux Carré with elements of each.
Drink name:Vieux Carré Where it was invented:Hotel Monteleone, French Quarter, New Orleans.
Who invented it:Monteleone head bartender Walter Bergeron. What is it:Rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters. Pronounced "VOO ka-RAY," it translates from French to "Old Square" and is an old name for New Orleans’ French Quarter. Mr. Bergeron was the head bartender of the hotel’s cocktail lounge, pre-dating the current Carousel Bar, which opened in 1949.
Drink name:Hurricane Where it was invented:Pat O’Brien’s Bar, St. Peter St., French Quarter, New Orleans. Who invented it:Benson "Pat" O’Brien and Charlie Cantrell. According to the story, post prohibition there was a glut of rum and Pat and Charlie's liquor distributor would only sell them other booze if they agreed to take 50 cases of rum they didn't want. So, they concocted a mixture using a large amount of rum, passion fruit syrup and lemon juice, and it took off. What is it:Dark rum, passion fruit syrup, fresh lemon juice or lime juice, garnished with orange slice and a cherry.
Drink name:Arnaud’s Special Cocktail When it was invented:1940s-1950s Where it was invented:Arnaud’s French 75, New Orleans. Who invented it:It was the popular house cocktail of the bar after World War II, but who actually invented it is unclear. What is it:Scotch, Dubonnet Rouge, orange bitters; similar to a Rob Roy.
Drink name:Bywater Where it was invented:Arnaud’s French 75, New Orleans. Who invented it:French 75 bartender Chris Hannah created the drink in honor of his favorite New Orleans neighborhood, Bywater. And like the Vieux Carré is to the Manhattan, the Bywater is to the Brooklyn. What is it:Aged rum, Green Chartreuse, Averna Amaro, velvet falernum. A variation on the obscureBrooklyn cocktail.
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