Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thirsty Thursday: New Orleans Cocktails

Thirsty Thursday is that place where Whiskey Wednesday and Brandy Friday collide; I am using the moniker to denote cocktails that include both whiskey and brandy. Today we look at two cocktails from one of the cities at the heart of cocktail culture: New Orleans.

Home to the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival, which is going on at this very moment, New Orleans is the home of the Sazerac, but there are other New Orleans cocktails as well. Today we focus on two cocktails which are identified with particular bars: The Vieux Carre from the Carousel Bar and the Cocktail a la Louisiane from the Restaurant de la Louisiane.

You will recognize that these are similar mixtures. Both contain a few drops of New Orleans' own Pechaud's Bitters and a dash of Benedictine. Benedictine is a French, Cognac-based liqueur which is heavy on the aromatics. It's quite sweet and syrupy and tastes of mild anise and cloves with vanilla on the finish.

Both of these are very simple drinks, which involve mixing a bunch of liquors and bitters, stirring them over ice and straining them into a rocks glass with a garnish, very simple stuff on the drink-making scale of difficulty.

Vieux Carre

Ingredients (from Drinkboy):

3/4 ounce rye whiskey
3/4 ounce brandy
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/8 ounce Benedictine
1 dash Peychaud's bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Garnish with a lemon twist.

Vieux Carre, or old square, is the French term for the French Quarter. The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, where the drink originated, actually revolves in carousel-fashion. I love the Vieux Carre cocktail for its aromatics. The vermouth, bitters and Benedictine combined with the already spicy rye and Cognac make this a flavor explosion. Even with all of these intense flavors, the combination somehow works out to produce a slightly sweet, spicy drink.

Cocktail a la Louisiane

Ingredients (again from Drinkboy):

3/4 ounce rye whiskey
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce Benedictine
3 dash absinthe
3 dash Peychaud's bitters

Garnish with a cherry.

The Restaurant de la Louisiane where this drink originated is long gone, but the cocktail lives on, at least in New Orleans. Like the Vieux Carre, this is simply a mixture of spirits and bitters, with vermouth and absinthe in place of the Vieux Carre's brandy and Angostura bitters.

The La Louisiane is a bit sweeter than the Vieux Carre due to the larger serving of Benedictine. I have trouble with very sweet drinks, so I didn't favor it, but I appreciated the nice interplay between the anise flavor of Absinthe and Peychaud's and the sweet, spicy anise of the Benedictine. If you take it with only 1/8 of an ounce of Benedictine, it cuts down on the sweetness but maintains the flavor combinations well.

Next time you're feeling festive, pull out the Benedictine and stir up some New Orleans cocktails.

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