The Vieux Carré Cocktail

The Vieux Carré (French for “Old Square”) is a cocktail named after the French Quarter in the city of New Orleans. It traditionally contains several high-power spirituous ingredients, including rye whiskey, Cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and Peychaud’s bitters.

About the Vieux Carré

What’s that? You’re looking for a drink that’s all booze and drinks like sweet, soft velvet? Okay then, here we go.

The most important things to know about the Vieux Carré are as follows:

  • It’s a powerful drink, so be careful.
  • Like its New Orleans cousin, the Sazerac, it has fennel/licorice notes that not everyone enjoys.
  • If you want to order one at the bar, make sure you’re at a good one that either lists this cocktail explicitly on the menu or where the bartender doesn’t miss a beat when you propose that you might like one. Otherwise, backpedal like crazy and order something different.
  • If you’re at home, you need five separate ingredients to mix one up, so this is not a cocktail for beginners (although the ratios are quite simple).

History of the Vieux Carré

According to New Orleans lore, the ingredients of the Vieux Carré are thought to represent the different groups of people inhabiting the city. The Cognac and Benedictine represent the city’s French roots, the rye whiskey represents American frontier culture, the Peychaud’s bitters represent the city’s Caribbean influences, and the sweet vermouth pays tribute to Italy.

Invented in the late 1930s at the Hotel Monteleone, this cocktail can still be enjoyed at the hotel’s legendary Carousel Bar, as well as at many other famous drinking establishments throughout the Big Easy. Although the Vieux Carré is not currently a mainstay cocktail at most American cocktail bars, those that specialize in New Orleans style drinks are almost sure to be able to whip up a pretty tasty one.

Recipe

Despite the fact that the Vieux Carré cocktail traditionally contains about six different ingredients, the ratios of the primary spirits are pretty easy to remember. Also, the original recipe calls for a dash of Angostura bitters and a dash of Peychaud’s bitters, but you can simplify this without hurting the drink at all.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this cocktail at home:

Ingredients

  • ¾ oz rye whiskey
  • ¾ oz Cognac
  • ¾ oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 bar spoon (roughly ¼ oz) Benedictine
  • Embitterment Aromatic Bitters
  • Lemon peel (for garnish)

Instructions

In a mixing glass with ice, combine the rye, Cognac, sweet vermouth, and Benedictine with several hearty dashes of Embitterment Aromatic Bitters. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly chilled and combined, then strain into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube. Express a lemon peel over the drink, rub the peel around the rim, and either use it as garnish or discard.

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