Drink of the Week: The Vieux Carre

The Vieux Carre.Like most Americans, I’m not exactly a polyglot. Four years of junior high and high school Spanish have been of great assistance in helping me to order  items at taco trucks; three quarters of college French allow me to chuckle knowingly to myself when “merde!” is translated as “damn!” in subtitles. So, I can’t properly pronounce the name of the Vieux Carre, but I can tell you it means “old square.” That square, as it turns out, is off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and this is another fine cocktail associated with America’s most intriguing cocktail capital.

Quite obviously, however, this is not in the same category as a Hurricane and it’s not the one of the scary, gigantic green drinks featured on this year’s season premiere of “Bar Rescue.” While, for me, the Vieux Carre doesn’t quite achieve the classic cocktail nirvana of a Sazerac, this is one beverage that actually gets tastier the longer you let it sit. It’s perfect for a long conversation and, by the end of it, even ever-so-justifiably-furious bar rescuer John Taffer might get mellow enough to maybe stop shouting for just a second.

The Vieux Carre

3/4 ounce rye whiskey
3/4 ounce cognac or brandy
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Benedictine
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes aromatic  bitters (Angostura or similar)
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Making this drink is about as easy to make as it is to get a buzz going in the French Quarter. Build over some ice cubes in a rock glass, stir, and add the lemon twist. Toast whatever or whomever you like, but do so slowly.

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I’m very sorry to say that this week’s post completes my trilogy of drinks of cocktails featuring Camus’s Ile de Ré Fine Island Cognac. Sadly, that’s the case because I polished off the bottle last night. No disrespect to my value-priced go-to brandy, Reynal, but there’s a reason the Camus people get to charge the big bucks for this stuff. It’s great in a cocktail and remarkably easy and pleasurable to drink neat. Good thing I still have a few airplane bottles of various Ile de Ré expressions in my alcohol laden larder.

My rye for this double-base spirit cocktail was another new freebie favorite we’ve featured here before, the lovely Templeton Rye, previously featured in the Capone.  I usually lean towards higher proof ryes like my old pal, 100 proof Rittenhouse, but that might have been a bit much in this context; Templeton’s more mellow flavor makes it a pretty perfect match for a Vieux Carre.

I experimented quite a bit with the other ingredients. Many recipes call for more booze and somewhat less of the Benedictine — a very sweet herbal liqueur which famously mixes well with brandy. I also tried three different sweet vermouths, all favorites. The lightest was Noilly Pratt, which was very nice, but an even better result was achieved with the greatness that is Carpano Antica. (Yet another freebie previously featured here).

I also tried it with another great product I’ll be featuring later, Punt e Mes. In that instance, it sort of dominated the cocktail but, since I love, love, love me some Punt e Mes, I didn’t really mind.

One final note, apparently to really do the Vieux Carre right, some people suggest you should make it with just one very large ice cube. Sounds cool, but I guess I need to find an ice cube tray that make 3″x 3″ ice cubes.

Anyhow, a moment of non-silence for my forever spent bottle of fine cognac. Mr. Gillespie, it’s time for a little Cognac blues.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Daiquiri

http://blog.bullz-eye.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/213ba60487turale-200x3001.jpgToday it’s a milestone at Drink of the Week as we’re leaving behind our old friends whiskey, gin, and vodka for that tropical favorite, rum. Nevertheless, we’re holding on to our classical cocktail standards, so you may abandon all thoughts of blenders.

This is not the ultra-sweet ice-based monstrosity of a strawberry daiquiri that you’ll find at your local Bennigan’s/El Torito/Acapulco/TGIFriday or the devastatingly alcoholic quasi-Slurpees sold by hole-in-the-wall vendors on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Nope, at the risk of sounding like a complete snob, this is the more civilized, yet refreshing — and vastly less fattening — beverage reportedly named either for a Cuban beach or an iron mine and favored by Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy. The former personage is a lot more popular in post-revolutionary Cuba than the latter, but that’s another story.

Here’s the drink:

The Daiquiri

2 ounces rum
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
Lime or orange wedge (optional garnish)

Mix sugar with room temperature lime juice. Add rum and plentiful ice to your cocktail shaker. Shake very vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. It’s not really necessary, but you can garnish it with a lime wedge, or an orange slice if you’d like an extra touch of sweetness. You can add a little more sugar if you like, but remember that rum has, for a hard liquor, a lot of built-in sweetness. It will taste even better with Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo’s Afro-Cuban classic, Manteca, playing in the background.

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I’ve tried this a few ways, but I’m happy to say this is a rather indestructible drink if you don’t mess with it too much. Most recipes call very specifically for light rum, but it was only slightly less good when I tried it with gold rum. Cocktail historian David Wondrich says you can also use the even sweeter and more complex dark rums, but cut back some on the sugar. Since I ultimately determined that his recipe was better than those I found in several other places calling for more lime juice and sugar, I imagine he’s right about that, too.

  

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