The Cocktail

INTRODUCTION

New Orleans lays claim to being the founder of the cocktail. We’ve even got a museum dedicated to the theme. The story goes that French Quarter pharmacist Antoine Peychaud brewed his own homemade bitters, which were sold as an over the counter medicine. Peychaud figured out that if he blended said bitters with cognac, water and sugar, you got something that tasted very good indeed, a drink custom made for nights of carousing, laughter, flirtation, romance, bad karaoke – no, wait, this was the 1830s.

Read an interview with local cocktail expert Chris Hannah here.

Unfortunately, ‘cocktails’ were already mentioned in an upstate New York newspaper circa 1806, so historians say Nola can’t lay claim to creating the drink. Well..whatever. Look, a cocktail isn’t a cocktail without bitters. That’s like a pizza without cheese. And while bitters existed prior to Peychaud, the man’s recipe for them endures to this day, so as far we’re concerned, the cocktail is a New Orleans original.

Bartenders here like making new drinks – make sure to visit some of our more innovative bars like Tonique, Cure and 12 Mile Limit – but there’s some classic New Orleans cocktails you need to sample when you’re here, beverages that are essentially drinkable history, and here’s a hint: they’re not neon colored and don’t come in collectible cups.

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  • Sazerac The king of the New Orleans cocktails. Originally made with cognac and absinthe, the modern sazerac consists of an Old-Fashioned glass coated with either absinthe or herbsaint (an anise-flavored liquor). A pour of rye whiskey, dashes of Peychaud and Angosutra bitters and a twist of lemon are added to create a drink that is…well, sublime. Dare we say, the sazerac is the perfect mixed drink: spicy and warm, yet oddly refreshing, with its lemon-y tang and the lingering acerbic favor of the absinthe/herbsaint.
  • Ramos Gin Fizz Back in the day, the Imperial Cabinet Saloon kept 20 bartenders working simultaneously at making nothing but Ramos Gin Fizzes, also known as a Ramos Fizz. The drink is a time-consuming one to create, but look: perfection comes with a bit of care and effort. And in this case, perfection also includes soda water, egg whites, sugar, cream, lemon and lime juice and orange flower water. This complex combination creates the signature ‘fizz’ that gives the drink a complex texture to compliment its excellent flavor.
  • Vieux Carre This excellent libation was invented in the French Quarter (surprise, surprise) at the Hotel Monteleone in the 1930s. As such, you really should down one at the Monteleone’s carousel bar – just try not to fall out of your seat. Rye, cognac, bitters, sweet vermouth and a rinse of Benedectine (a herbal liquer) complete the equation. It’s a mature, complex drink, and frankly, it tastes bloody fantastic.

Our Local Publisher Partners

The Arts Council of New Orleans

The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

WWNO

WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

WWOZ

WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

PRC

Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

NOMA

As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

Southern Food

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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