Random Recipe

Featured

Categories

Drink of the Week: Vieux Carré

The Vieux Carré was first created in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, head bartender at the Hotel Monteleone which, in addition to housing the unusual rotating Carousel Bar, is considered the gateway to the French Quarter for which the drink is named. The Vieux Carré (French for "old square") is as much a fixture of the New Orleans cocktail scene as the Sazerac, and it's another reminder of the golden age of mixology.

If you are a fan of spirit-forward drinks, this is another one for your house menu. Upon making it, you might recognize that this is just a Saratoga sweetened with Benedictine. Ok, there's Peychaud's bitters too, and by this logic, any cocktail is just another version of something else. You could say it's like a Monte Carlo, or a variation of the La Louisianne, but these are all just riffs on the Manhattan. If you have done any experimentation with ingredients you know that sometimes the smallest adjustments can profoundly affect the flavor of a cocktail, even if you are just changing the bitters. Back when this drink was invented, that was the way most drinks were created. You'd make an adjustment to something popular and name it for your restaurant or hotel. It still happens today, and there's nothing wrong with that at all, and some amazing combinations have appeared as a result.

Vieux Carré
1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz Cognac
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Benedictine
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add over ice in a double old fashioned or rocks glass and stir. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Swapping bitters is one thing, but the ingredient that makes us happy about this recipe is DOM Benedictine. Most people recognize Benedictine for the B&B Cocktail (Benedictine and Brandy), but we think Benedictine is underutilized, or at least under recognized. It shows up in classics like this one, but only occasionally in modern recipes. Its sweet and unusual flavor deserves more popularity as a modifier. Maybe if it appeared in more recipes we would have an easier time finding it in liquor stores. As it is, you can often find B&B on the shelf (a bottled cocktail) but plain old Benedictine is sometimes absent. You can make several different classics with Benedictine, including the B&B Cocktail, but with bottled B&B, you are limited to, well, the B&B.

The Vieux Carré is sometimes built over ice in the glass in which it's served, or stirred in a mixing glass and strained over fresh ice cubes. However, this is a great time to use a big chunk or sphere of ice in your favorite rocks or old fashioned glass. If you do, you really need to mix it in another glass. Stirring with smaller ice will chill the drink (and prevent your sphere from cracking) while providing the proper dilution before you strain it over your chunk. One large ice cube isn't going to melt quickly, and unless you mix it with smaller ice first, it will simply be too strong.

6 comments to Drink of the Week: Vieux Carré

  • Scott

    Benedictine, one of my favorite bottles in my cabinet, and now I have anther excuse to use it...! Thanks for another DOtW installment! As you know, I am a big fan of the all spirits drink, and any variation on the Manhattan is bound to be permanently added to the "rotation"...btw, which Brandy/Congnac are you using for mixing, I am currently finishing a second go around with Germain-Robin Alembic which i find wonderful for both sipping and mixing...thinking Pierre Ferrand or Remy VSOP or even Cardenal Mendoza Brandy de Jerzes for my next bottle...any thoughts?

  • I am using Hennessy because it was available at Costco. I know, not necessarily the best reason, but I couldn't beat the price, and although I should probably assemble a bunch of brandies, Cognac and Armagnac to compare, my bloated cabinet is just not going to accommodate that. Besides, I don't have very many brandy cocktails on the house menu.

    That doesn't leave me with many options, but if YOU have more choices, please, try them and report back!

  • I think this is the first time I've seen the Saratoga and Vieux Carre compared like that, mainly because the recipes live in such different worlds (rarely visited classic and more modern classic that gets called for a lot).

  • Frederic,
    Good point. I was going to write about the Vieux Carré last year, but as it happened, the Saratoga seemed more interesting to me then. It's fun to refer back to a previous post and maybe put a recipe into perspective based on another, even if they weren't grown in the same garden. It was merely my own chronology that allowed me to look at it that way, especially since, while I was writing about the Saratoga, I didn't describe it as a VC minus the Benedictine! In either case, it's hard not to describe a cocktail without mentioning a few others, and hopefully you open a door for someone who is seeing this for the first time, or who may not be familiar with the others.

  • MML

    I first had this cocktail in Boston at Legal Seafood and was amazed. I got their recipe and I tweaked it to my liking, and here is my tried-and-true perfect Vieux Carre recipe:

    .75oz Rye Whiskey (try different ones to find your favorite)
    .75oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre cognac
    .40oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth (Just under the 1/2oz mark)
    .20oz Benedictine (Just under the 1/4oz mark)
    2 dashes Angostura Bitters
    2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

    Pour all of the above into a mixing glass, add crushed ice, stir with a barspoon for 15 seconds, then strain into a rocks glass (preferably with one of those oversized ice cubes that won't melt).

    Finally, add a lemon twist: Cut a small piece from the peel of a lemon, squeeze the oils into the drink (from the peel), then rub it on the rim of the glass)

    Perfect! Feel free to mess around with the measurements to find your perfect cocktail. For me, the vermouth was coming through too much so I had to reduce that, and the Benedictine is very nice, but was a hair too sweet so I reduced it just slightly. Now I've had plenty of these and this is my absolute favorite recipe for my favorite drink.

    Enjoy!

    • Interestingly, your recipe has more Benedictine than mine. To my eyes, you've actually increased it from 1/6 oz to 1/5 oz while reducing the amount of base spirits. Are you aiming for a version that hits the 1.5 ounce mark for the base spirits for some reason? I believe the 2:1 ratio with vermouth is intentional in this classic, as it reveals its Manhattan cocktail origin. With a half ounce less base (resulting in a much higher proportion of Benedictine) I can see why you might decrease the vermouth to try to compensate.

      To each their own. The beauty of mixing your own favorites is that you have the freedom to experiment.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>