Helen and I love to host dinner parties. For our “Friendsgiving Feast” this past weekend the guests brought the meal and left it to us to provide the apps and pre-dinner drinks. Our closest friends know of my penchant for mixing good cocktails.
I served up the “Vieux Carre” a New Orleans contribution to the cannon of classic cocktails.
The drink itself is complex and boozy. But like many experiences in my life, it is the story in the glass that contributes much to my enjoyment.
Vieux Carre is a shout out to the “old square” in the French Quarter – where settlers from France founded the city. It was first mixed after the repeal of Prohibition at the Hotel Monteleone. You can still visit the bar in the hotel which was founded by an immigrant from Sicily.
The base ingredients are a mélange of cultural touchstones, much like New Orleans itself: Italian sweet vermouth, French cognac and the original American spirit – rye whiskey - that was shipped in charred oak barrels down the Mississippi. The highball glass is first rinsed with Benedictine, a liqueur created by a botanist monk of that Catholic order in an abbey on the Normandy coast. Then a few dashes of Peychaud’s as well as Angostura bitters – both of Caribbean origin – are added.
The history of the city is told through international ingredients that come together in heady concoction. If you know that story, you might gain a different relationship to the drink. It might create a spot in your mind for that offering. It becomes memorable. It becomes nuanced.
Pay attention to the components of your story and how you mix them. It will become more than its base parts. It can become a classic.
I have a variety of interests and enjoy sharing my reflections on them here.