The Vieux Carre

I can feel another Eric Felten rager coming on -- my curious condition wherein I just want to make cocktails from his book, How's Your Drink? -- and as this one coincides with the advent of the new season of Mad Men, I give you the Vieux Carre.

First, please allow me to quote liberally from Felten's prose regarding the Vieux Carre's New Orleans origins (New Orligins?):

"Then there's the Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Bar, where the circular bar revolves slowly under a whimsical carnival canopy of carved wood, mirrors, and bare bulbs. The barstools don't go up and down, thankfully, but the experience can still be a little disorienting; get caught up in a conversation, and the next thing you know, you're on the other side of the room. Ask bartender Marvin Allen to mix you up a Vieux Carre, a terrific drink invented by the Carousel's barman in the 1930s, and unknown to most mixologists outside of the Hotel Monteleone."

He goes on to talk about the Crescent City's rightful place in history as the birthplace and current-day cultural keeper of the cocktail, and that's kind of where Mad Men comes in. One could make the argument that, as of the zeigeist-y right-now, Mad Men is carrying the mostwater for cocktail culture. The mustachioed, suspendered, arm-gartered, vested, tattooed mixologist, we're all tired of him and his haberdashery tropes, no? But we still can't get enough Mad Men, and when we watch Don Draper mix himself an Old Fashioned, zomg it looks so good. (Don would also chafe at the obligatory fawning that often seems expected from the modern-day barkeep.)

The only problem with Don is, he drinks Old Fashioneds! The man needs to evolve his whiskey-based cocktail repertoire, and I believe the Vieux Carre would be the perfect potable for the job. The Benedictine gives that needed sweetness (srsly, Don, you pussy) while the bitters likewise add a familiar component to a cocktail that otherwise offers something different.

Also, "vieux carre" translates to "old square," which is probably what Megan thinks of Don these days...

The Vieux Carre

(Adapted very little from How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well)

1 1/2 ounces St.-Remy Brandy

1/2 ounce Bulleit Rye Whiskey

1/2 ounce Stock Sweet Vermouth

1/2 teaspoon Benedictine

1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Lemon twist, to garnish

Mix all liquid ingredients over ice in a short glass. Garnish with twist of lemon.

Tasting Notes

Aside from noting the specific brands I used, the only change I made to Felten's recipe was using brandy instead of cognac. This is a swap we always make around here for spending-cap reasons.

Also, the Felten/Carousel Bar recipe calls for all ingredients to be mixed "over ice in a short glass." Meaning, build it in the glass rather than pre-stirring it in a shaker or mixing glass. This goes against today's conventional wisdom, which would probably dictate a vigorous mixing on its own in a separate vessel before pouring it over fresh ice in your drinking glass. But really, what would Don Draper do?

The Cure for Pain

So as you've likely noticed by now, I'm pretty gay for Death & Co. It is by far my favorite bar in New York and quite possibly (although it'd have some stiff competition) the Americas (and also, I would withhold final judgment until I get a chance to visit the "capital-N nicest" bar ever patronized by another cocktail deity o'mine, Eric Felten).

It's quite embarrassing to admit, ergo, that I've darkened Death & Co.'s doorway a scant three times in my entire life. I rationalize this by likening Death & Co. to Christmas: Just because it's my favorite holiday doesn't mean I wish it to come 'round more than once a year, in large part because it can be quite expensive indulging joy.

One of the many, many things I love about Death & Co. (I'll divulge more throughout the week) is that patrons are encouraged to take home a copy of the cocktail lounge's menu, thus allowing me to get my fix the other 363-ish nights of the year when I am not reveling in the best $13 cocktail I've had since the last one I ordered there. I also find this to be effective marketing on the bar's part: The menu lists cocktails' ingredients in what I assume to be descending order of quantity, on the one hand affording me a decent compass for recreating their cocktails at home, on the other enticing me with yet another incentive to return soon, so I can find out how well I managed to make my replicas.

This week is Death & Co. week at the blog, a week in which I'll offer my takes on some of their more user-friendly concoctions. My first pick is the Cure for Pain -- aptly named, as it's an exceptionally rounded drink. Somewhere between the port and the creme de cacao, all the rough-hewnness of the rye, the bite of the bourbon and the distinct Campari-ness of the Campari is transmogrified into a cocktail of complete smoothness, a drink with no acute beginning or end but plenty of vagaries and tempting grace notes in the middle. I dare say one could easily gulp the damn thing in one genteel swig.

And to think it comes from combining six liquors! I don't think I've mixed so many liquors together since I made one of those Mongolian Motherfuckers.

Just kidding. I've never made one of those. There are certain rules of decorum that Death & Co. patrons must abide by (I'll also get in to those later on in the week), and I'm pretty sure dropping the MF-bomb isn't one of them.

The Cure for Pain

(Adapted from Death & Co.)

1 1/4 ounces Old Overholt Rye

3/4 ounce Stock sweet vermouth

3/4 ounce Henry McKenna bourbon

1/2 ounce Otima 10yr Tawny Port

1/2 ounce white creme de cacao

1 teaspoon Campari

Orange peel, for garnish

Stir all liquid ingredients in your ice-filled mixing glass of choice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Rim glass with orange peel, then twist while holding over the mouth of the glass and drop into drink.


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