the Vieux Carré

Confession time: at home, for the most part, I prefer to drink my whiskey neat. Pour a finger’s width or two of my favorite single malt and I’m happy mom! But when I’m out with friends, I like creativity with my booze. You know, a nice whiskey cocktail!

It may not be Friday just yet, but when I need a memorable mid-week drinking experience, a slow sipper to sit around with friends, smoke, swap lies and reminiscences, my drink of choice is the Vieux Carré – a fine way to spend an evening! A truly great cocktail, this one packs a powerful punch and is delightfully complex!

It’s one of those drinks which blossoms in the glass into some kind of wonderful – a memorable mid-week drinking experience.


The roots

The Vieux Carré is New Orleans’ contribution to the Manhattan family. It’s a classic cocktail straight from 1930’s New Orleans. It is a complex and fascinating drink.

This drink was invented in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans and certainly is a celebration of New Orleans culture and heritage. ”Vieux Carré” translates to “Old Square,” one of the early French terms for the area now known as the French Quarter. Rye whiskey, Cognac, Bénédictine, Peychaud’s bitters—the New Orleans heritage is well represented in the ingredient list.

The Monteleone is one of the Quarter’s grand old hotels, and now features the marvelous Carousel Lounge, which is an actual revolving carousel: you sit, and it revolves around the bartenders (just slowly enough so that you only get dizzy from drinks, not the ride).

This cocktail is a short, slow sipper that begins with equal parts of rye whiskey, Cognac, and sweet vermouth. Not one, but two bitters are used and there is a hint of a classic herbal liqueur to give it even more dimension.

Though it has never been forgotten, the cocktail did fall out of favor for a number of decades and went into a somewhat obscurity.

All of that changed during the recent resurgence of interest in classic cocktails and the revitalization of rye whiskey. With the skills of bartenders and the availability of fine ingredients, the Vieux Carré is once again on every cocktail enthusiast’s list of truly great drinks that must be tasted.


Vieux Carre3The makin’s
1 part rye whiskey
1 part Cognac
1 part sweet vermouth
Dash Peychaud’s Bitters
Dash Angostura Bitters
1/2 teaspoon Bénédictine liqueur
Mraschino cherry for garnish

The drill
Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice
Stir well until it’s as cold as February
Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice
Garnish with the cherry

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