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 most water 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.
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?