Featured Cocktail: The Vieux Carre
This week’s featured cocktail is brought to you by a slight slip of the tongue I had during last week’s episode. We received a comment on the show notes page from Michael, who pointed out that I may have indicated that Green Chartreuse was used in a Vieux Carre cocktail. And the way I worded things, it definitely sounded like that’s what I was saying.
So, to set the record straight, the Vieux Carre is going to be this week’s featured cocktail.
The phrase “Vieux Carre” translates to “Old Quarter” and refers to the French Quarter of New Orleans, where some of the most iconic cocktails – including the Sazerac and the French 75 – were invented. And if the Sazerac is New Orlean’s version of the Old Fashioned, the Vieux Carre is its own unique spin on the Manhattan.
To make one, you’ll need:
- ¾ oz Rye Whiskey
- ¾ oz Cognac
- ¾ oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 bar spoon Benedictine
- Several dashes of Aromatic Bitters
This is a stirred drink, so you combine all those ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir it well, and then strain into any glass you please. Some enjoy this drink served up, in a stemmed glass, and others prefer to sip it over a large rock in a lowball glass.
In terms of garnishes, you’ve got two accepted routes: a cocktail cherry, or an expressed lemon twist. If you’re using a spicy rye and a really dark vermouth, maybe lift things with a lemon twist, but if you’re using a milder rye and a nice light vermouth, maybe opt for the cherry. Just thinking out loud here.
One legend I really enjoy about the Vieux Carre is that each of its ingredients are said to represent a key cultural demographic of the city of New Orleans. The Cognac represents the city’s French roots, the Rye represents its role in the expansion of the American frontier, the sweet vermouth is a tribute to the city’s significant Italian population, and the bitters (whether you’re using the called-for Angostura, or a creole-style like Peychaud’s or our very own Embitterment Aromatic bitters) are said to be a gesture to the Caribbean influence in the city.
This is one of my favorite cocktails, and the reason why I mistakenly slipped up and implied that it contained Green Chartreuse is because I was thinking about the significant commonalities it shared with the other two cocktails I was talking about: last week’s Tipperary Cocktail, and the Diamondback cocktail. Like the Vieux Carre, both contain whiskey, sweet vermouth, and a significant herbal component.
Really what I should have done was mention Benedictine, which is another French liqueur made by monks. Like Chartreuse, this ingredient uses a ton of herbs and spices, and it kind of falls into that highly aromatized category between Amari and cordials.
Thanks to our listener Michael for calling out that inconsistency and allowing us to set the record straight. And also giving me an excuse to talk about the Vieux Carre, which I’m always happy to do.