Most cocktails, shaken or stirred, carry a fairly short expiration period for drinking them before they start to fall apart — either from over-diluting in ice or getting too warm. Many patrons, however, do not intend to down their drinks in three sips, but rather enjoy them in sips over the course of a conversation or meal. That’s why balance and dilution level are such crucial elements for bartenders to consider as they craft a drink. A prime example of that can be found in the classic Vieux Carré cocktail.
Born in the 1930s, the Vieux Carré, whose name literally means “old square” and naturally refers to the French Quarter, was created by a bartender at The Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. Though this drink may have been derived from a traditional vermouth cocktail created in the mid-1800s, many people who encounter the Vieux Carré today will equate it to a Manhattan variation, served on the rocks. One can find it made in a variety of ways, but the Vieux should be built in the glass it is served in, just like an Old Fashioned, and drunk over the course of a half-hour. Trying to make this drink by first stirring it in a mixing glass and then straining over ice will likely over-dilute, and by doing so shorten its life span and the enjoyment it brings.
Naturally, when it is first presented, the strength of the Vieux Carré needs to be fairly strong to make it last so long, which is why many prefer a vermouth as rich as Carpano Antica, in addition to Benedictine rinse to sweeten the glass; both play a hand in tempering the stronger spirits in the glass. It seems basic, though many stirred drinks I see served can suffer from over-dilution. For those who like to really taste the spirits in their cocktail, however, it’s important to understand that both a pre-chilled glass and stirring just enough to find that proper level (to your taste, of course) can make all the difference in providing a cocktail that truly speaks.
- 1 ounce Rittenhouse Rye 100
- 1 ounce Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac
- 3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- Benedictine Rinse
- Rinse a chilled double-rocks glass with Benedictine, and then apply two dashes Angostura and two dashes Peychaud's bitters.
- Add in rye whiskey, cognac and sweet vermouth, and then gently lower a large ice cube into the glass.
- Stirred ingredients briefly for about 5 seconds and then garnish with a brandied cherry and a lemon twist (optional).