A New Orleans classic since the 1930's, the Vieux Carre was created by Hotel Monteleone's Walter Bergeron and it's as delicious as it is strong.
It has nicely balanced complexity which you could think of as a slightly sweeter and more herbal Manhattan.
Vieux Carre (sounds like voo-kah-ray) is the name for the French Quarter in New Orleans and it means "old square" in french.
I wanted to try this drink for a while but never got myself a bottle of benedictine, and when I finally did I was not disappointed.
Benedictine is a sweet herbal french liquor with flavors of honey, green herbs, and maybe a slight minty-ness? It is not in many different drinks like some bottles you invest in, but it is worth its' higher french price tag for this drink alone (and you only need a little for each so it will last if stored in the fridge).
What ingredients for the Vieux Carre?
I like to use a nice spicy rye such as Rittenhouse of Dickel.
With the other ingredients being sweet and complex it seems important to have a strong backbone rye.
As for the rest of the ingredients, Cognac has lots of different classifications and rules (the french love their rules and traditions) but it is essentially a brandy distilled from wine and aged in oak barrels. There is no need to spend lots of money on fancy XO Cognac but as usual, stay away from extremely cheap bottles.
My suggestion when buying a Cognac to mix in cocktails is to find one labeled as VSOP that is within your budget. Pierre Ferrand has some really nice options, and is a staple for many bars.
Then comes the vermouth. Your choice here will alter the final flavor of the cocktail and vermouth is one of my favorite categories to experiment with. Trying new options is always enjoyable, and it is interesting to see the impact it will have in classics like the Manhattan or Negroni.
Should you garnish with lemon and cherry?
A combination bitters is traditionally used in this recipe. It works well with the herbal and anise notes coming from the Peychaud's, and dark, warm, baking spice flavor that Angostura contributes.
However, If you don't have them both I would suggest you just go for the Angostura (as it is usually just a few dollars at supermarkets), or you could opt for something totally different and try any bottle or creole or aromatic bitters.
And the last topic of discussion will be how to garnish this cocktail. The question is whether you want to opt for lemon peel, a cherry, or both.
When I think of the other classic brown and boozy old fashioned style drinks the ones that most quickly come to mind are the Manhattan, and the Sazerac. Manhattan's are typically garnished with orange zest, and the Sazerac uses lemon, so in my head it makes sense that the Vieux Carre has neither.
I want this cocktail to be different from it's cousin the Sazerac, and I think that by using lemon it makes the two too similar. Not only that, but there are lots of subtle herbal flavors happening with the Benedictine and Sweet Vermouth, and I think that the lemon overshadows them too much.
But, if you like a little citrus over top go for a piece of lemon peel.
Vieux Carre Recipe
- 1 oz Rye
- 1 oz Congnac
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1/2 oz Benedictine
- 2 Dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Garnish 1 Maraschino Cherry
- 1 Piece of Lemon Peel - optional
- Add all the liquid ingredients to a mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir until desired chill and dilution is reached (about 25 seconds).
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or a rocks glass with ice.
- Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry, and optionally express the oils of the lemon peel and drop in for garnish.
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This cocktail will be especially nice for anybody that enjoys a good Manhattan, or anything else in that family.
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