French 75

New Orleans cocktails - a history of classics


There are three reason why I’ve chosen this moment to write about the ‘big easy’ and the drinks that come from there; firstly it’s that time of year when bartenders start thinking about Tales of the Cocktail, secondly I’ve just opened a New Orleans inspired bar in London (NOLA) with a couple of business partners, and lastly I’ve been lucky enough to be nominated for ‘best cocktail author’ at TotC this year, which all means that New Orleans is on my mind a lot at the moment. Writing the menu for NOLA, I knew right away that I wanted to have a page of New Orleans classic cocktails, and I wanted our team to have some knowledge about their origins, so my research began.

OK, so enough with the shameless self promotion! New Orleans is an amazing city, with a unique culture that spans back generations. In terms of cocktail heritage there can surely be few cities other than New York, London and Paris that have such a long and rich history. In other words there’s a lot to write about New Orleans when it comes to cocktails!

I’ve chosen the drinks that appear on my menu at NOLA, the Sazerac, Hurricane, Ramos Gin Fizz, Grasshopper, Vieux Carre, La Louisiane and French 75 (not strictly a New Orleans drink, but strongly associated with the city). They’re all drinks that I love for different reasons, and all very different in style, but somehow they reflect the fact that New Orleans has had a vibrant cocktail scene through the generations, and in every era there has been at least one drink that has become a classic cocktail known around the world… quite a feat!

Getting more bang from your fizz

I like cocktails; that much should be clear from this blog. I also quite like the occasional glass of Champagne. The thing is I don’t actually like Champagne cocktails all that much. There are exceptions to every rule of course and drinks such as the French 75 or even the classic Champagne Cocktail are fine drinks, but other than these two I generally find that most contain flavours that are too overpowering and leave me wishing that I’d simply had either a cocktail or a glass of fizz.
That being said, since a fantastic Champagne tasting hosted by Ruinart at London’s Callooh Callay, I’ve had it at the back of my mind that I should really pay some attention to this category of drinks and try to get to grips with them. My first thought was that as with all cocktails you need to know and respect the base ingredient, usually a spirit, but in this case a sparkling wine, and as such, it seemed that a slightly more restrained approach would be needed for Champagne cocktails, than simply throwing ingredients at it.

New Orleans here I come!

I know that July seems like it is a long way off, especially when it is cold and rainy here in the UK, but trust me it is worth thinking about where you are going to be from the 21st – 25th… Me? I’m going to be in New Orleans of course.
Last year I made my first trip out to Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans’ annual cocktail and spirits event, and there is no way I am going to miss it this year! For those of you who don’t already know about Tales, it is the biggest drinks industry event of the year and you really don’t want to miss it.
The TotC website is already full of info including a list of the seminars and events that are already planned, so I thought now might be the right time to give you a little recap on 2009 and give you a heads up about 2010. When you are travelling that far it pays to plan ahead!
So last year was an eye opening experience for me. To be honest I tried to pack too much into my brief stay in New Orleans but that’s easy to do when there are so many seminars, events, places to see and people to catch up with. So here’s what happened in 2009:
Almost 11,500 people who are interested in cocktails and spirits gathered in New Orleans for five days of seminars, tastings, meetings, parties and competitions. While it centered around The Hotel Monteleone events were held in bars all over the French Quarter, including ‘Spirited Dinners’ in some of New Orleans’ best restaurants, brand sponsored parties in bars and hotels and of course impromptu gatherings in bars across the city.