In New Orleans, there is a concoction that has stood the test of time. It is said to be the first-ever American cocktail — although no one can say for sure where the word “cocktail” derived from with certainty or historical proof, for that matter. It is called the Sazerac.
This drink is actually the official cocktail of the Crescent City since 2008, after the Louisiana House of Representatives made a historic decision in a 62-33 vote to declare the Sazerac Cocktail the New Orleans’ official drink of choice.
In this episode of “Across the Bar,” host Paul Barron set out to learn the history about the evolution of ingredients behind this famous drink from some of New Orleans’ best cocktail historians: Elizabeth Pearce, Kevin Richards, and Russ Bergeron. And what better place to go on this historical journey than at the The Sazerac Bar inside The Roosevelt Hotel?
Cocktail No. 1: Sazerac Cocktail
The origins of this drink date back to the 1830s and each ingredient for the cocktail is very much representative of New Orleans, and even the state of Louisiana.
“If you pick apart the ingredients and start to think about how they are tied so locally; so, you got the Herbsaint created by a New Orleans pharmacist [Marion Legendre], you got sugar, which is such an agricultural stand-by here in the state of Louisiana, you got the lemon and the lemon influence from Sicilians that descended upon New Orleans in mass and created these great cultural legacies…” said Richards.
And of course, we can't forget to mention Peychaud’s bitters, made by the local apothecary of the time, Antoine Amedie Peychaud, and from his family’s secret recipe. With such deep roots in America’s Most Interesting City, it is easy to see why the Sazerac calls New Orleans its home.
Cocktail No. 2: The One and Only One Ramos’ Original Gin Fizz
We also had the opportunity to learn about the Ramos’ Original Gin Fizz, a refreshing summer cocktail created by Henry Charles Ramos back in 1888 while he worked at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon. This cocktail is also referred as the New Orleans’ Fizz, and at some point, they were selling up to 1,000 a day. The drink was an instant hit and its success allowed Ramos to open his own bar. From the 1890s all the way up until the National Prohibition Act was implemented, the only challenger to Ramos’ Bar was the Sazerac Bar (at the time still in the French Quarter).
When Prohibition went into effect, Ramos closed shop for good. The recipe for the popular concoction was shared to a local reporter by the Gin Fizz creator himself, after Ramos agreed to be interviewed in vigorous belief that prohibition was never going to be repealed and as his health was in decline. The recipe is readily available to everyone now, but after the ban was lifted, Ramos’ son sold the rights of the recipe to Seymour Weis, the owner of The Roosevelt Hotel.
Watch the episode to learn more!