The History of the Vieux Carré Cocktail
This classic drink hails from New Orleans, boasts a rich history that is deeply intertwined with the renowned French Quarter.
It was in the 1930s when master bartender Walter Bergeron crafted this iconic drink at the famous Carousel Bar of the Hotel Monteleone.
Inspired by the cultural melting pot that is New Orleans, Bergeron elegantly combined elements from both sides of Bourbon Street into a single glass.
The name “Vieux Carré,” meaning “Old Square” in French, pays homage to the historic heart of this vibrant city.
Ingredients for the Vieux Carré Recipe
This cocktail is all about a carefully honed balance of ingredients. It starts with a sturdy base of rye whiskey. Complementing this strong foundation is cognac, which lends an elegant touch of depth and refinement.
Next up is sweet vermouth steps in, which gives the drink luscious complexity and subtle herbal notes. And finally Benedictine adds a much needed hint of sweetness.
Choosing Your Rye Whiskey
Quality of ingredients matters in this drink. Some of the best rye whiskeys that would work well in this cocktail include:
- Rittenhouse Rye 100 Bottled-in-Bond Whiskey – A classic, spicy rye that is high proof and low priced.
- George Dickel Rye Whiskey – Smooth with hints of vanilla and spice, this rye whiskey has a sweet flavor profile that pairs nicely with the cognac.
- Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey – This whiskey has a slightly spicier taste which adds an extra layer of complexity to your cocktail.
- Templeton Small Batch Rye Whiskey – A sweet and smooth choice, Templeton provides a solid backbone to stand up against the other strong flavors in this drink.
- WhistlePig 10 Year Old Straight Rye – If you’re looking for something on the higher end, this Vermont-made rye brings both quality and character to your drink.
Here are some top-rated cognacs that would work wonderfully in this cocktail:
- Rémy Martin VSOP – This smooth and fruity cognac mixes beautifully and brings an elegant touch to the cocktail.
- Hennessy VSOP Privilege – A balanced cognac with excellent consistency and depth of flavor.
- Courvoisier VSOP – Known for its woody notes with hints of almonds and vanilla.
- Martell VS Single Distillery – Offers rich fruit and spice notes which can complement the flavors in the cocktail.
- Pierre Ferrand Ambre – Slightly on the sweeter side, it pairs well with the spicy rye whiskey.
The Sweet Vermouth
One of the best sweet vermouths to use in this drink is Carpano Antica Formula. This Italian spirit is rich, complex, and has full-bodied flavors of vanilla and caramel that balance nicely with the spiciness of rye whiskey and the unique characteristics of cognac.
Some other good alternatives are:
- Punt e Mes – Known for its earthy notes and bitter-sweet profile.
- Cocchi Vermouth di Torino – It offers fruity undertones which works well in this cocktail.
- Dolin Rouge Vermouth de Chambéry – A lighter choice, it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients.
Balancing the Sweetness and Bitterness
This drink has two more essential ingredients: Benedictine and bitters.
Benedictine liqueur plays a key role in the Vieux Carre cocktail, adding depth and complexity to the drink. This herbal liqueur infuses the cocktail with unique botanical notes and a hint of sweetness.
It notes balance out the stronger flavors of the whiskey and cognac. It also gives the Vieux Carre its distinct layered taste profile, making it one of the most sophisticated classic cocktails.
Peychaud’s Bitters also play a critical role by adding a zesty, anise-like flavor with subtle notes of cherry and clove. They help balance the sweetness from the cognac and vermouth, while complementing the whiskey’s spicy undertones.
While Peychaud’s Bitters are traditional from the original recipe, you can use other bitters depending on your personal preference or what you have available. In fact, some recipes suggest different bitters, like Angostura or even particular brands.
Using different bitters can change the cocktail’s unique flavor profile, but not necessarily in a bad way. For example, Angostura Bitters will make it more spicy and aromatic; orange bitters could add a citrusy twist.
Making Your Cocktail
It’s easy to make a Vieux Carré. Start by adding ice to your mixing glass, filling it about two-thirds of the way. The ice will not only chill the cocktail but also dilute it ever so slightly, making it smoother.
Next, pour in the measured portions of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, and Bénédictine liqueur. Gently stir with a long-handled bar spoon in a graceful figure-eight motion.
Once the drink is chilled, strain the mixture into a fresh glass with ice.
Garnishing Your Drink
When it comes to selecting the perfect garnish for your Vieux Carré, consider the flavors and ingredients already present in the cocktail. A traditional choice is a lemon twist, which adds a refreshing citrus aroma that complements the richness of whiskey and sweet vermouth.
For an added twist, you can torch the lemon peel gently before placing it on top of your drink, releasing an intoxicating burst of aromatic oils that will tantalize your senses.
You can also use a simple maraschino cherry.
If you have a vintage-inspired coupe glass or a classic old-fashioned glass. using it to serve this drink will evoke an air of elegance and sophistication.
Instead of filling the glass with ice cubes, a large cube made from a special mold could be even better.
The Vieux Carré cocktail from New Orleans has a timeless charm. Savor the harmonious blend of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters.
- 3/4 ounce rye whiskey
- 3/4 ounce cognac
- 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/2 ounce Benedictine liqueur
- 3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
- Garnish with lemon twist
- Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
- Fill a rocks glass with ice.
- Strain the mixture into the rocks glass over the ice.
- Garnish with a lemon twist.