We may be well past Mardi Gras, but I find I’m still somewhat stuck in New Orleans – not literally, to my dismay. I could be stuck there a week or two without becoming bored, I think. To add to my always-growing list of regrets, I’ve never had the opportunity to lose track of more than two nights there.
It’s the sort of place where you’ll turn down a side street and come upon two buskers at either corner. One plays a fiddle and one plays a handsaw (a delightful sound). As you walk by they notice one another and begin to creep down the street, each toward the other. They meet in the middle, coincidentally keeping pace with you as you shamble along toward some rumored hotspot. They cease playing separately and start up a Janis Joplin tune, which is quickly joined by your companion – whose voice is surprisingly suited to picking up where the young lady left off. You stop for that moment. It’s some of the best music you’ll ever hear, and then it’s over and you’re off to the next thing.
It’s a fun place, I mean to say, and worth exploring in more detail than your humble author could ever convey in two or even ten blog posts. The drinking culture there is historic, relaxed, and refined. Forget the hooligans on Bourbon (I implore you, forget them) and you’ll discover that New Orleans has gifted us with yet another fantastic beverage: The Ramos Gin Fizz.
Ramos Gin Fizz
I know I said I’d lay off drinks with egg in them for a while, but it would seem I was lying. Once you taste this, I think you’ll agree that I should be forgiven. The Ramos Gin Fizz has a fantastic taste and texture, and looks lovely in a glass. It’s also a great way to get a bartender to hate your guts, I should note. A lot of preparation goes into one, so if you order it in public be prepared for two things: a wait, and to tip well. There’s no reason you can’t make it at home, though.
This was a favorite drink of Huey Long, the bombastic, populist Senator from Louisiana in the ‘30s, and he did much to popularize it. It was such a favorite that when he traveled to New York he brought a Louisiana bartender with him, to ensure it was made properly. And you’ll want to make this properly. To start, gather your ingredients:
- 2 oz gin
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 dashes orange flower water (strictly mandatory)
- 1 egg white (recommended, but optional)
- 1 1/2 oz heavy cream
- 1 tbsp superfine sugar
- 4 oz chilled club soda
- lemon slice for garnish
Combine all the ingredients except the club soda in a shaker. Before adding ice, shake it for a few seconds to emulsify the mixture just a bit. Then add the ice, and shake.
The recommended amount of shaking time for this drink varies between three and five minutes, with some establishments insisting on at least a ten-minute shake. Five is really all you need, and probably all anyone should be expected to manage. As you shake, you’ll begin to feel the mixture thicken and become almost ropey in the shaker. It’s a bit of a workout, but the payoff is tremendous.
Strain the contents into a tall highball or Collins glass. Then, top off with the club soda, being sure to stir slowly so as not to break down the frothy texture. Along with the citrus, the carbonation in the soda is what gives it the “Fizz.” Garnish with the lemon slice and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The drink itself is often described as tasting like an effervescent orange Creamsicle, which is fairly accurate. The orange blossom water is key to the whole affair; I spent a month or two looking for it in wine shops before discovering it in the grocery store, right next to the vanilla extracts. The flavor may be delicate, but with the cream and sugar this drink becomes very heavy. This is not a cocktail I’d have more than once in a single evening, but as always I leave the matter entirely to your discretion.