Famous New Orleans Cocktails and Their History

Famous New Orleans Cocktails and Their History

New Orleans cocktails are some, if not the oldest, mixed drinks on record. The city’s history of mixology is 180 years old, thanks in large part to apothecary Amédée Peychaud, creating Peychaud’s bitters as a medicinal tonic. He combined the bitters with Sazerac brandy and Herbsaint, a New Orleans absinthe substitute created by Marion Legendre and Reginald Parker in 1934. Mixed together, the first truly New Orleans cocktail was born.

With two major cocktail ingredients originating in New Orleans, the city quickly became a hub of innovation and tradition, known today for its Fat Tuesday Carnival, Tales of the Cocktail, and The Museum of the American Cocktail. New Orleans recipes have spread the tradition to mixologists and home bartenders across the country. From classic concoctions like the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz to more modern creations like the Hurricane, New Orleans is a cocktail haven that extends far beyond its famous Mardi Gras celebrations.

1. Vieux Carré

Vieux Carré Cocktail
Photo by @ahtziri

The New Orleans cocktail was created in the 1930s by Walter Bergeron, the head bartender of the Monteleone. The drink is named after New Orleans’ French Quarter and is a complex and strong beverage. Starting with the ingredients of a Manhattan, the Vieux Carré combines rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, cognac, Benedictine, and Peychaud’s bitters for an intriguing historic cocktail with similar notes to the Sazerac.

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2. Sazerac

Sazerac Cocktail
Photo by @bhofack2

The official cocktail of New Orleans is one of the oldest cocktail recipes in the world. It was made in the late 1830s by Apothecary Antoine Amédée Peychaud — the same man who created Peychaud’s bitters. Named after a Cognac of the same name, the recipe has changed and adapted as New Orleans has. Sazerac’s perennial charm is thanks to the balanced mix of rye, sugar, absinthe, bitters, and soda water that takes the flavors of an Old Fashioned just a step forward.

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3. Ramos Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz With Gin Simple Syrup Lime Juice Lemon Juice Egg White Soda Water Cream Shaken Cocktail
Photo by @Daniel Viero

Dating back to the 1888, the Ramos Gin Fizz is a delightful mix of a Gin Fizz and a milkshake created by Henry Ramos. This New Orleans cocktail shakes gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, cream, egg white, and soda water until it has an ethereal texture. It was originally made by shaking it vigorously for 12 minutes, but with the right techniques, you can bring this number down to 1.

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4. Old Hickory

Old Hickory Cocktail
Photo by @Sorinpopa

The Old Hickory is all bark and no bite, with its low-proof mix of sweet and dry vermouth, and the addition of Peychaud’s and orange bitters. Legend has it that Andrew Jackson drank the Old Hickory when he was stationed in New Orleans in the early 1800s, so it was named after his nickname. While we don’t know who first created the recipe, the first record of the story is in Famous New Orleans Drinks & How To Mix ‘Em, which was first published in 1937.

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5. De La Louisiane

De La Louisiane Cocktail
Photo by @emiandreeva

Tasting intriguingly familiar yet invitingly unique, the De La Louisiane is a riff on the Vieux Carré that first showed up in recipes in the 1937 Famous New Orleans Drinks & How To Mix ‘Em. Mixing rye, Bénédictine, sweet vermouth, absinthe, and bitters, it’s a spirit-forward cocktail that is sure to be a fan with whiskey lovers.

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6. Grasshopper

Grasshopper Cocktail
Photo by @Kikesalizarn

The dessert-like Grasshopper cocktail has been a favorite in New Orleans bars since 1918 when Philibert Guichet created the drink for a cocktail competition. Its equal mix of crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and cream creates a green beverage that’s a refreshing after-dinner drink.

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7. French 75

French 75 Cocktail With Cognac Or Gin Orange Liqueur And Lemon Juice
Photo by @mllebasinet

The French 75 isn’t originally from New Orleans — it was created in Paris in 1915 by bartender Harry MacElhone — but that didn’t prevent it from becoming the Louisiana city’s most popular cocktail. Cognac (or gin), lemon juice, a sugar cube, and Champagne are stirred into a glass for an explosion of flavor.

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8. Brandy Crusta

Brandy Crusta Cocktail
Photo by @bhofack2

One of the original cocktails of the world, the Brandy Crusta was the brainchild of Italian bartender Joseph Santini in New Orleans in the 1850s. The balanced mix of brandy, dry Curaçao, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters creates a delicious drink that inspired the famous Sidecar cocktail.

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9. Hurricane

Hurricane Cocktail
Photo by @bhofack2

The sweet, fruity, and boozy Hurricane is a great Mardi Gras cocktail. Created by Pat O’Brien and Charlie Cantrell, it’s a tropical mix of light and dark rum, lime and orange juice, passion fruit puree, simple syrup, and grenadine. You’ll find it throughout New Orleans’ French Quarter, but it can easily be made at home.

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