Ah, a return to brown drinks.  What a relief.  The Vieux Carré (which I swore I had written about before – huh) is a recurring guest on our bar.  It’s apparently New Orleans’ other municipal cocktail, after both the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz.  It’s more or less a Manhattan with some other stuff in it, and since I always enjoy that particular type of drink, I often find myself falling back on it.

While the Vieux Carré is an early 20th-century drink, I realized it might be the perfect venue for a difficult but ingratiating ingredient I’ve had for a couple of months now: the Old Potrero 18th-Century Rye.  Clocking in at slightly north of 63% alcohol with a gamey kick that doesn’t play nicely with others, the Old Potrero has so far not yielded too many delightful cocktails.  Still, something about its scrappy charm keeps me trying.  A cocktail that uses equal parts of rye and cognac seems like it could deal with and perhaps even benefit from that outrageous flavor (and alcohol content).

Vieux Carré (Vintage Spirits)

  • 1 oz cognac (Bache Gabrielsen Fine)
  • 1 oz rye (Old Potrero 18th-Century)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula)
  • 1 barspoon Benedictine
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters (The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters)
    Stir with ice, strain into cocktail glass, garnish with a brandied cherry.

So, I have to admit that as much as I might enjoy a Vieux Carré, I’ve never considered it a real classic.  Too derivative, too easily mistaken for a real Manhattan.  But this particular combination of ingredients really blew me away.  The Old Potrero added a blast of funky rye that was distinct, but tamed by the smooth cognac.  And the Carpano Antica’s vanilla and tobacco flavors were perfectly paired with the wood from the spirits and the honey, vanilla, and spices from the bitters and the Benedictine.

The moral of the story, perhaps, is that the Vieux Carré is one of those mixed drinks that not only benefits from expensive, difficult to obtain spirits, but demands them.  Since I don’t have any other plans for the Old Potrero, I see a lot of these in my future.