Vieux Carré Cocktail Recipe
Take a spin around The Carousel Bar to enjoy this classic New Orleans cocktail named after the French Quarter.
Immortalized in the writings of Ernest Hemingway, the famous Carousel Bar & Lounge tucked inside the historic Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans holds a special place in the city’s rich history. And not just because it’s the city’s only revolving bar, inviting guests to take a slow spin around the room while sipping their favorite drink.
It also happens to be the birthplace of one of Louisiana’s most classic cocktails, the bold and richly spiced Vieux Carré.
This eye-opening libation was invented in New Orleans in 1937 by Hotel Monteleone head bartender Walter Bergeron, who created the cocktail as a tribute to the ethnic groups that made up the French Quarter at the time. There’s sweet vermouth for the Italians, Cognac and Benedictine for the French, rye whiskey for the Americans and bitters for the Islanders of the Caribbean.
Pronounced a variety of ways by many, but usually “voh-care-eh” by New Orleans locals, the drink’s name translates to “old square” after the city’s famed French Quarter where the bar is located. No matter how you say it, most agree this unique combination of ingredients sure packs a punch. The locals like to say it’s this drink, and not the spinning bar, that may make you a little dizzy.
In fact, cocktail aficionados call this one a “slow sipper” for good reason. Typically made using a 100-proof rye whiskey and 80-proof cognac, the resulting drink is nearly 30% alcohol by the time it’s mixed up, making it one of the strongest drinks at the bar. “For someone who has never been to the Carousel, it’s a special experience,” says longtime mixologist Marvin Allen, who has been shaking things up behind the bar here for nearly two decades. “Whereas most carnival rides have a height restriction in order to ride, the only restriction of the Carousel is an age requirement. You must be at least 21 years old!”
The popular 25-seat bar slowly turns on 2,000 steel rollers pulled by a chain powered by a simple one-quarter horsepower motor. Still featuring its original hand-painted carousel chairs, the bar makes one complete turn every 15 minutes – usually filled with a cast of colorful characters oozing local history. William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty and Winston Groom are just a few of the historic figures who have enjoyed drinks at the Carousel through the years, joined by the likes of Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Dennis Quaid, Nicholas Cage and Quentin Tarantino in more modern times.
Today, guests are still taking a seat at this spinning bar overlooking Royal Street to enjoy that exact same cocktail made using the same timeless recipe.
Vieux Carré Cocktail Recipe
- ¼ oz. Benedictine
- ¼ oz. Cognac
- ½ oz. Sazerac Rye
- ¼ oz. Sweet Vermouth
- 3 drops Angostura Bitters
- 3 drops Peychaud Bitters
Method of Preparation
- Mix all ingredients until blended.
- Pour over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with lemon twist.
Recipe courtesy of The Carousel Bar & Lounge, New Orleans.