fiddlehead definition

fid·dle·head [ fídd'l hèd ] (plural fid·dle·heads) noun
Definition: edible fern shoot: the coiled frond of a young fern, often cooked and eaten as a delicacy

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vieux Carré

my nerdy notebook doodle
With Carnival season coming to an end today, why not celebrate Fat Tuesday with a New Orleans inspired cocktail? Nothing captures the essence of the French Quarter in a glass more than a Vieux Carré [view-ka-ray]. Vieux Carré, which translates as "old square," the official name of 4 by 11 block area neighborhood on the crescent bend of the Mississippi river known as The French Quarter. The now classic cocktail was concocted by head bartender, Walter Bergeron, at the Swan Bar in the Hotel Monteleone in 1938 (now home of the revolving Carousel Bar).
Vieux Carré at Sprig

The Vieux Carré is a spirituous cocktail, a kind of Louisiana cousin of a Manhattan. Like the city of New Orleans itself, the cocktail is emblematic of the extensive blending of traditions and cultures within the city. The early inhabitants of New Orleans were Native American, French, African and Caribbean. Perhaps Mr. Bergeron meant this to be a tribute to the extensive blending and borrowing that influenced the food, music, language, culture, and architecture of this distinct city- The rye for the American influence, the cognac and Benedictine for the influence of the French, sweet vermouth for the Italian (I am sure there are plenty of Italians), the Angostura bitters for the Caribbean, and Peychaud's bitters for a homegrown ingredient.
Seven Lamps

Cocktail books differ slightly on ratios but most agree that the Vieux Carré is a cocktail meant to be built over ice in the glass in which it will be served. I have been ordering the classic cocktail around Atlanta and find it delicious on a winter evening whether built in the glass or strained into it. What is important is the vermouth. Using a high quality, sweet vermouth like Carpano Antica will temper the strong base spirits and not allow the blend to become too sweet. The herbaceous Benedictine further rounds out the flavors.

Vieux Carré at Empire State South
 By tasting the same cocktail at many places, you really get to know the balance and see the bits of individuality mixologists put in the glass. I have learned that many bartenders do not know this drink and those who do smile when you order it. Marc Caballero of Sprig Restaurant and Bar in Decatur did. I like it in a Manhattan style coupe glass, just as Bradley at The Optimist served it in, best.  It doesn't matter if the glass is chilled or not. I prefer it "up," but those large chunks of ice are always nice. David Chapman of Empire State South served a perfect version over a giant cube that never seemed to melt. His lemon twist was pretty incredible too. Next time Nate Shuman of Proof and Provision makes me one, perhaps he could include on of his lapsang souchon infused cubes. I like it with a flamed orange peel as garnish very much. The oils released bring very nice aromatics. The best garnish is a brandied cherry. Arianne Fielder of Seven Lamps made me a play on a Vieux Carré with walnut bitters and it was astonishingly good. I haven't had one made by Thomas McGuire of Prohibition yet but I look forward to it. I always get a history lesson with each cocktail (and I like it). Hands down favorite on my quest was from Mike Satusky at The Family Dog. He served it with High West Rye, Carpano Antica vermouth, tasty Cognac (I know nothing of cognacs), Angostura & Peychaud's bitters, Benedictine, and a brandied cherry on a stick "up" and in a rocks glass, no ice. We talked about Casablanca. A Vieux Carré goes very well with Casablanca.


  1. Don't forget the Old Square at The Pinewood!

  2. I love cocktails at the Pinewood! Need to order a Vieux Carre there soon.