I trust you all had a pleasant weekend and did pleasant weekend things. Maybe you even ordered or made some of the drinks I recommended last week. I, for one, had a few Boulevardiers. Since neither you nor I needed any drinks-related inspiration over the weekend, I didn't write any further Manly Drinks posts. But now it's Monday afternoon, and I'm back at work, and I'm starting to think about what I'd like to do after work. So I'm here to recommend another manly cocktail.
Today, I'm describing another New Orleans cocktail. "Vieux Carré" means "Old Square" in French, and is the proper name of the French Quarter. It is also a delicious cocktail. I'll tell you right up front that the Vieux Carré has six ingredients and therefore breaks one of the tenets of Atomic Buffalo's excellent rule of thumb about manly drinks, which I have reproduced here for your convenience:
- no more than four ingredients (ice and one garnish excepted),
- no more than four steps (the Sazerac runs about as close to this as I ever intend to go), and
- no less than two 80-proof shots' worth of alcohol.
But it redeems itself by being very easy to make, if you have the ingredients, and containing an awful lot of booze. Also, if you can remember the ingredients, it' s not hard to explain to a mystified hotel bartender because everything is in easy measurements. As Atomic Buffalo, who is apparently an excellent source of sage drinking wisdom, pointed out, this is a handy quality for a drink to have.
Here's how I make it. Pour one part (here, I'd use somewhere between 3/4 and one ounce per part) each rye, cognac, and vermouth*; half an ounce of Benedictine, and a dash or two each of Peychaud's and Angostura bitters over ice in a mixing glass, stir for about a minute, and then strain into a rocks glass. Then garnish, if you want to, and here's where the asterisk (*) comes in: traditionally, the drink is made with dry vermouth; I think it works better with sweet; some make it like a so-called "perfect Manhattan," with half dry and half sweet vermouth. Your garnish here will ideally depend on what vermouth you use. Use a twist of lemon rind if you make it with dry vermouth or the "perfect" split; use preserved cherries (once again, not the radioactive Maraschino ones from the supermarket if you can help it) if you use sweet vermouth. This drink is often served on ice, but this is a double-edged sword: because it's quite strong and a bit sweet, it's something of a slow sipper. This means that you might want the ice to keep it cold while you're lingering over it, but it also means that the ice will melt and dilute it. I'm firmly in the no-rocks camp. On the other hand, if you want to make it very quickly, you can rapidly pour each of the ingredients into a glass of ice, stir for awhile, and then start drinking. It will be diluted and I will look at you disapprovingly, but it will still be delicious.
This is somewhat sweet and dense as manly drinks go, but it's also very boozy and is quite a warming sipper. The Benedictine-and-cognac combination is where the sweet, heavy character comes from, so it helps to use a particularly light, spicy rye if possible. Just about any brandy that has seen a barrel will do for the cognac portion—you're unlikely to taste much complexity with all the other flavors going on, so it's not worth wasting great Cognac here. The upside to the numerous ingredients is that it's easy to adapt to your tastes the next time you make it. If Benedictine tastes like herbal cough drops to you, cut it back to a few drops. If the rye and Benedictine combination is too spicy, double the cognac and half the rye. If you want it to taste more like a slightly herbal Manhattan, half the Benedictine and Cognac and double the rye. And so on, ad infinitum.
Aside from adjusting the standard ingredients to your tastes, there are several variations you can make. For a really warming, fall tailgate version, substitute applejack (apple brandy) for the cognac. The result has something of spiced-cider character. If you know a lady who appreciates good cocktails but might not enjoy the rye spice/Benedictine herbs/bitters one-two-three punch this drink packs, I highly recommend making her the following version: bourbon (preferably something smooth and sweet—think Maker's Mark smooth, not Wild Turkey fire) instead of rye, half the Benedictine, and chocolate bitters instead of Peychauds. You can thank me later. Finally, sometimes I enjoy a layer of smoky aromatics on top of all the spices and bitter herbs here. If you think you might too, try spooning a few drops of Islay single-malt Scotch on top once you've poured your Vieux Carré into a glass. The smokier the better here—Ardbeg or Bowmore's tire-fire aesthetic works nicely.
As always, I look forward to your recipes, thoughts, and anecdotes in the comments. Even if you're just recommending horrible college-kid shots that merely guarantee that you will vomit, painfully, later in the evening.