The Vieux Carré is a classic New Orleans cocktail similar to Manhattan but more complex. The recipe was first published in 1937 by Stanley Clisby Arthur in his Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
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What does Vieux Carré mean?
Vieux Carré is French for Old Square. It’s the original name for the area that is now known as the French Quarter, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in New Orleans.
- vieux = old
- carré = square (masculine)
Vieux Carré is said to have been created by Walter Bergeron in the 1930s. He was head bartender at The Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone. Carousel bar, then known as the Swan Room, is probably the world’s only spinning bar. It’s played host to many a historical figure in the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote.
How do you pronounce Vieux Carré?
This kind of depends on who you’re asking, a local or a Frenchman or woman.
Even amongst the locals, you’ll have variations. It can be:
- voo – car – ray
- voo – care (like hat) – ray
- view – car – ray
I’ve found the first 2 to be the most common, but whatever its pronunciation, vieux carré is an exquisite cocktail to be sipped and enjoyed. With or without company.
Vieux Carré Recipe
First, what does vieux carré taste like?
It’s bold, it’s boozy and it’s richly spiced with smoky, herbal and bitter notes with a touch of sweetness. And it’s so, so smooth, definitely a cocktail to be savoured slowly, a sip at a time.
To make vieux carré, you do need a few different spirits and a couple of bitters, perhaps not what every home bartender might have at hand. But think of it as a great way to expand your collection!
Each ingredient has a role to play and a good balance is key to the perfect vieux carré. But I guess perfection is all rather subjective, isn’t it?
The amounts I’ve given in the recipe card below are how I like to drink this New Orleans cocktail. You could play around with the ratio a little to suit your taste if you like.
This is what we’ll be doing:
- Place all the spirits and bitters into a mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir for a good minute to chill and dilute slightly.
- Strain into a glass, either on fresh ice, or as it is, neat.
- Garnish with a lemon peel or a cherry.
Vieux carré’s ingredients are a reflection of its multicultural heritage. Locally produced rye whiskey, brandy and Benedictine from France, vermouth from Italy, Angostura from the Caribbeans and New Orleans’ own Peychaud’s Bitters.
I’ve given the brands I use below, along with my affiliate links to get them on Amazon. Which means that if you purchase any of them by using these links, I get a tiny, tiny, tiny commission!
Use any good quality rye whiskey you can get your hands on, wherever you live or shop. I personally love Sazerac Rye, Rittenhouse and Wild Turkey, but you can use anything you like.
I just get them off Amazon, which stocks a good variety. Here are my affiliate links for the 3 whiskey types mentioned above:
The best cognac for vieux carré, if truth be told, is anything good that you like drinking. Cognac adds fruity and floral notes to vieux carré and you don’t want to skimp on this.
Having said that, you also don’t need to break the bank. My favourite cognac for drinking is Pierre Ferrand 1840, but it is perhaps rather pricey as a cocktail ingredient. I love a splash of it in Baileys for a bit of a kick on cold evenings.
A really, really good cognac for cocktails is any VSOP, like Courvoisier and Remy Martin. Many of them are very affordable and great in cocktails.
Along with Bénédictine, the sweet vermouth adds a layer of sweetness and rich herbal notes. There are many varieties out there, the one I like to use is Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino, a delightful drink in its own right.
But I also love the made in the UK sweet vermouth by Bramley & Gage.
Now you may know that I’m a huge fan of Bénédictine. To me, this is the Godfather of herbal liqueurs. You can read more about it here on the write up I did years ago. Or click on the the round up link below.
There are 27 herbs and spices in Bénédictine, including saffron, cinnamon, angelica, hyssop, juniper and myrrh, from five continents! It is remarkably smooth and quite sweet, with a decidedly herbal nose.
Because of its complexity, Bénédictine makes an excellent cocktail ingredient. If you want to get it off Amazon, here is the link to it.
Remember I mentioned expanding your home bar collection? Well, I’d never heard of Peychaud’s bitters until a handful or so years ago when I was introduced to vieux carré by André, a good friend from the old Google+ days, and a NOLA native.
NOLA = New Orleans + LA (Louisiana).
Thankfully, Amazon stocks Peychaud’s and they’ve been a firm favourite of mine since then. Peychaud’s bitters have a bitter fruity flavour with a herbal aroma heavy on aniseed. I think I’ll have to do a write up on it soon, don’t you?
In the world of bitters, Angostura bitters are probably the most well-known. From Trinidad and Tobago, they can be found in many classic cocktails around the world.
Herbal and spicy, they are a must in any home bar.
To Make and Serve Vieux Carré
We will be stirring our vieux carré, not shaking it. If you regularly make cocktails, you’ll probably have all the things you need for mixing. These are the “tools” you’ll need:
- mixing glass (regular jug will do).
- stirrer (I like one with a smooth end, so you can stir the cocktail smoothly without bruising). A chopstick works great.
- jigger (or anything small with measurements).
- strainer (Hawthorne strainer is the best as it’ll fit over your mixing glass).
- an old fashioned glass or honestly, any short glass you fancy serving it in. I’ve seen it served in sherry and champagne glasses.
Serve vieux carré in the old fashioned glass over ice or neat after stirring. This is a matter of taste. I prefer it without ice on really cold evenings, with, at other times.
And that’s it. Let’s get mixing!
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating!😉 Thank you!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor with the hashtag #linsfood.
Images from LinsFoodies
Vieux Carré Cocktail Recipe
- 1 mixing glass or jug
- 1 cocktail stirrer
- 1 jigger
- 1 strainer like Hawthorne strainer
- 1 old fashioned glass
- 30 ml rye whiskey
- 30 ml cognac
- 15 ml sweet vermouth
- 15 ml Bénédictine
- 3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- lot of ice
- Add all the spirits and bitters in a mixing glass.
- Add ice and using a stirrer, stir smoothly for a whole minute.
- Strain into an old fashioned glass over fresh ice.
- Peel a strip of lemon over the glass, to get a little lemon oil spray in the cocktail. Then drop the peel over the side of the glass hanging in the drink.Sip it slowly and enjoy!
2 thoughts on “Vieux Carré Cocktail (a Classic New Orleans Cocktail)”
Hey Lin, I’m a NOLA native and had to drop you a comment to give you a huge thumbs up on the article and recipe! Great job in spreading the word! Cheers!
Thank you, Pete, I’m so pleased to hear you say that! Always good to get a thumbs up from the locals! xx