The Vieux Carré is a relatively new drink. The lore behind it only goes back to 1938 New Orleans, where it was allegedly invented by Walter Bergeron, the bartender at the Hotel Monteleone. Today the hotel’s bar is called The Carousel Bar (on account of the real revolving merry-go-round installed in 1949), but back in Bergeron’s day it was called the Swan Room (according to Punch).
The name of the drink itself is French meaning “Old Square,” another name for the famous French Quarter of New Orleans.
Vieux Carré Ingredients
- 3/4 oz. Rye Whiskey
- 3/4. oz Cognac
- 3/4. oz Sweet Vermouth
- Barspoon (about 1 tsp) Bénédictine
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
As you can see from the ingredients, this is definitely a spirit-forward drink.
For the rye, I used Old Overholt, simply because that’s what I had on hand. It’s an inexpensive but great-tasting rye whiskey that’s perfect for cocktails. My cognac of choice is, of course, Pierre Ferrand 1840, and I just so happened to have a small bottle of Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino in my refrigerator (always keep your Vermouth chilled — it’s wine after all).
The Vieux Carré is a lot like a Manhattan, except for the addition of a barspoon of Bénédictine, an herbal liqueur that’s been produced in France since 1863 based on a secret recipe from — you guessed it — Benedictine monks that dates back to 1510. It has a distinctive honey-sweetness that works quite well with the cocoa and citrus notes of the Cocchi.
The Vieux Carré also combines New Orleans-favorite Peychaud’s Bitters with the ever-present Angostura Bitters, which adds a touch more complexity to the drinking experience.
How to Make a Vieux Carré
This is a stirred drink. Simply combine everything into a mixing glass, add ice, and stir for 30 seconds or so (about 40 revolutions). Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over ice and and serve. Some bartenders make this drink right in the glass, like an Old Fashioned. I’ve made both versions, and I prefer how the flavors come together with the mixing and straining technique. But to each their own.
You can add a twist of lemon for a garnish if that’s to your liking, but it doesn’t need it.
The famous “New Orleans bitters.”