Father's Day is June 16
Rum Vieux Carre

Let’s face it, mid-winter is almost upon us and there is not a ground hog is sight. It is getting downright tundra cold out there and Mother Nature is sure to unleash a deep freeze. Some say one should think of a warm place like a tropical island when winter’s freeze is cutting through your bones. Others hope a St. Bernard will come dashing around the bend with a neck barrel full of warming brandy. Well I like to imagine a warm place that combines the heat and brandy; I mentally revisit my annual mid-summer pilgrimage to sizzling hot New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail where I order a Vieux Carré cocktail upon arrival at the Carousel Bar.

Le Vieux Carré (pronounced view-kar-ray) is the French term for “Old Square” and is another name for the Crescent City’s iconic French Quarter. Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Hotel Monteleone’s bar, created the drink in 1938 as homage to New Orleans’ most celebrated district. The Monteleone’s hotel bar would later become the Carousel Bar with its famous rotating bar. The Monteleone, one of the French Quarter’s grand hotels, is also fittingly Tales of the Cocktail central and the Vieux Carré is still served as the house cocktail.

The Vieux Carré cocktail is a perfect example of a well-balanced mix of diverse spirits and bitters. French cognac, American rye whisky, and Italian sweet vermouth share the stage as base spirits. The monastically produced Bénédictine liqueur brings sweetness to the drink to offset the boozy trifecta. The bitters round out the mixture by cutting the sweetness and bonding the spirits.

Classic Vieux Carré
¾ oz cognac
¾ oz rye whisky
¾ oz sweet vermouth
¼ oz Bénédictine
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
Dash of Angostura bitters
Lemon peel

Tools: Mixing glass, bar spoon, Hawthorne strainer, jigger, Swiss peeler

Method: Combine bitters and liquors in a mixing glass, add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a double rocks glass over ice and garnish with a lemon peel.

Still not warm enough for you? Take the recipe above and head south of the Tropic of Cancer to Guyana, the land of many waters and home of Demerara rum. In a recent night on the town, I was lucky enough to encounter a marvelous rum version of the Vieux Carré while dining at New York’s legendary Monkey Bar. The origins of the rum variation are hazy like that night but one of my fellow diners did order one at Julie Reiner’s Flatiron Lounge and was so thrilled with the libation that he began to spread the gospel. I was sold after one sip. The Rum Vieux Carré I ordered at Monkey Bar was made with El Dorado 12 Year Old Demerara rum in lieu of cognac. All of the other ingredients: spirits, bitters, and proportions remained true to Bergeron’s original, however it was served up and not on the rocks which makes for an elegant presentation.

El Dorado translates to City of Gold in Spanish and this liquid gold is an underrated treasure. El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum is produced by Demerara Distillers and is composed of rum from nine different stills ranging from copper still, wooden Coffey, and double wooden pots. Once thoroughly blended, the rum is aged in old bourbon oak casks. The end product is the lovely amber colored aged rum with the flavor of honey, toffee, fruit, and spice taking center stage with dry and smooth finish.

I used Sazarac 6 Year-old Straight Rye Whisky (90 proof) and a subdued sweet vermouth like Dolin Rouge to keep the focus on the El Dorado. A bold vermouth such as Carpano Antica or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino may overwhelm the other base spirits. Sazarac’s peppery taste compliment El Dorado’s complex flavors and add extra punch to the drink. The lemon twist at the end adds the right amount of citrus oils and brings out some of the El Dorado’s fruit.

Rum Vieux Carré
¾ oz El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum
¾ oz Sazarac 6 Year Old Straight Rye whisky
¾ oz Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth
¼ oz Bénédictine liqueur
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
Dash of Angostura bitters
Lemon peel

Tools: Mixing glass, bar spoon, julep strainer, jigger, Swiss peeler, Manhattan glass

Method: Combine bitters and liquors in a mixing glass, add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain the mixture into a frosted Manhattan glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

So when you are stuck out in the freezing cold this winter try to imagine that St. Bernard bringing you a barrel-aged Rum Vieux Carré and then get to a reputable cocktail bar and order one! Keep warm mes amis.

*Photo by Vanessa Bahmani

**Got a cocktail question? Reach Fredo on twitter @loungerati, email me at fredo(at)loungerati(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

***Fredo Ceraso is the editor-at-large of the lounge lifestyle blog Loungerati.com. He is head cocktailian and a co-producer of The Salon parties. Fredo is a member of the USBG New York chapter and rolls drinks at many Lounge, Swing, Jazz Age, & Burlesque events in New York City.