As promised, this week’s Ephemera is extra-special because it combines several elements of this blog in one tall, chilly glass. It’s one part roaring twenties intrigue, one part New Orleans cultural history, one part handcrafted artistry, and ten parts alcohol. Specifically, gin.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Ramos Gin Fizz:
Developed by its namesake in 1888, bartender and owner Henry C. Ramos, the Ramos gin fizz has been a treasured staple on New Orleans area cocktail menus for well over a century. The drink is a frothy, creamy concoction of heavy cream, whipped egg whites, orange water, club soda, and of course a very dry gin declared by one loyal patron to be “like drinking a flower.”
The cocktail skyrocketed to fame when Ramos started serving it up at his bar, the Imperial Cabinet, on the corner of Carondelet and Gravier St. downtown. During Prohibition, the Roosevelt Hotel bought the rights to the glass-o-deliciousness from Ramos and trademarked the name.
Serving up the Ramos Gin Fizz did much to secure the loyalty of the Roosevelt’s Sazerac Bar enthusiasts, but it found a particular soft spot in one professional drinker’s heart, the Louisiana governor that only John Goodman could play, Mr. Huey P. Long himself.
Governor Long went crazy for this drink, and it went down in history as his all-time favorite cocktail, as evidenced by this famous anecdote taken from the Sazerac Bar website:
During one of his many political trips to New York, Long stayed at the New Yorker, a hotel that boldly claimed to be the home of the Ramos Gin Fizz. After taking one sip of the New Yorker’s Fizz, the Kingfish picked up the phone and called The Roosevelt New Orleans with orders “to send his best gin fizzer on to New York by plane so he could teach these New York sophisticates how and what to drink.”
The next day Sam Guarino, head bartender at The Sazerac Bar, arrived and spent the next three hours schooling his northern counterparts on the proper way to make Long’s beloved libation. From then on out, Huey could enjoy 8 oz. of New Orleans even when he was thousands of miles away.
I had heard of the Ramos gin fizz many times, but I had the supreme pleasure of trying my first one last week–at the recently refurbished Sazerac Bar, nonetheless. Watching the bartender make the drink was like partially like watching Macbeth’s witches churn their lethal brew and partially like witnessing Frank Lloyd Wright build Fallingwater right in front of my eyes. It was a sight to behold and a delight to sip.
Although I disagree about the flower comparison. To me, it was like drinking a sunrise. Or an alcoholic orange julius.
Below is a recipe for a bonafide Ramos Gin Fizz, although bartenders still argue over whether the two drops of vanilla extract should be included. I’ve also added a cool video of a New Orleans master bartender making the drink, although it breaks my heart a little bit that it’s shot in a different hotel.
Marc and I plan to revisit the Sazerac Bar the weekend of our one-year anniversary (April 10th), and when we do I’m going to be sure to bring my camera this time and snap some photos of my new favorite beverage.
Bottoms up, ya’ll!
The Kingfish’s Ramos Gin Fizz
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 3-4 drops orange flower water
- 1/2 lime — juice only
- 1/2 lemon — juice only
- 1 jigger dry gin
- 1 white of egg
- 1 jigger heavy cream
- 1 squire seltzer water
- 2 drops extract vanilla (optional)
Mix in a tall barglass in the order given; add crushed ice, not too fine as lumps are needed to whip up the froth on the egg white and cream. Use a long metal shaker and remember this is one drink that needs a long, steady shaking. Keep at it until the mixture gets body — “ropy” as some experienced barkeepers express it. When thoroughly shaken, strain into a tall thin glass for serving.
– from New Olreans DRINKS and how to mix ’em by Stanley Clisby Arthur. HARMANSON, Publisher 333 rue Royale, Nouvelle Orleans; 1937