In 1888, Henry C. Ramos invented a drink at the Imperial Cabinet Bar in New Orleans. Originally, it was called The New Orleans Fizz, a riff on the many other types of mostly gin-based fizzes that existed. Cocktail historian Dale Degroff refers to them as “just a sparkling version of a sour.” A basic gin fizz includes lemon juice and sugar (in addition to gin), shaken with ice and topped with carbonated water (thus the fizz). Ramos’ version adds lime juice, egg white, cream, and orange flower water. Before long, the drink had a new name: the Ramos gin fizz.
In 1907, Ramos purchased the Stag, where the fizz flourished. Cocktail legend has it that a string of bartenders (between 20 and 35) were hired just to shake these concoctions to perfection (the original recipe called for 10 minutes of continuous shaking, tough to manage at any time, but particularly challenging during Carnival).
In the early years after he created it, Ramos kept the recipe close to the vest, releasing it only when Prohibition hit. He wanted it to survive the dry spell. Survive it did.
Though some bartenders still shake for minutes on end, most agree that the extra time doesn’t change the character of the drink. Instead, it’s all about technique. (This isn’t an easy cocktail to master. The first few attempts often turn out flat.)
While Josh James, co-owner and beverage director at Clever Koi, loves a classic Ramos gin fizz, he was on the hunt for the perfect vegan emulsifier, both to prevent egg yolk waste (few bartenders can effectively preserve yolks in a busy bar), and also to open classic drinks to a wider demographic.
He tried everything from gomme syrups to bark extracts, but nothing quite worked the way he wanted it to. “I started reading a couple years ago about aquafaba,” says James. “I would see it in a lot of vegan blogs. People were using it to make meringues and stuff.” Aquafaba is essentially the liquid formed when beans, often chickpeas, are soaked in it. While some people use canned chickpea brine, James prefers to make his own, to avoid the salt, which messes with the delicate fizz flavor.
The initial results were successful. “It's darker than the egg white, but it has the same consistency,” says James. “If you make it the right way, you get this really beautiful foam on it, you get the same mouthfeel.”
The next step was to find a replacement for the heavy cream. “We decided to make a blend of coconut cream with a little bit of vanilla, and we use coconut water as the base,” says James. “It has the same body [as a Ramos gin fizz] you do get some of the coconut flavor, so it does have a little bit of a twist on a classic flavor.” The result is a 100 percent vegan Ramos gin fizz. Though it’s listed on the brunch menu, you can try it anytime.
“We don't do it in the traditional style, the way that Henry C. Ramos did it at the Imperial,” says James. “We don't have 35 guys shaking the cocktail in a row. I think that was show more than anything else.” They’ve tried prolonged shaking at Clever Koi and found the results don’t change. “It's really more in the technique,” says James.
While you can certainly attempt this one at home, you’ll probably want to try a professional version first, so you know what you’re shooting for.
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Clever Koi’s Vegan Ramos Gin Fizz
created by Josh James
1.5 oz Hayman Old Tom gin
1 oz coconut cream
.75 oz aquafaba
.50 oz lemon
.25 oz yuzu
2 dashes orange leaf oil
Thai basil (for garnish)
Shake ingredients in reverse with a 1x1 cube for at least one minute. Open tin and add one scoop of ice and shake ingredients for another minute. Pour 2 ounces of soda water into a Collins glass. Using a strainer, pour contents of shaker directly into the middle of the glass, allowing the foam to directly rise. Pour remaining soda into the tin, to allow the remaining cream to foam and use to top off the cocktail, creating a cone above the rim of the glass. Garnish with a piece of Thai basil.