What a delicious shade of red.
What a delicious shade of red.
JK Grence

The Vieux Carré is Perfect for Your Sophisticated Mardi Gras

Ring the bell, it's time for Last Call, where JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice and recipes. Got a burning question for your bartender? Leave it in the comments and it might be answered in a future column.

New Orleans is a town with a storied past. Most tourists' tales are of rampant debauchery fueled by Pat O' Brien's famous Hurricanes. The problem with those Hurricanes is that they aren't anything like they used to be. These days, they're barely more than Kool-Aid heavily spiked with cheap rum. That said, a visit to New Orleans without at least one Hurricane is like going to Vegas and not putting at least a couple of dollars into a slot machine. So, when you go, hit Pat's first, get your obligatory business out of the way, and then go get a real drink.

An excellent place to go for that drink is the Carousel Bar, inside the Hotel Monteleone. The hotel itself is a landmark, but the bar is one-of-a-kind. It's a circular bar, and it revolves. Yes, at this place, the room spins before you've had a drink. It's a leisurely ride, at all of four revolutions per hour. Still, it's a little strange to get up to use the restroom, and then see your friends on the other side of the bar when you return.

Many moons ago, the head bartender at the bar, Walter Bergeron, crafted the Vieux Carré, which became quite the popular drink. Decades later, as vodka grew more popular, the drink almost went extinct. Until a few years ago, you could ask for one at its birthplace, and only get a puzzled stare in return. Thanks to the vintage cocktail renaissance we're enjoying, you can once more go to the Carousel and have yourself a Vieux Carré.

Of course, if you aren't planning a trip to the Big Easy any time soon, you can always make one in the comfort of your own home. Or, sweet-talk your favorite bartender into making one. The one tricky part to find is the Peychaud's bitters, but those are easier to find all the time.

Oh, and because I can tell you're wondering: Vieux Carré is French for "Old Square", the other name for the French Quarter.

Vieux Carré 1 oz rye whiskey 1 oz Cognac 1 oz sweet vermouth 1 teaspoon Bénédictine 2 dashes Angostura bitters 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Stir well with ice. Strain over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist, if you wish.

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