La Louisiane Cocktail

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Praline seller, New Orleans, c.1928

It’s hot and muggy outside and it’s put me in a New Orleans state of mind. There is something—je ne sais quoi—about that city that defies explanation. In many ways, it is the most European city in the United States. Its Spanish and, especially, French and African influences have never left and can be seen in the buildings, the food, and the people. They take pride in their history, and do not feel the need to modernize or “improve” everything just because they can. In the French Quarter, at least, they revel in its decrepitude which just makes it all the more charming.

You don’t have to walk far in New Orleans to find a drink. Forget the Hurricanes served in plastic cups. They are for the tourists (usually the younger ones who can’t seem to hold their liquor) and, besides, no one makes them properly anymore.

Most of the really good cocktails are prepared in the restaurants and a few select bars. This one was invented at the Restaurant de la Louisiane in the French Quarter. It is a cross between a Manhattan and a Sazerac—sort of—with Benedictine thrown in for good measure.

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Absinthe House, New Orleans

¾ oz Rye Whiskey

¾ oz Sweet Vermouth

¾ oz Benedictine

3 dashes Peychaud Bitters

3 dashes Absinthe or Herbsaint

Rinse the inside of the glass with the absinthe. Stir the remaining ingredients with ice until cold and strain into the chilled, absinthe-washed cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

A high proof rye is recommended here to prevent the drink becoming too sweet. If you use bourbon, I’d suggest cutting back on the Benedictine (and possibly the vermouth). On the other hand, if you like your drinks on the sweeter side, forget everything I’ve just said.

As they say in the Crescent City: “Pass a good time!”

NOTE: At the time of this posting, La Louisiane has been transformed from a restaurant into a private meeting and event venue.

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Woman in New Orleans Bar, George Zimbel, c. 1955

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