Take A Spin With The Vieux Carre Cocktail In The Big Easy

Take A Spin With The Vieux Carre Cocktail In The Big Easy


The Vieux Carre /voo car-ray/ cocktail is described as complex and flavorful and is also made with Benedictine, a French liqueur, and cognac, a French brandy, which are the other French attributes of the drink. It originated in New Orleans and was named after the city’s French quarter, hence the name.

The cocktail came into existence in one of the grandest and oldest hotels in New Orleans called Hotel Monteleone, named after Antonio Monteleone, the operator and owner. However, they did not create the iconic drink.

The cocktail was created by Walter Bergeron in the 1930s. Bergeron was then the head bartender of the Carousel Bar, an iconic bar in Hotel Monteleone, known for its moving seats, much like the carousel. It was said that Bergeron made this drink to honor the ethnic group in the French Quarter at that time which is evident because much like the Big Easy itself, this drink is full of diverse and interesting ingredients.

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Nutritional Guidelines per Serving

Serving Size:  3 fl. oz. 

Amount per Serving

Calories                                 230

                                                % Daily Value

Total fat                      0g                     0%

    Saturated Fat         0g                     0%

    Trans Fat                0g

Cholesterol                 0mg                  0%

Sodium                       14.5 mg            1%

Total Carbohydrate     5 g                    2%

     Dietary Fiber          0.3g                  1%

     Sugars                   2.3g

Protein                        0.1g

Calcium                      17.4 mg             2%

Magnesium                 6.7mg                2%

Potassium                   35.1mg              1%

Iron                             0.1mg                                        

Vitamin A                    1.5 IU                           

Vitamin C                    3.9mg                6% 

Vieux Carre Cocktail Recipe

The Big Easy is like a factory of the most classic cocktails. Among them is the Vieux Carre, which like its place of origin is packed with diverse ingredients, French for Benedictine and Cognac, Italian for sweet vermouth, Caribbean for bitters, and American for rye whiskey. It is a strong drink, meant to be savored in sips, and is perfectly balanced with bitterness and sweetness with herbal tones. Its traditional garnish is said to be a lemon peel but a Maraschino cherry can also be used. 

Tools to Make

  • Mixing Glass - A special and etched glass meant for mixing cocktails made solely with spirits. 
  • Bar Spoon - An elongated spoon used to mix drinks and sometimes used to measure spirits. 
  • Jigger - A measuring tool used in the bar. 
  • Rocks Glass - A short and wide glass used to serve strong or sipper drinks. 
  • Julep Strainer - A shallow, ladle-like and perforated tool used alongside the mixing glass to strain drinks into a serving glass.

  • Ingredients

    Steps to Make

    1. Prepare a mixing glass. Fill it with ice cubes. 
    2. Measure the cognac, rye whiskey and sweet vermouth with a jigger and pour them into the glass. 
    3. With a bar spoon, measure the Benedictine and add it to the glass. 
    4. Add the dashes of the two bitters. 
    5. Stir with the bar spoon. 
    6. Use the Julep strainer to strain the cocktail into a rocks glass filled with a fresh ice cube. 
    7. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry or a lemon peel. 

    Recipe Variations

    The Vieux Carre cocktail is such a classic and distinct drink that it doesn't really have many direct variations. However, there are cocktails that may be classic too themselves that have the same ingredients as the Vieux Carre, although not all but a combination of them. Some are even from the same place of origin, New Orleans. Some also look the same with the Vieux Carre so one would have to rely on the taste and flavor profile to distinguish the drinks. Prepare to see a lot of whiskey-based cocktails


    Known as the official drink of New Orleans, the Sazerac is very much like the Vieux Carre, spicy and bold, however, you only have to use either one of the rye whiskey and cognac. Cognac was the original ingredient but due to scarcity, it was replaced with rye whiskey. But some variations make use of both. Most people say that the rye whiskey version is the best one so that’s what we’re going to feature. 


    Steps to Make:

    1. Add a few drops of absinthe into a rocks glass. Rinse the glass with it by rolling the glass. Add crushed ice and set aside. 
    2. In a mixing glass, add the sugar cube and the bitters. Muddle these together. Measure the rye whiskey with a jigger and pour it into the glass. Traditionally, a sugar cube is used but sometimes it is replaced with simple syrup. 
    3.  Add ice cubes and stir with a bar spoon
    4. Discard the ice and absinthe in the rocks glass and strain and pour the cocktail into it. 
    5. Twist a lemon peel into the drink, rub the rim with it before sticking it as a garnish. 

    Old Fashioned

    Similar to the Sazerac, this one also uses rye whiskey that can be substituted with bourbon. The preparation and the look is also the same. But with a slightly different taste because instead of absinthe, it uses soda water. Nevertheless, it stays a classic, smooth and beloved cocktail throughout the years. 


    Steps to Make:

    1. Drop the sugar cube in a rocks glass. Add the bitters and soda water. Muddle these together.
    2. Measure the rye whiskey with a jigger and pour it into the glass. 
    3. Place a big ice cube in the glass and stir the drink with a bar spoon until the sugar has dissolved. 
    4. Spritz the lemon and orange peel into the drink, rub the rim and garnish the drink with it. Add a Maraschino cherry on top. 


    The Manhattan is another whiskey cocktail and you have the liberty to choose whatever type of whiskey you like such as Canadian whiskey. Bourbon, Blended whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and others. It also has a slight bitterness, with hints of sweetness and herbal tones. In contrast to the old fashioned, a Manhattan is usually served in a stemmed glass, such as a coupe glass


    Steps to Make:

    1. In a mixing glass, combine the rye whiskey and sweet vermouth, make sure to measure them with a jigger
    2. Add the bitters and ice cubes. Stir with a bar spoon
    3. Strain and pour the drink into a coupe glass and garnish with a Maraschino cherry. 


    If you want something other than whiskey, you can try the Negroni. It uses gin and Campari but also has sweet vermouth. It is a cocktail that stimulates the appetite. Overall, it is lighter than a whiskey cocktail, tastes like wine but shares a sweetness and bitterness to the previous whiskey cocktails due to the vermouth and Campari. 


    • 1 oz. Beefeater Gin
    • 1 oz.. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
    • 1 oz. Campari
    • Orange peel (for garnish)
    • 1 big ice cube

    Steps to Make:

    1. Measure the spirits with a jigger and pour them into a rocks glass.
    2. Add in the ice cube. Stir with a bar spoon
    3. Spritz with an orange peel, rub the rim and put it in the drink as a garnish. 


    The Boulevardier is the bourbon version of a Negroni. It was invented by Harry MacElhone, an American expatriate who was also the bartender at a bar called Harry’s New York Bar in Paris during the 1920s. He invented this drink for another American expatriate by the name of Erskine Gwynne, a socialite who ran a magazine called Boulevardier. It is a simple drink that is smooth, rich and slightly sweet. 


    • 1.5 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
    • ¾ oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
    • ¾ oz. Campari 
    • 1 big ice cube
    • Orange peel (for garnish)

    Steps to Make:

    1. Place the ice cube into a rocks glass.
    2. Measure the ingredients using a jigger and pour them into the glass. 
    3. Stir with a bar spoon.
    4. Spritz with an orange peel and garnish the drink with it. 

    Monte Carlo

    The Monte Carlo is like the shortened version of a Vieux Carre because it only has three ingredients instead of six. It was created by David A. Embury in 1948 and he published the recipe in his book called “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks”. It is also known as a Manhattan variation, replacing the sweet vermouth with Benedictine. Since they look the same, the best way to find out the difference is by trying it out. 


    • 2 oz. Rittenhouse Rye whiskey
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
    • ½ oz. Benedictine liqueur 
    • Ice cubes
    • Lemon peel (for garnish)

    Steps to Make:

    1. Fill a rocks glass with ice cubes and water. Set aside. 
    2. In a mixing glass, combine the rye whiskey and Benedictine liqueur by measuring them with a jigger and pouring them into the mixing glass. 
    3. Add the bitters, then fill the glass with ice cubes. Stir with a bar spoon
    4. Spritz a lemon peel into the drink and rub it on the rim and make it a garnish. 


    Another cocktail named after one of the boroughs of New York city, the Brooklyn is a Manhattan variation but more on the dry side. Instead of sweet vermouth, it uses a dry vermouth. The Maraschino liqueur contributes a little bit of sweetness but the bitterness, dryness and taste of sour cherries are more pronounced.  If you want a less sweet version of Manhattan, then you must try Brooklyn. 


    • 1 ⅔ oz. Bulleit Rye Whiskey
    • ⅔ oz. Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
    • ¼ oz. Amer Picon bitters
    • 1 bar spoon Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
    • Orange peel (for garnish)
    • Ice cubes

    Steps to Make:

    1. Measure the ingredients with a jigger and bar spoon and pour them into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes. 
    2. Stir with a bar spoon. 
    3. Strain and pour the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass. 
    4. Spritz the orange peel into the drink, give the rim a rum and then garnish the drink with it. 

    Full Windsor

    This cocktail is considered to be a Vieux Carre variation. It has the same number of ingredients but they differ in two, the cognac and rye whiskey are replaced with scotch whiskey and applejack, giving it a fruity taste. It is more like the modern version of the  Vieux Carre and you should give it a try. 


    • 1 oz. Bowmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky
    • 1 oz. Applejack
    • ¾ oz. Martini Rubino Sweet Vermouth
    • ¼ oz. Benedictine liqueur
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
    • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
    • Orange peel (for garnish)
    • Ice cubes

    Steps to Make:

    1. Measure the spirits with a jigger and pour them into a mixing glass.
    2. Add the bitters and a handful of ice cubes. 
    3. Stir the drink with a bar spoon
    4. Strain and pour the drink over ice in a rocks glass
    5. Spritz an orange peel, rub the rim and garnish it. 

    Cocktail a la Louisiane 

    Among the other cocktails in this list, this one is the most acknowledged as a Viuex Carre variation. Interestingly, it also comes from New Orleans, much like the Vieux Carre, and was first documented in the same book (Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em) around the same time as the Vieux Carre. It is sometimes called, A La Louisiane or De La Louisiane and it used to be the house drink of the restaurant in New Orleans called La Louisiane. At one point, it started to fade away and did not reach the success of the Vieux Carre. But, it’s not too late to revive it. If you haven’t tried this before, do try it so you can add it to your list of favorite New Orleans drinks.


    Steps to Make:

    1. In a mixing glass, combine the spirits, making sure to measure them with a jigger
    2. Add in the bitters and absinthe. Fill the glass with ice cubes. 
    3. Stir with a bar spoon
    4. Strain and pour the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass. 
    5. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry. 


    Despite the name, this cocktail is not green, rather it has the same color as the other cocktails in the list. It was invented by Michael McIlroy of the famous bar Milk and Honey in New York City. It was actually named after a neighborhood in Brooklyn. This cocktail is considered a modern classic and is said to be derived from a Manhattan and a Brooklyn. But, actually, McIlroy was inspired by another bartender’s cocktail, Vincenzo Errico’s Red Hook Cocktail. McIlroy wanted to create his own version in honor for his neighborhood where he lived.  


    • ½ oz. Green or yellow Chartreuse liqueur
    • ½ oz. Cocchi Torino Sweet Vermouth
    • 2 oz. basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey
    • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
    • 1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
    • Ice cubes
    • Lemon peel (for garnish)

    Steps to Make:

    1. Measure the spirits using a jigger and pour them into a mixing glass
    2. Add the two bitters as well as the ice cubes. 
    3. Stir with a bar spoon
    4. Strain and pour the drink into a chilled coupe glass.
    5. Spritz a lemon peel into the drink, rum the rim and present it on top. 

    Food Pairings

    Since Vieux Carre is from New Orleans, we want to feature some of the most iconic dishes that New Orleans boasts. If you have seen Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, then you know that Tiana was from New Orleans and she made a mean gumbo and the delightful beignets. We also want to feature food that can greatly go along with the Vieux Carre cocktail. If you’re far from New Orleans, don’t worry, you can still make these delicious foods on your own. 


    Of course, the first one in the list is the quintessential New Orleans treat, the beignets. Biting into this pastry is like eating a cloud and its lightness perfectly contrasts the strong cocktail. Luckily for you, these are super easy to make at home so you can indulge in it anytime. If you can perfect it, then it’ll be just like the ones in Café du Monde in New Orleans.  


    Perhaps the most well-known sandwich in New Orleans is the Muffuletta. It is made with a spicy and tangy Italian olive salad, mixed cheeses and cured meat in between a delicious Italian bread. The bread is usually round and big so the sandwich is cut into quarters. 


    With something as strong as the Vieux Carre, you need something sweet to balance it out. How about the Pralines? It is basically a candy treat with pecans, perfect to nibble on while sipping the cocktail. 


    There are a few versions of the Jambalaya but the New Orleans version uses chicken and sausage which is perfect for the drink. The cocktail can cut the fattiness of the dish while complimenting the great proteins. This is a fun dish to whip up and eat alongside the drink. 


    This is the soup that young Tiana made for her entire family and made the viewers drool. Gladly, you can have it in real life. This hearty and homey dish is packed with strong flavors that make you ask for a second or third helping. Does it go well with the drink, though? Of course, it does! Since the Jambalaya above already features chicken and sausage, we’ll have our gumbo with shrimp and sausage so you can have a variety of protein. 

    Crawfish Etouffee

    This delicious stew uses different seafood, which is the crawfish and this dish is known for being smothered and served with rice. It is of Creole and Cajun cuisine. It is definitely a fascinating meal that can make you full and happy. 


    How much alcohol content is in a Vieux Carre cocktail?

    A Vieux Carre cocktail is made up of not one but two strong liquors, cognac and rye whiskey along with other alcoholic components, that is why it is a sipper drink. If a 100-proof rye whiskey is used with an 80-proof cognac, the finished product would have about 30 percent alcohol content, making it one of the strongest cocktails. 

    What does a Vieux Carre taste like?

    Taking into account the different components of the cocktail, overall, it tastes a lot like a mixture of a Manhattan and a Sazerac, packed with spice flavors of anise, vanilla, clove, nutmeg, and a bit citrusy. It is also a bit sweet and floral from the vermouth. 

    Is cognac stronger than whiskey?

    Most cognac is 80-proof and has 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). On the other hand, whiskey has different types and most of them range from 40 - 70% ABV, making it stronger than the cognac. Although, there have been debates indicating that cognac is better than whiskey in terms of taste and health matters. 

    Are there any restrictions in the Carousel Bar?

    Unlike any other carousels which have height, age and health restrictions, the Carousel bar only has one. When you fancy visiting the famous bar, you have to be at least 21 years old, which takes into account the fact that one will be drinking there, so the age requirement is present.

    Can you mix whiskey and cognac?

    Yes, the Vieux Carre is a testament to that. But,you also have to remember that this particular cocktail is a carefully concocted drink blended with other components that can help tone down the potent flavors of the two liquors mixed. And there are not that many other cocktails made with whiskey and cognac but if you do experiment with it, use an inexpensive cognac first and try it with different types of whiskeys so you’ll know which works best. 

    Why do they call it the French Quarter?

    Years ago, the original city center in New Orleans was under French rule and they named it Vieux Carre for which the cocktail was named. Then, more foreigners arrived in the land including the Spanish who replaced much of the French architecture with Spanish style. When the Italians came, they resided in the French Quarter and they preserved what was left of the French culture it once had. Today, the French Quarter is a famous tourist attraction known for its cultural diversity. 


    About seven decades have passed and the bar that was the birthplace of such a classic cocktail still thrives today. And even beyond this particular bar, you can enjoy a nice glass of Vieux Carre at any bar or even make it yourself. This drink is undoubtedly delightful and complex but it gets better when you hear the stories behind it. To help you make this amazing drink as well as the other recipes above since most of them involve stirring, you can learn how to properly stir cocktails in this article. There’s also a bit of muddling which you can learn right here

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