Get your Mardi Gras on with this tantalizing tongue tingler
This time of year, our thoughts head towards New Orleans – home of Dixieland jazz and some of the best food in the US. Not to mention Mardi Gras.
Of course, St. Louis (where we live) also has a pretty rambunctious Mardi Gras celebration – probably second only to the more famous one in New Orleans. Not this year, though. COVID is seeing to that.
So we’ll celebrate at home, sipping a Creole Cocktail. Heck, we’re talking Mardi Gras – let’s make that two.
Recipe: The Creole Cocktail
The Creole Cocktail contains whiskey, sweet vermouth, Amer Picon, and Bénédictine. So it’s a variation on the classic Manhattan Cocktail. The whiskey can be either bourbon or rye. We tend to prefer rye in cocktails, but bourbon works well in this one.
Amer Picon, a French liqueur, was a popular ingredient in cocktails at the beginning of the 20th century. It stopped being produced for a while, though, and so fell out of favor. It’s still hard to find, but some good substitutes are available. We discuss several in our post on the Brooklyn Cocktail. Our preference is Bigallet China-China Amer, but there are other good choices.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.
- 1½ ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
- ¾ ounce sweet (red) vermouth
- ¼ ounce Amer Picon or substitute (see headnote)
- ¼ ounce Bénédictine liqueur
- garnish of lemon twist or peel (optional; see Notes)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half filled with ice. Stir briskly for about 30 seconds, until the contents are well chilled.
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that has been chilled). Add garnish, if desired, and serve.
- Why stir rather than shake? Because all the ingredients in this cocktail are clear. Shaking creates tiny oxygen bubbles that can cloud the drink.
- But we often shake anyway. So do as you prefer (the bubbles dissipate after a few minutes).
- A lemon twist is the traditional garnish for this drink. But we think an orange twist works well, too.
- Having said that: We don’t think this cocktail benefits much from garnish. The bitter orange flavor of the Amer Picon (or substitute) and the spicy herbal honey of the Bénédictine add plenty of fragrant notes (which is what we’d generally expect garnish to provide). So garnish is very optional.
- There actually have been several drinks called the Creole Cocktail. One developed in Chicago contained equal parts of absinthe and sweet vermouth. And Henry Ramos of New Orleans developed a version that contained whiskey, curaçao, bitters, and sugar (you might know Ramos from his most famous drink, the Ramos Gin Fizz).
- The drink that’s served today may derive from a recipe that Hugo Ensslin published in his 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Harry Craddock, in his 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, published a recipe (similar to Ensslin’s) that became the “standard” for years: Equal parts whiskey and sweet vermouth, with a couple dashes each of Amer Picon and Bénédictine.
- Our recipe calls for 2 parts whiskey to 1 part sweet vermouth. And we increase the amount of Amer Picon and Bénédictine to ¼ ounce each. We think this ratio better reflects modern tastes (and more closely matches the Manhattan Cocktail, of which this drink is a variant).
- But this is a cocktail that you can alter to suit your taste. So feel free to experiment.
Let the Good Times Wait
“Where are my Mardi Gras beads?” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This drink makes me want to party.”
“The Creole Cocktail would be such a great drink to serve before dinner with friends,” I said. “When we can see friends again.”
“Can’t wait until our number comes up in the vaccine queue,” said Mrs K R.
“Same here,” I said. “But I’m afraid the wait is going to be longer than we expected.”
“Bummer. But we’ll just have to be patient,” said Mrs K R. “Can’t throw a party until we get our shots.”
Right. Because we’re responsible parties.
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