Here at The Drunkard’s Almanac our cocktail calendar calls for mixing the Ramos Gin Fizz today. That’s because it’s Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or whatever you like to call it. Mardi Gras is one of those drink-inspiring occasions not tied to a specific date. This year it just happens to land on March 1.
You already know New Orleans as the epicenter of U.S. Mardi Gras festivities, so we’re going with a classic New Orleans drink. But first we’ll talk a bit about the city’s drinking significance before we get to the Ramos Gin Fizz recipe. It’s generally considered a brunch or day drink, so you can still have a Sazerac or two in the evening.
New Orleans is, without question, a drinking town of distinction. But let’s be clear: New Orleans isn’t distinguished because you can stumble down Bourbon Street double fisting Big Gulp sized frozen Hurricanes without attracting attention. Or at least that’s not the only reason. It has real history.
New Orleans matters because it has been an important location in the development of cocktails and booze itself. We talked about its role in defining Bourbon with the Cocktail a la Louisiane. We covered the Sazerac and Vieux Carre for the last two Mardi Gras dates, not to mention the Orange Satchmo on Louis Armstrong’s birthday. All good stuff, and all New Orleans.
The city was also a beacon of hope during the dire times of Prohibition. It was a hotbed for liquor smuggling and the police often served as lookouts for the smugglers. Isadore Einstein (no relation to Albert) was one of the most famous Treasury Department agents enforcing Prohibition. He was one of several agents assigned to travel around the country investigating where drinks were easiest to find. Upon arriving in town and on the way to his hotel he asked the taxi driver where he could find a drink. The driver offered him a bottle stashed under his seat. So New Orleans won handily with a time from arrival of 35 seconds.
Elizabeth Anderson, wife of the novelist Sherwood Anderson, perhaps put it best. She said, “We all seemed to feel Prohibition was a personal affront and that we had a moral duty to undermine it.” That’s our kind of town.
The Ramos Gin Fizz
Unlike many of the drinks we write about, the origin of the Ramos Gin Fizz is uncontested. It’s also the only classic New Orleans cocktail that includes the inventor’s name. That inventor was Henry C. Ramos, who ran the Imperial Cabinet saloon.
We don’t know when he first shook one up, but by 1900 the drink he called the “One and Only One” was famous. People flocked to the Imperial Cabinet to have them. Ramos was unafraid to share his recipe and newspapers around the country started referring to it as the New Orleans Fizz. Happily, though, by word of mouth it eventually took on the name of its creator.
The original recipe called for an arm-busting 12 minutes of shaking. Ramos reportedly employed a rotating team of over 20 bartenders solely for shaking the Fizz, and as Stanley Clisby Arthur noted in New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em, Ramos’s team “nearly shook their arms off, and were still unable to keep up with demand.”
Fortunately, though, 12 minutes of shaking are not required. Ramos originally called for shaking all ingredients until the ice dissolved completely. We reached out to one of our favorite bartenders, Jesse Petersen, to ask how she makes the perfect fizzes we’ve seen her produce.
The dry shake method – shaking the drink without any ice – is employed to help emulsify cocktails that include egg white. We’ve used this previously in the Million Dollar and Rattlesnake cocktails. The trick to getting the perfect head on the Ramos Gin Fizz is to let the drink rest in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow the head, which is a meringue, to set. This might sound odd, but since this is really a brunch drink you can use the time to fry your beignets.
Ramos Gin Fizz
- Collins or Highball Glass
- Pre-chill a Collins glass in the refrigerator.
- Add gin, lime juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, cream and a few drops of orange water to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake to chill.
- Strain the cold mixture back into your trusty shaker and add the egg white.
- Shake like mad, without ice, to emulsify egg and cream and create a light meringue.
- Pour mixture into glass and place in refrigerator for 5-6 minutes to set the foam. This is a good time to fry beignets or other brunch items.
- Use a straw to spear a hole in the middle of the foam at the top of the drink and carefully pour cold soda water through this hole to raise the foam cap above the top of the glass.
- Add a few drops of orange flower water to the top of the foam.
- Put straw back in place and drink.