The classic Vieux Carre oozes with the decadence of a New Orleans cathouse even as its name invokes the baroque sophistication of the cast iron rail- and grillwork that entwines the French Quarter.
Named for the French word for the French Quarter, the drink plays younger sister to the 19th-century Sazerac. First blindsiding New Orleans in the mid-1930s, it became law (and spirit) of the land after Louisiana journalist Stanley Clisby Arthur codified the concoction in his 1937 book Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’em.
208 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside
While no bartender truly hopes to improve such a storied cocktail, bar manager Nick Herda has tried at least to dress it up for autumn and winter weather. Thus, the Masters Kitchen and Cocktails’ Improved Vieux Carre.
“I don’t know if you can say it’s an improvement,” Herda says. “What we did was focused more on the season. We switched out the cognac with an apple brandy because it makes more sense. It’s seasonal and you can see apples on the shelf everywhere now.”
The finished product tours a delightful flavor wheel of citrus, allspice, brandy-sweet and bosky-bitter, Herda says.
“The first thing you’re going to get is the incense of the orange oils,” he says. “So your first taste of one is going to warm you up and then with your second taste you’re going to get into those brandy flavors — the apple, the winter flavors from the allspice.
A collaboration between Herda and Cervantes Megana, founder of a local cocktail company Medicine Show, this equinoctial variation pays homage to its Big Easy roots, Herda says, through a volatility belied by a smooth delivery.
“It just goes down like a soda,” he says. “There’s no big punch to it, which is mind-blowing when you’re dealing with so much straight alcohol. With the Laird’s and Rittenhouse both being 100 proof, people think it’s going to be potent, but it’s one of the smoothest cocktails I’ve ever had.”
- ¾ oz. Rittenhouse Rye
- ¾ oz. Laird’s Applejack
- ¾ oz. Carpano Antiqua
- ¼ oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
In a rocks glass with a giant ice ball (or enough ice to fill ¾ glass), build with each ingredient, stir briefly and swath glass rim and garnish with orange twist.