The Ramos Gin Fizz

16 Aug

Just enjoyed my first Ramos Gin Fizz recently — and it was a tasty one. It’s a very refreshing, frothy concoction (pictured above) from days gone by. I have included a recipe and some history on the cocktail. Now I need to move on to the next steps: Sazarac and Absinthe drinks. “Bottoms up!”

RAMOS GIN FIZZ

  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

  • 3-4 drops orange flower water

  • 1/2 lime — juice only

  • 1/2 lemon — juice only

  • 1 jigger dry gin

  • 1 white of egg

  • 1 jigger heavy cream

  • 1 squire seltzer water

  • 2 drops extract vanilla (optional)

Mix in a tall barglass in the order given; add crushed ice, not too fine as lumps are needed to whip up the froth on the egg white and cream. Use a long metal shaker and remember this is one drink that needs a long, steady shaking. Keep at it until the mixture gets body — “ropy” as some experienced barkeepers express it. When thoroughly shaken, strain into a tall thin glass for serving.

The gin fizz has long been an institution in the city care forgot. The age of the Ramos gin fizz is well past the half-century mark, and its popularity shows no signs of abating. In the good old days before the federal government was so prodigal with padlocks, the saloons of Henry C Ramos were famous for the gin fizzes shaken up by a busy bevy of shaker boys. Visitors, not to mention home folk, flocked in droves to the Ramos dispensary to down the frothy draft that Ramos alone knew how to make to perfection. One poetical sipper eulogized it thus: “It’s like drinking a flower!”

Exactly what went into the making of a Ramos gin fizz always has been more or less a secret. One thing is certain — only at the Ramos establishment could one get what tasted like a real gin fizz. Wherefore, like all successful drinks, the Ramos fizz was widely imitated but never really duplicated. Possibly no other thirst assuaging emporium gave the mixture the long deliberate shaking it received from the shaker boys behind the Ramos bar, and that was the secret of its lip smacking goodness. Came prohibition, and the drink that made the name of Ramos disappeared. After the return of legal liquor, the trade name of Ramos was acquired by the Hotel Roosevelt, and today that is its legal domicile.

roosevelt

The gin fizz, and by that I mean the common or garden variety, had its beginning way back yonder, but the Ramos concoction was not known to Orleanians until 1888 when Henry C. Ramos came to New Orleans from Baton Rouge and purchased the Imperial Cabinet saloon from Emile Sunier. The Cabinet was located at the corner of Gravier and Carondelet streets (where a modern Sazerac saloon now holds forth) and above it, on the second storey, was a famous restaurant of days gone by — The Old Hickory. Here it was that Henry Ramos served the gin fizz that departed so radically from the other frothy gin mixtures served in New Orleans saloons, and here he remained until 1907 when he purchased Tom Anderson’s Stag saloon opposite the Gravier street entrance to the St. Charles Hotel.

The new place became a Mecca for the thirsty and for those pioneers who would make a pilgrimage of any sort for a new drink. At times The Stag became so crowded that customers were forced to wait an hour or more (or so it seemed) to be served. The corps of busy shaker boys behind the bar was one of the sights of the town during Carnival, and in the 1915 Mardi Gras, 35 shaker boys nearly shook their arms off, but were still unable to keep up with the demand.

The recipe given is the original formula. Veteran barkeepers differ violently — practically come to blows — over the inclusion of the two innocent drops of extract of vanilla. Old-timers who worked for Henry Ramos in the past declare the original Ramos included no vanilla in its make-up. Others hold that the twin drops of extract wrung from the heart of the vanilla bean either make or break a real gin fizz — make it taste like heaven or the reverse.

Therefore, when you mix your fizz, add the two vanilla drops or leave them out, just as you please. If still in doubt, take it up with Paul Alpuente at the Hotel Roosevelt bar. He was with Henry Ramos for years, and when he mixes your Ramos gin fizz, watch him closely.

www.therooseveltneworleans.com

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