Voo Doo Carré
Celebrating New Orleans’ classic cocktail
Posted on July 16, 2019
Lately, I’ve been finding myself drawn to boozy classic cocktails. In the past, I was focused on finding whatever is the latest and greatest in town, which was fun in terms of exploration and expanding my palate. But sometimes nothing comforts quite as a classic drink does, and I’m committed to re-exploring the origins of cocktail culture in my adopted city.
Thanks to a series of serendipitous events, there have been ample opportunities to achieve this. One cocktail that has popped up for me multiple times in the past month or so has been the Vieux Carré (pronounced the Creole way, VOO-ca-ray), the signature drink of New Orleans.
According to Dutch House of The Huntsman Bar at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, there’s a clear reason why this drink has endured not only over time but also regardless of geographic boundaries. “The name evokes memories of nights spent idling away the hours in the back of a New Orleans bar. It’s the perfect cocktail: spirit forward with a long, complex finish. Rye, Cognac, bitters, and Bénédictine — it embodies everything that is New Orleans, the city it was first stirred to life in,” House says, reciting his near-encyclopedic knowledge of spirits and classic cocktails.
The original recipe dates back to the 1930s and to a bartender named Walter Bergeron. The recipe offers a cross-section of cocktail culture of the era, using rye whiskey from up the Mississippi, Italian vermouth, French brandy, and liqueurs as well as bitters from Peychaud and Angostura.
Down in North Park at the newly-opened New Orleans-inspired restaurant Louisiana Purchase, it should hardly be a surprise that a version of the drink appears on the menu. Restaurant group Grind & Prosper’s beverage director Rob McShea has concocted what he calls the “Voo Doo Carré,” which mirrors the old and adds modern twists.
McShea wanted to keep the original vibe of the cocktail which, in classic New Orleans style, perfectly mixes French and American influences. “American Rye whiskey with French cognac and vermouth are the base of the original, which we keep in our variation as well,” says McShea. “We remove the Bénédictine and add Amaro Nonino, which in my opinion aids in layering complex flavors while really tying the rye and Cognac together.”
“I also wanted to add a touch of acidity and sweetness to the cocktail, while still keeping the flavor Southern, so I added a bar spoon of peach balsamic vinegar. Finally, I wanted to perfume the glass with something highly aromatic. To achieve this, we smoke the glass with applewood, which definitely has the desired effect,” he adds.
Whatever version is on offer, it is well worth a try. House sums it up perfectly. “The Vieux Carré is at once boozy, sweet, bitter, and smooth — New Orleans in a glass.” Jackie Bryant