“I’m walkin to New Orleans… I’m gonna need two pairs of shoes, When I get through walkin’ these blues.” “Walking to New Orleans,” written Bobby Charles and recorded in 1960 by Fats Domino.
Once you’ve traveled to New Orleans you’ll never be the same. The aroma of fresh beignets and cafe au lait, gumbo that melts in your mouth, the energy of the people, the French Colonial architecture, and the music – oh the music. New Orleans is a feeling that washes over you and permeates your soul.
And then there is the nightlife, the clubs, the bars, the jazz – the blues! And tying it all together are the cocktails. New Orleans is famous for its cocktail culture. This is the city that birthed the Sazerac, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Grasshopper, the Hurricane, and the Vieux Carré, among other cocktail hall-of-famers.
The Vieux Carré (pronounced voo carray) was first concocted at the Carousel Bar in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone in the late 1930s. This mix of Brandy, Whiskey, Italian sweet vermouth, and Benedictine, drinks like a slightly sweeter, more herbaceous Manhattan. This is a grand, boozy drink fit for sitting next to a fire.
The Thanksgiving day version is a perfect party starter served with cider or sparkling wine. It affords you the opportunity to mix the cocktails ahead of time, adding the cider right before serving to give it festive bubbles and effervescence. You can adjust it to your own tastes by adding more ice or water, which makes for a lighter beverage. The late-evening, post-feast Vieux Carré cocktail will aid with digestion after a big meal.
So sit back and dream of the time when we can all travel again. I may not be walking, but I’ll be headed down to New Orleans looking for a seat on the carousel to watch the world go by.
New Orleans Thanksgiving Punch
Prep Time: 30 min
Makes: 6 servings
- 2 OZ. WHISKEY
- 2 OZ. BRANDY (WESTERN GRACE IS A GREAT CHOICE FOR COCKTAILS)
- 2 OZ. ITALIAN SWEET VERMOUTH (CARPANO ANTICA)
- 1 OZ. BENEDECTINE
- 1 OZ. MADEIRA
- 3 DASHES ANGOSTURA BITTERS
- 3 DASHES OF PEYCHAUD’S BITTERS
- 1500 ML SPARKLING CIDER (2 750 ML BOTTLES, Can Substitute with Sparkling Wine
- 3 SPRIGS OF THYME, PLUS MORE FOR GARNISHING
- 3 SPRIGS OF ROSEMARY, PLUS MORE FOR GARNISHING
- 1 LEMON, SLICED
- 1 ORANGE, SLICED
- If you’re having an outdoor holiday gathering, go ahead and portion out the drinks and keep them on a serving tray, which will help limit the number of touches to the punch bowl.
Traditional Vieux Carré
The Vieux Carré, which means “the old square” in French, was a common term used to describe the French Quarter in New Orleans in the earlier days of the city when more French was spoken.
- 1 OZ. BRANDY
- 1 OZ. RYE WHISKEY
- .75 OZ. ITALIAN SWEET VERMOUTH (I LIKE CARPANO ANTICA OR COCCHI TORINO FOR THIS DRINK)
- .25 OZ. BENEDICTINE
- 2 DASHES ANGOSTURA BITTERS
- 1 DASH PEYCHAUD’S BITTERS
- STIR ALL INGREDIENTS UNTIL WELL CHILLED AND LET THE DRINK SIT IN THE MIXING GLASS FOR A FEW MINUTES AS IT SLOWLY DILUTES.
- POUR INTO AN OLD FASHIONED GLASS OVER A FEW BIG ICE CUBES
- GARNISH WITH A LEMON OR ORANGE PEEL.
About Mike Wolf
Writer and cocktail innovator Mike Wolf rose to fame building the bar program at Nashville’s award-winning Husk alongside venerable chef Sean Brock. He’s authored two books on cocktails — Garden to Glass: Grow Your Drinks from the Ground Up and now a second book, Lost Spring: How We Cocktailed Through Crisis.