Like a lot of major social events of the past year, Mardi Gras has come and gone with fewer people and less fanfare. We’ll get back to our annual street partying ways again soon, but in the meantime, if you’d like to bring a little bit of New Orleans into your cocktail rotation this winter, check out the A La Louisiane. Like so many great cocktails of the last 20 years, we have the craft cocktail renaissance to thank for its reemergence, in particular famed cocktail archeologist James Meehan and his PDT Cocktail Book. This cocktail doesn’t get nearly the love of other New Orleans creations like the Sazerac, but it should. It was reportedly the house drink at the historic La Louisiane restaurant, built in the early 1880s, but the recipe didn’t appear in print until Stanley Arthur recorded it in his cocktail book right after Prohibition.
The A La Louisiane is perhaps a riff on another New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carré, just with the addition of absinthe and subtraction of cognac. Or it could be the other way around. Debate still rages among cocktail historians over which drink came first. There seems to be some debate also on the right proportions for the drink’s modern incarnation. I’ve even encountered a version with equal parts rye, sweet vermouth, and Benedictine, which I wouldn’t recommend without a very dry sweet vermouth (if that exists), as the whiskey all but disappears in the other ingredients. Stick to the proportions laid out below, and the resulting cocktail should showcase just the right amount of rye spice and herbal sweetness with a thick anise note from the absinthe to round things out. I’ve found it tastes even better with a little jazz on in the background.
A La Louisiane
2 oz. rye whiskey (100 proof)
.5 oz. sweet vermouth
.25 oz. Benedictine
2 dashes absinthe
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass over ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a cocktail cherry.