Vieux Carre Cocktail: Rye Whiskey in a 'Big Easy' Classic

Vieux Carre Cocktail - Classic New Orleans Cocktail
A classic from New Orleans' French Quarter, the Vieux Carre is one of the best cocktails you will have. A true mixology delight!. Last Resort / Photodisc / Getty Images
  • 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 serving
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The Vieux Carre (pronounced voh care-eh) is a classic cocktail straight from 1930's New Orleans. It is a complex and fascinating drink that is as popular today as it was when it was first created.

This cocktail is a short, slow sipper that begins with equal parts of rye whiskey, Cognac, and sweet vermouth. Not one, but two bitters are used and there is a hint of a classic herbal liqueur to give it even more dimension.

Tip: Do yourself a favor and don't stray from the recipe, this is the original and it is the best.

If you are looking for a truly great cocktail, the Vieux Carre is it and it is one of the signature drinks of the Big Easy.

What You'll Need

How to Make It

  1. Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice.
  2. Stir well.
  3. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice.
  4. Garnish with a cherry.

The History of the Vieux Carre Cocktail

Walter Bergeron created the Vieux Carre at New Orleans' Hotel Monteleone in the 1930's, naming it after the French phrase meaning for 'old square' which referred to the French Quarter. This remains a specialty of the establishment and sipping one at the Monteleone's spinning Carousel Bar is a memorable experience.

The recipe was first printed in the 1937 edition of "Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em" and it was a big hit in its first years. Though it has never been forgotten, the cocktail did fall out of favor for a number of decades and went into relative obscurity.

All of that changed during the recent resurgence of interest in classic cocktails and the revitalization of great rye whiskey. With the skills of bartenders and the availability of fine ingredients, the Vieux Carre is once again on every cocktail enthusiast's list of truly great drinks.

6 Rye Whiskies to Try

Though the rye whiskey and Cognac are equal pours in the Vieux Carre, the rye takes center stage. It's naturally spicy flavor profile brings it to the forefront of this drink and that's why it's important to choose a great rye.

Here are a few favorites that work great in the Vieux Carre.

  • Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey - Produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery, this 6-year-old whiskey is a New Orleans original and it mixes well in both the Vieux Carre and the Sazerac Cocktail. (90 proof, 45% ABV)
  • Rittenhouse Rye 100 Bottled-in-Bond Whiskey - A classically styled rye made by Heaven Hill Distilleries, this one is full of flavor and will not get lost in any cocktail. There is an 80-proof bottling, but the 100-proof is recommended. (100 proof, 50% ABV)
  • WhistlePig 100-100 Straight Rye Whiskey - A newer rye, this 10-year-old whiskey hails from Vermont and is a direct result of the revitalization of this whiskey style. If you tried it in its early years (pre-2014), give it another taste and check out the distillery's older ryes as well. (100 proof, 50% ABV)
  • High West Double Rye Whiskey - Some of the best ryes are found at the smallest distilleries and this Park City, Utah distillery is a perfect example. Double Rye is a blend of a 2-year-old and 16-year-old ryes and its flavor is hard to beat. (98 proof, 46% ABV)
  • Russel's Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye - The 6-year-old offering from this special line of Wild Turkey whiskies is fantastic and the result of the legendary Russell family's years of whiskey-making perfection. (90 proof, 45% ABV)
  • Knob Creek Rye - If you love their bourbon, you'll love Knob Creek's take on rye whiskey. It is small batch, 'patiently aged,' and has that full flavor we enjoy from this brand. The rye spice just adds to the experience. (100 proof, 50% ABV)

The market for rye whiskey continues to expand and this recipe is a perfect place to explore any new bottle you come across. Many of the best rye whiskies are coming from small craft brewers and I encourage you to look around for bottles that may not get national attention. There are some hidden gems out there.

How Strong is the Vieux Carre?

As you may have noticed, most rye whiskey is bottled above the standard 80-proof. This higher strength allows those spicy rye notes to really stand out and adds to the depth of the whiskey. It also makes rye a perfect option for any whiskey cocktail.

With that noted, we're going to estimate the Vieux Carre's alcohol content using a full-flavored, 100-proof rye whiskey along with a mild 80-proof Cognac. This will make the strongest Vieux Carre about 29% ABV (58 proof), one of the strongest cocktails you can mix up.

It's potent, yes, but it's full of flavor and that is why the original recipe makes just under a 3-ounce drink. Go slow with this one as it is very easy to have one too many.

Click to play the video below and see this recipe come to life!