The New Orleans Brunch Cocktail That Can’t Be Tamed

February 24, 2017

It’s easy to admire the rich lore surrounding New Orleans’ beloved brunch cocktail, the Ramos Gin Fizz. A tall, creamy, handsome sipper made with gin, citrus, and egg white, the Ramos (as it’s nicknamed among those of us who have downed our fair share) is a testament to the fact that day drinking in the Crescent City is nothing short of an art form.

There’s the straight up history of it all: The drink was first concocted by Henry C. Ramos at the dearly departed Imperial Cabinet Saloon (R.I.P.) and named in his honor after it was adopted as an official house drink at the Sazerac Bar inside the Roosevelt Hotel. (I’ll let you guess the bar’s other famous drink.)

There’s the Ramos’ chest-puffing, swaggering role in Louisiana political legend, where the story goes that infamous Louisiana governor Huey P. Long once flew a bartender from New Orleans to New York in order to show northern drink-makers how to properly whip up his favorite liquid breakfast. The Ramos is so storied that every year during Tales of the Cocktail, a group of devoted bartenders from across the globe make a pilgrimage to Henry Ramos’ grave just outside the New Orleans city limits to pour one out for the largely unsung hero.

Watching a bartender make several in a row feels like witnessing the liquor-world equivalent of Rocky Balboa training for a fight.

But the Ramos is so much more than a cocktail you sip because it’s part of some historical canon. It’s a drink that feels downright alive. Without argument, it is perhaps the most physically exhausting cocktail made on the regular behind modern bars today. Each Ramos requires minutes of hard shaking in order to properly emulsify the egg whites in the drink, and it will not accept any lackluster efforts—lest you have a weepy mess of a failed experiment. It’s not a cocktail for the weak, and to this day, watching a bartender make several in a row feels like witnessing the liquor-world equivalent of Rocky Balboa training for a fight.

Seriously. Every single time a Ramos is ordered, a healthy amount of athleticism goes down to even make the drink happen: A sweet spot where science (emulsion! whip shakes!) and pure stamina come together for all to see and, eventually, swill down. Welcome to the gun show, indeed.

There’s also something about the Ramos that makes bartenders feel, well, a little competitive. For a spell in New Orleans, each Monday night, two bartenders would square off in a head-to-head Ramos battle at the beloved service-industry haunt Bar Tonique, trying every trick in the book to make the drink with a sturdier, fluffier head and more boozy bounce to the ounce.

The (friendly—mostly) competitors tried every new trick in the book, from pioneering chilling techniques, to employing the use of Topo Chico instead of soda, to simply attempting to shake harder, faster, stronger. There was one evening the battle became so serious—awash in an Ultralight Beam soundtrack—the entire room held its breath as competitors poured the contents of their cocktail tins into Collins glasses.

Perhaps new attempts to hack the Ramos constant crop up, because ultimately, the drink isn’t ready to be tamed just yet, energizing bartenders to continue experimenting and elevating a morning classic for years to come.

But, a word to the wise. Don’t try to order one of these bad boys past 3 p.m., en masse, or when the bar is slammed: You’ll be met with some pretty serious eye rolls and (yipes!) one very frustrated bartender. For those moments, make it yourself:

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Sarah Baird

Written by: Sarah Baird

1 Comment

Bob C. July 22, 2020
What great article, I laughed at the NOLA whimsy. You had to be there.