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What Is Vieux Carre

What Is Vieux Carre

Written by Emma C | Updated May 2023

What exactly is Vieux Carre? Over the past century-plus, New Orleans has held a vital position in cocktail culture, becoming the birthplace of numerous classic concoctions like the Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz. One such contribution is the Vieux Carré, crafted in the 1930s by Walter Bergeron, a skilled bartender at the esteemed Carousel Bar, formerly known as the Swan Room, located inside the renowned Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. The name "Vieux Carré," meaning "old square" in French, pays homage to the city's historic French Quarter neighborhood. In this blog, we'll explore the history of the Vieux Carré and provide a recipe for making it at home. We'll also recommend some bottles to use when making this delicious cocktail.

History of the Vieux Carré

The history of the Vieux Carré cocktail is deeply rooted in the vibrant city of New Orleans, Louisiana. This classic libation is a testament to the city's rich cocktail culture and its contribution to the world of mixology.

The name "Vieux Carré" translates to "old square" in French, which refers to New Orleans' historic French Quarter neighborhood. The drink was first created in the 1930s by Walter Bergeron, a talented bartender at the Carousel Bar, which was then known as the Swan Room, inside the iconic Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans.

As a city with a thriving cocktail scene, New Orleans was a melting pot of various spirits, flavors, and techniques. Bergeron crafted the Vieux Carré with a careful balance of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine (a herbal liqueur), and a few dashes of both Peychaud's and Angostura bitters. The resulting cocktail was a delightful blend of rich and complex flavors, paying homage to the city's unique culinary heritage.

The Vieux Carré gained recognition over the years and has become one of the enduring classics in the world of cocktails. Its inclusion in cocktail books and the popularity of Hotel Monteleone as a prominent cocktail destination further solidified its status in the cocktail canon.

As visitors and locals alike enjoy sipping this iconic concoction, they also imbibe a taste of New Orleans' history and the cocktail heritage that has made the city a beloved destination for cocktail enthusiasts worldwide. The Vieux Carré stands as a delightful and flavorful reminder of the vibrant culture and allure of the "Big Easy."

Vieux Carré Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 1 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 oz cognac
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 tsp Benedictine
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist, for garnish
Directions:
  • Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  • Add the rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud's bitters, and Angostura bitters.
  • Stir the ingredients with a bar spoon for about 20 seconds, until the mixture is well chilled.
  • Strain the cocktail into a chilled glass.
  • Garnish with a lemon twist.
Best Rye Whiskey for a Vieux Carre Cocktail – Available in the Bottle Shop
1. Laws Whiskey House San Luis Valley Straight Rye

8,000 feet above sea level, in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, the Cody family has been cultivating this low-yield, semi-wild rye grain since the 1930s. They fell in love with how it ferments and distills into a terroir-driven, unapologetic whiskey.

Region: Colorado | Tasting Notes: Molasses, Peppercorn, Caramel | ABV: 50%

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Bulleit Bourbon
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac

This cognac is specifically designed to be used in cocktails, with a higher proof (45% ABV) and a more assertive flavor profile than many other cognacs. It has notes of honey, vanilla, and spice that work well in the Vieux Carre.

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Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

This sweet vermouth has a rich, complex flavor with notes of vanilla, caramel, and herbs. Its sweetness complements the bitterness of the Campari, creating a well-balanced cocktail.

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2. Templeton Rye 10 Year

8,000 feet above sea level, in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, the Cody family has been cultivating this low-yield, semi-wild rye grain since the 1930s. They fell in love with how it ferments and distills into a terroir-driven, unapologetic whiskey.

Region: Iowa | Tasting Notes: Honey, Brown Sugar, Mint, Baking  | ABV: 52%

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3. Barrell Craft Spirits Seagrass Rye

Seagrass highlights the grassy oceanside notes of Barrell Craft Spirits’ rye and the opulence and spice of finishing barrels. It’s a blend of American and Canadian rye whiskeys, with each ingredient meticulously sourced and finished separately in Martinique rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy barrels.

Region: Kentucky | Tasting Notes: Fruit, Molasses, Apricot Brandy | ABV: 59.11%

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4. Michter’s Straight Rye

Michter’s is renowned for rye and takes the production of its US*1 Kentucky Straight Rye extremely seriously. The spirit is made from select American rye grain, sheared to maximize the extraction of flavor. On the nose, you’ll get aromas of cherry, green apple, caramel, spice, and oak. You’ll taste similar flavors, along with cinnamon, baking, and citrus, followed by a slow, dry finish.

Region: Kentucky | Tasting Notes: Fruit, Caramel, Spice, Oak | ABV: 42.4%

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5. Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

This 100-proof rye from Knob Creek was named the World’s Best Rye at the 2016 World Spirits Competition. It pairs traditional rye spice with the brand’s signature sweetness. With a high corn mash bill, this one’s perfect if you love bourbon but are looking to add rye to your home bar.

Region: Kentucky | Tasting Notes: Fruit, Caramel, Spice, Oak | ABV: 50%

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6. WhistlePig Boss Hog

Siren’s Song is a twice finished, well aged rye which slumbered in casks seasoned with Greek fig nectar and barrels suffused with homemade tentura liqueur, made with ingredients hailing from Greece and local Shoreham, Vermont fields. It arrives in the glass with scents of cinnamon and citrus zest. The palate finds notes of clove, cardamom, and stewed orchard fruit, retreating upon rippled waves of raisin and prune. This rare and outstandingly complex whiskey is barrel strength, bottled between 102.3 and 106.2 proof.

Region: Vermont | Tasting Notes: Clove, Cardamom, Stewed Fruit, Raisin | ABV: 51.15 to 53.1%

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7. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye

Crafted in one of the few distilleries to remain dedicated to the art of rye whiskey, Rare Breed Rye is a blend of non-chill filtered rye. It’s barrel-proof, meaning that it’s uncut – bottled directly from the barrels at the proof it reaches in those barrels. It’s sister to award-winning Rare Breed Bourbon and the first permanent super-premium rye in the Wild Turkey family.

Region: Kentucky | Tasting Notes: Herbal, Lemon, Mint, Licorice | ABV: 56.1%

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8. High West Double Rye!

Thanks to its balance of cinnamon, anise, and honey, High West Double Rye! stands on its own in cocktails, but is great served neat, with a little water, or on the rocks. A blend of two different rye whiskeys, this one is also crafted to be twice as spicy as the average rye whiskey. The older rye adds a richer, bolder character and just enough caramel sweetness and woody vanilla richness to calm the bite of the younger rye.

Region: Utah | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Honey, Cinnamon, Floral | ABV: 46%

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9. Redemption Rye

With a rye content of 95%, well past the 51% required, Redemption’s rye is beautifully balanced, with a warm, medium-light body. You’ll get aromas of vanilla, toffee, dill, oak, citrus, and herbal spice, along with similar flavors and a lovely sweetness, followed by a long, soft finish.

Region: Indiana | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Toffee, Dill, Citrus, Spice | ABV: 46%

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10. Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

Alberta Premium released its Cask Strength Rye to innovate within the Canadian whisky category. With a deep history rooted in heritage and quality, Alberta Premium is proud to be a major player in the resurgence of Canadian whiskies and Alberta Premium Cask Strength is the award winning result. This expression offers aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, green tea, and baking spice, followed by a palate of lemon zest, rye spice, berries, and honey with a touch of vanilla and brown sugar.

Region: Canada | Tasting Notes: Lemon Zest, Spice, Berry, Honey | ABV: 66%

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Bulleit Bourbon
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac

This cognac is specifically designed to be used in cocktails, with a higher proof (45% ABV) and a more assertive flavor profile than many other cognacs. It has notes of honey, vanilla, and spice that work well in the Vieux Carre.

Buy Now
Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

This sweet vermouth has a rich, complex flavor with notes of vanilla, caramel, and herbs. Its sweetness complements the bitterness of the Campari, creating a well-balanced cocktail.

Buy Now

Vieux Carré is a classic cocktail with a rich history and a sophisticated flavor profile. Its unique blend of whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, and bitters, along with a splash of Benedictine, creates a complex and delicious drink that has become a staple of New Orleans cocktail culture. By following the recipe provided and using high-quality ingredients, you can make your own Vieux Carré at home and experience the elegance and refinement of this classic cocktail. The bottle recommendations mentioned above will help you select the perfect ingredients to create a Vieux Carré that will impress even the most discerning cocktail connoisseurs.

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