I absolutely love anything that’s a secret. I’m always on the lookout for a new speakeasy to visit and I’m a huge fan of movies like National Treasure and the entire Indiana Jones series, so when Saveur Magazine called the La Louisiane the “secret cocktail of New Orleans,” I was pretty much smitten. I would love to say that I picture myself drinking this cocktail at the bar and hotel of the same name (where the drink was created), situated right around the corner from the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar, but it closed back in the 1930s. The La Louisiane cocktail disappeared not long after that, despite the fact that its recipe appeared in Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em by Stanley Clisby Arthur in 1937. It goes to show you that drinks are more than just their recipe, especially those that are born in bars. They are about the atmosphere of the bar and bartenders who work there, and the patrons that made these particular cocktails popular by sitting and drinking them long into many nights.
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the La Louisiane‘s recipe is just how similar it is to last Monday’s Vieux Carré. It pays the same homage to the melting pot that was New Orleans at that time, using ingredients from American, French, Italian, and Caribbean cultures. Once again we have a big, boozy cocktail with rye whiskey as the base spirit, its bite tempered by the addition of Bénédictine and sweet vermouth. There’s no cognac in the La Louisiane and it’s served up rather than on the rocks, but there are some Peychaud’s bitters and Absinthe, both of which bring distinct anise notes to the drink. Once again I was amazed by how smooth and easy this cocktail was, and I’m happy to have a drink filed away in my memory now that uses Absinthe. The La Louisiane is currently re-emerging in many bars in New Orleans itself, as well as all over the world, although I’ve yet to see one listed on a cocktail menu here in the Philadelphia area. I’m definitely keeping my eyes open! In the meantime, this is a cocktail that you can easily ask for even if you don’t see it on a drink list. The ingredients are readily available and most bartenders should know how to make one. If not, just grab your cell phone and pull up this Thirsty Camel blog post… Report back to me, please!
2 ounces Old Overholt rye whiskey
¾ ounce Bénédictine
¾ ounce sweet vermouth (half Dolin Rouge and half Punt e Mes)
3 dashes Pernot Absinthe
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (I substituted Scrappy’s Orleans bitters)
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill ⅔ full with ice and stir 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with three brandied cherries. Enjoy!
As with any classic cocktail recipes, this one started out with equal parts of all the spirits, resulting in a drink that was too sweet and off balance. Bumping up the rye and reducing the vermouth and the Bénédictine corrects this problem.