ramosginfizzNew Orleans, Louisiana (1888)

The Ramos Gin Fizz doesn’t mean to be difficult, really. It’s just that creating a glassful of pillowy heaven does take a bit of work and attention. Even the name – which shouldn’t be difficult – is: the correct Spanish pronunciation is “RAH-mose” but most people I know say this as “RAY-mose.” To make things more confusing, in New Orleans, some say it “RAY-muss.” Whatever. As they say, “Call me anything you want, just don’t call me late for breakfast.”

This drink evolved from the basic Sour 2:1:1 formula (spirit:citrus:sweet) into a Fizz (by adding seltzer, like a Tom Collins but without ice) and from there into a group of fancy Fizzes (egg white makes a Silver Fizz, egg yolk makes a Golden Fizz, whole egg makes a Royal Fizz). Adding cream and orange flower water was the masterstroke by barman Henrico “Henry” Charles Ramos at the now-extinct Imperial Cabinet Saloon in New Orleans back in 1888. The drink became so popular, Ramos employed a line of up to 35 “Shaker Boys” to pass the shaking tins down an assembly line, vigorously shaking each drink in succession for up to 12 minutes total.

125 years of practice and refinement have perfected this little number. Some will tell you removing the spring from a Hawthorne strainer and adding it to the shaker will help whip the drink, but in practice, it actually over-aearates the drink. Some will say you have to shake the drink for ten minutes – that’s bullshit, too. Don’t add the seltzer to the mix, either – the shaker will have a hard enough time staying sealed with the egg white and cream expanding as you go. You may occasionally see a couple drops of vanilla in this drink – which tends to overwhelm the delicate flavors, if you ask me. But good ice does make a key difference here, even though you’ll only be using one cube from a Tovolo 1″ ice tray (unless you’re one of those mad geniuses with a Kold-Draft machine at home). The density of the ice will ensure the drink dilutes, chills, and whips properly. And the right glassware is crucial (an 8-ounce fizz glass like the Libbey 2318 Lexington), to help hold that stasis of booze, air, and protein afloat. Don’t try to make two of these in one shaker – it just won’t work.

This technique was taught to me by 320 Main bartender Shaun Cole, who learned it from bartender, brand ambassador, and consultant Marcos Tello. Word is, Marcos traveled the country gathering techniques from various bartenders and even food scientists, then consolidated the best-of into this recipe. Jason Schiffer, owner of 320 Main, told me this drink “lets bartenders show off their skills like no other drink.” It takes focus and practice to get this one right, but the effort is rewarded. The ideal texture is a tight, dense, almost-meringue-like foam floating atop a creamy, aerated liquid base – not a frothy mass of loose, sloppy bubbles.

If you’re concerned about consuming raw egg whites, try not to be. It’s fine, you won’t die. Just make sure your eggs are cold and fresh, and that you don’t get any chickenshit in your drink.

The Ramos Gin Fizz is perfect for a warm spring or summer brunch, so long as you’re up to the task. Reserve this for a morning that’s not a morning-after!

THE KIT

Hardware: Jigger, Shaker, Eyedropper, Muddler, Tovolo 1″ Ice Cube Tray, Straw, Spoon
Glassware: 8-ounce fizz glass
Ice: Ice cube
Spirit: Old Tom gin (recommended: Hayman’s) or London Dry gin (recommended: Beefeater) or Plymouth gin
Mixer: Simple syrup, Seltzer or Tonic water (recommended: Fever-Tree) or sparkling mineral water (recommended: Pellegrino)
Accents & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Lime juice, Orange flower water (look for a French brand, but Middle Eastern will do), Heavy cream (aka “whipping cream” – but not whipped cream), Egg white

HOW TO

Chill a fizz glass in the freezer at least ten minutes. In a cocktail shaker, combine:

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2
oz lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz heavy cream
3
drops orange flower water

In a second container (to avoid contamination from a piece of eggshell), separate:

1 egg white

Discard the yolk and the chalazae (the thick, stringy part connected to the yolk) and combine the egg white with the previous ingredients. Seal the shaker very tightly and dry shake for ten to twelve seconds to emulsify the ingredients. Hold the shaker lid firmly while shaking – the egg whites will foam and expand in volume and will create pressure in the shaker.

Add:

1 ice cube (1″ square)

Whip the shaker vigorously until you hear the ice cube has completely dissolved. Pour, unstrained, into the chilled fizz glass. Hold the glass in one hand, and, using a muddler, tap on the bottom of the glass for a minute or two. Look for the level of the drink to settle down about 1/8″ or so, and for any large bubbles in the foam to dissipate. You’re looking for a thick, consistent foam texture in the drink. Next, to the surface of the drink, add:

2 drops orange flower water

In the used shaker, add:

2 oz seltzer

Slowly drizzle the seltzer straight down the center of the drink from a height of about an inch or two. If you’ve done everything right, you’ll see the foamy head of the drink rising slowly above the rim of the glass. Keep pouring seltzer down the same spot and keep an eye on the foamy head. If it starts to sag around the edges, stop adding seltzer.

Serve with a straw (and a spoon to scoop out those last bits of meringuey goodness), then congratulate yourself on creating a thing of beauty. Kick back the rest of the day, you’ve earned it.

p.s. You may want to keep a spoon handy for scooping out the last little bit of foamy, citrusy goodness.

New York City, 1860ish

The Whiskey Sour is one in a family of “Sours” – modify the sweetener from simple syrup to honey syrup and you have a Gold Rush. Make it maple syrup and that’s a Rattlesnake. Make it with rum & lime, call it a Daiquiri. Keep swapping things around and tweaking proportions and you’ll get a Margarita, a Jack Rose, a Wild-Eyed Rose, a Sidecar… endless variations. Jerry Thomas first covered Sours in his 1862 book and just about every cocktail book since then has featured a version. I’ve uncovered a baffling array of recipes called “Whiskey Sour” – tall with soda in a Collins glass, frappe-style with blended crushed ice and Angostura bitters in a fizz glass, whiskey-forward on the rocks, citrus-forward up in a cocktail glass, and more. The original was surely just whiskey, lemon, and sugar, most likely on the rocks. Two hitchhikers this drink picked up along the way make a great addition: egg white and Angostura bitters. The egg brings body and texture, the Angostura helps mask the wet-dog smell that egg foam sometimes gets (plus it adds those delicious cinnamon and clove spices). Try it this way, then feel free to fiddle around with it, coming up with your own spin.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Fine-mesh strainer
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass or coupe
Spirits: Bourbon whiskey (recommended: Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey 81, Four Roses “Yellow Label”)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Simple syrup, Egg white
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Angostura bitters, Lemon wheel, Maraschino cherry

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass or coupe in the freezer at least ten minutes. Separate one egg, discarding the yolk. Lightly mix the egg white with a fork – this’ll help you measure it out.

In an empty shaker, add:
2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz egg whites

Make sure you have a good, tight seal (egg whites can foam up and expand when shaken). Shake without ice for 20 seconds to blend. Add a few ice cubes and shake again, hard, for at least 30 seconds. Double-strain into the chilled glass using a fine-mesh strainer.

Allow the egg foam to rise to the top (you can also spoon some residual foam out from the shaker) and, in a ring, drop:

8 drops Angostura bitters

Swirl the Angostura bitters with a cocktail pick to decorate the top of the drink. Garnish with a lemon wheel and Maraschino cherry pinned together with a cocktail pick.

Beretta, San Francisco, 2008

Here’s another fun one that’s not in the book, from Beretta in San Francisco. As always, it’s worth locating the best ingredients – no substitutes. The clincher in this drink is real Grade B maple syrup. Definitely not artificial maple-flavored syrup-style food product, Grade B doesn’t mean it’s lesser quality than Grade A, it’s just darker, richer, more maple-y. And don’t be afraid of the raw egg white in this one – just make sure no chickenshit gets in your drink and you’ll be fine. You’ll “dry shake” the ingredients together before adding ice – this helps emulsify the ingredients. Adding ice and shaking hard gets an amazing, frothy, silky texture going.

“Rattlesnake” sounds like it will have a scary bite, but trust me: it’s painless.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Fine-mesh strainer
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass or coupe
Spirits: Rye whiskey (recommended: Rittenhouse)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Grade B maple syrup, Egg white
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Peychaud’s bitters, Lemon twist

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass or coupe in the freezer at least ten minutes. Separate one egg, discarding the yolk. Lightly mix the egg white with a fork – this’ll help you measure it out.

In an empty shaker, add:
2 oz rye whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Grade B maple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1/2 oz egg whites

Make sure you have a good, tight seal (egg whites can foam up and expand when shaken). Shake without ice for 20 seconds to blend. Add a few ice cubes and shake again, hard, for at least 30 seconds. Double-strain into the chilled glass using a fine-mesh strainer.

Pinch a lemon twist over the drink to express oils onto its surface, then rub the twist around the glass rim to coat. Garnish with the twist laid across the surface of the drink.