Tag Archives: New Orleans

The art of mixing the perfect Ramos Gin Fizz at home

25 Mar
A bartender at Tujague's gives a vigorous and long shake to give a Ramos Gin Fizz its creamy, frothy texture.

Bartender Paul Gustings at Tujague’s, located along Decatur Street in New Orleans, gives a vigorous and long shake to give a Ramos Gin Fizz its creamy texture and frothy head.

I enjoy cooking and home bartending as a creative outlet. The dishes and drinks I favor — gumbos, cheesecakes, cocktails and the like — provide opportunities to play with different flavors and taste profiles. And they present a challenge in their successful execution.

Certainly, the Ramos Gin Fizz meets these criteria.

Key ingredients are: gin, lemon and lime juice, orange flower water, sugar, cream, soda and an egg white.

The drink features a slight citrus taste, and it is often said it is “like drinking a flower, ” as described in the book “Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ‘Em.”

Gin fizz at homeAnd many say the key to a successful drink’s creamy texture is a long, longggggg shake.

Since first visiting New Orleans several years back, I’ve tried making the drink at home, with varying degrees of success.

Wherever you turn for advice, you’ll find that the ratio of ingredients varies slightly. And you’ll find the techniques for mixing and shaking vary, too.

With all the variations, these are my suggestions:

  • Many recipes call for just a few drops of orange flower water, saying that it is a potent, pungent mixture. Well, in the sticks of Iowa, orange flower water is pretty weak, so I’ve had better luck using the higher amounts called for in some recipes (Sazerac Bar video below, 1 1/2 oz.). If I ever find a very strong mix, I’ll cut back to just a few drops.
  • The amounts of fresh lemon and lime juices also vary. Some call for the juice of half a fruit, some call for a couple dashes of juice, some call for a 1/2 ounce of each juice. Fresh juices are best, of course, but they can overpower the drink. I use just a little less than the juice from a half a fruit.
  • While the older recipes call for powdered sugar, most of the new recipes use simple syrup. Again, the amounts vary. But I have the best luck erring on the higher side — probably 1 oz. for one drink.
  • Same goes for the heavy cream. I’ve seen everywhere from a 1/2 ounce to 2 ounces. I’d use closer to 1 1/2 to 2 oz.
  • To get the tasty froth, the best tip I’ve seen is offered in the video from the Sazerac Bar: pour a bit of soda in the bottom of the serving glass, and use a high pour from the mixing shaker. Voila! Froth. In the video from the Library Lounge via Nola.com, the bartender tops the drink with soda and then stirs vigorously to develop the froth. That works, too.

Here’s the recipe from “Famous New Orleans Drinks:”

  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 3-4 drops orange flower water
  • 1/2 lime — juice only
  • 1/2 lemon — juice only
  • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 oz. rich milk or cream
  • 1 squirt selzer water
  • 2 drops extract vanilla (optional)

Mix in a tall barglass in the order given; add crushed ice, not too fine as lumps are needed to whip up the froth of the egg white and cream. Use a long metal shaker and remember this is one drink which needs a long, steady shaking. Keep at it until the mixture gets body — “ropy” as some experienced barkeepers express it. When thoroughly shaken, strain into a tall thin glass for serving.

Here’s the video (below) from the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, via GoNola.com. This is an excellent recipe:

Here’s the video (below) posted by Nola.com, featuring bartender Chris McMillian at the Library Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.

And here’s a video (below) from Liquor.com — an excellent source for some tasty cocktail recipes — that was shot at Rye in San Francisco. Good video, but, jeesh, San Francisco for a Ramos Gin Fizz?

The stories behind the drink

The Ramos Gin Fizz, like the Sazerac and the Hurricane, is indelibly linked to New Orleans. And even more so than the other two, the Ramos has some colorful stories associated with it.

In the book “Famous New Orleans Drinks,” first published in 1937, author Stanley Clisby Arthur states that at that time, “The Age of the Ramos gin fizz is well past the half-century mark and its popularity shows no signs of abating.”

Arthur relates that the drink came to New Orleans in 1888 when Henry C. Ramos moved from Baton Rouge to purchase the Imperial Cabinet saloon.

At the height of the drink’s popularity, Ramos’ bar reportedly employed 35 shaker boys to meet the demand.

Of course, the drink, like all liquor, receded into the shadows during Prohibition. But Arthur writes, “After the return of legal liquor the trade name of Ramos on a gin fizz was acquired by the Hotel Roosevelt, and today that is it’s legal domicile.”

And from there springs another colorful story associated with the drink.

Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, a frequent guest of the Roosevelt, particularly enjoyed the mix found at the hotel’s Sazerac Bar. But while staying at the New Yorker hotel, Long found the drink sadly lacking, despite that hotel’s claim to be the home of the Ramos Gin Fizz. Read this post to see the incredible lengths Long took to ” teach these New York sophisticates how and what to drink.”

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If you’re interested in New Orleans drinks or cocktails in general, “Famous New Orleans Drinks” is worth purchasing. In addition the Ramos Gin Fizz, it offers recipes for the Sazerac, Mint Julep (and many other juleps), Old Fashioned, Manhattan, punches and much more. Now in it’s 23rd printing, the book is available direct from Pelican Publishing, located across the river from New Orleans proper in Gretna.

If you enjoy cocktails, you should follow the “Cold Glass” blog by Doug Ford. It’s entertaining and informative. Here’s his take on the Ramos Fizz.

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Have you made your own Ramos Gin Fizz? Do you have any tips to offer? What’s your favorite bar for drinking the Ramos Gin Fizz? Leave a comment below.

See Jon Batiste in concert? Don’t even hesitate

19 Jan

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If it’s New Orleans music, count me in.

Like the food, the music of New Orleans is delectable, enticing, deep, rich … and varied. I’m willing to give it all a try. If it resonates with me, I’ll come back time and time again. And if it ends up being a miss, there’s lots more to try.

So when my wife heard of NOLA native Jon Batiste making an appearance in nearby Iowa City on my birthday, she bought tickets. We weren’t familiar with Batiste, but we were willing to give it a try.

Boy, are we glad we did.

I knew of the Batiste family, which is talented and numerous. But I knew nothing about Jonathan. I learned that after much success in New Orleans, he moved to New York City while still a teen-ager, studying at the Julliard. And my impression of New York jazz was different than that of New Orleans jazz.

If there was a hesitation on my part, it was that I was afraid the music would be a bit staid, a bit too laid back, too “smooth.” I like my NOLA music — like my food — bold and forward.

But Batiste and his band, Stay Human, didn’t disappoint.

Among their original tunes were Express Yourself and Let God Lead,” from their latest release, “Social Music.” Both songs could raise your blood pressure.

And if there were still any doubts that this would be a high energy performance, Batiste played a raucous, pounding version of the classic, “St. James Infirmary”  (also on “Social Music” and also more raucous in person than on this video version).

Batiste and his band have a great stage presence, too. He smiles, laughs and engages the audience. They walk to the front of the stage and jam, and they invite audience participation. At one point, they even played with a toddler from the audience walking among the band members.

As they wandered down from the stage to play some songs on the theater floor, Batiste shook our hands. A friend mentioned to him that it was my birthday. He immediately ran back on stage, grabbed his melodica (which he calls a harmonaboard) and played me a quick rendition of “Happy Birthday!” Too cool.

If you get a chance to see Batiste, don’t even hesitate. I know there won’t be an ounce of hesitation on my part next time I get the chance.

♦ ♦ ♦

Here are some other useful links on Batiste:

Official web site

Wikipedia entry for Jonathan Batiste

Several clips of Batiste on “Treme” in one video

Treme’s Delmond Lambreaux plays “Milenberg Joys” with Batiste on piano

NPR story on Batiste

Trombone Shorty appears on “All Things Considered”

11 Oct

In case you missed the story on Trombone Shorty on Thursday’s “All Things Considered” on NPR, here’s a link to the audio story:


And below is the promo for the next episode of PBS’ “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,” which will feature Louisiana author James Lee Burke. I have Dish Network, so the program airs on Channel 22, WQEC, at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. Airings will vary by markets.


Recent ‘Splendid Table’ podcast focuses on NOLA

15 Sep
Lynne Rosetto Kasper watches retired bartender Chris McMillian mix a Sazerac. Kasper's "Splendid Table" show featured New Orleans this week. You can watch McMillian make a Sazerac at this link from NOLA.com I shared earlier or the video can be accessed from the "Splendid Table" web site.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper watches retired bartender Chris McMillian mix a Sazerac. Kasper’s “Splendid Table” show featured New Orleans this week. You can watch McMillian make a Sazerac at a link from NOLA.com that I shared earlier or the video can be accessed from the “Splendid Table” web site. (Photo credit: “Splendid Table” web site)

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts while training for marathons, and this weekend’s run offered a perfect mash-up of my favorite things: running, eating and New Orleans.

This week’s edition of “Splendid Table,” hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, focused on the Crescent City.

The show includes interviews with Leah Chase, the revered Queen of Creole Cuisine and owner of the restaurant Dooky Chase; Poppy Tooker, who hosts Louisiana Eats! on NOLA’s NPR station; a discussion of New Orleans’ restaurant scene with Lolis Eric Elie, who is also a writer on HBO’s “Treme”; and recently retired bartender Chris McMillian, who stirs up a Sazerac.

I listened to the podcast for the last hour or so of my 20-miler, and it certainly made those last few miles a lot easier to take.

Here’s a link to the “Splendid Table” web site, and I’d recommend downloading the entire show. It’s guaranteed to make your day go a little bit better, too.

What is it about New Orleans?

3 Apr

My wife and I made our first trip to New Orleans in 2008, and I immediately fell in love. In the five short years since then, we’ve made as many return trips as we possibly could, returning for long weekends and short vacations.

With so many trips to the Crescent City in a relatively short period of time, a common question from friends is: What is it that you love about New Orleans? I’ve had an answer, but I think this quote from Tom Piazza’s book does a better job than I in explaining my attraction:

“New Orleans inspires the kind of love that very few other cities do.  Paris, maybe Venice, maybe San Francisco, New York…. The list is not that much longer. New Orleans has a mythology, a personality, a soul, that is large,  and that has touched people around the world. It has its own music…its own cuisine, its own way of talking, its own architecture, its own smell, its own look and feel.”

— Tom Piazza, “Why New Orleans Matters”

I’m about one-third of the way through the book, and enjoying it immensely. A review of the book can be found here. Piazza’s own web site can be found here.

A good day for a Sazerac

9 Mar

It’s a dreary, dank day in Iowa, so it seems like a perfect time for a good sipping drink: the Sazerac.

A while back, I reblogged a wonderful story on the Ramos Gin Fizz, a frothy treat that appeals to both gin lovers and gin abstainers alike. My post is here and the original Cold Glass blog is here. (If you enjoy a nice drink, I’d suggest following Cold Glass. You will learn a lot about a wide variety of cocktails.)

Like the gin fizz, the Sazerac is another NOLA staple. While in New Orleans in February 2013, we had to introduce friends to both of those drinks — as well as a few others. But since a couple of these friends enjoy ryes and whiskeys, I knew they would enjoy the Sazerac.

The YouTube video above gives some excellent history on cocktails and toddys — who knew there were specific qualities to each? — along with the history of the Sazerac itself. Nola.com has done a whole host of similar videos on New Orleans drinks, and they are a fun series to watch on a dreary day.

This post by another blogger is a lilting, literary tribute to the Sazerac. Here is the opening paragraph:

All too often, the alleyways of New Orleans’ French Quarter are abused by the young. The unseasoned collegiate Bacchae flood NOLA in search of the stuff to write the legends of their twenties. The rookie reaches for the Hurricane, or some other saccharine Slurpiesque booze bucket from any Bourbon Street slinger. And the locals are happy to oblige him. However, to really drink deeply of Nouvelle-Orleans, to let the taste of the Crescent City linger on in your palate (rather than displayed all over the pavement of Jackson Square at 2 A.M. ala Jackson Pollock, in beige) there is only one weapon of choice.

And finally, here are two more links on the Sazerac. Here’s a link for a simple recipe. And if you would like a bit more information on it, here’s the Wiki story.

As always: Bon temps rouler!

Been there, done that … and a bucket list, too

6 Mar

I started this blog as a way to share my thoughts on some of my favorite subjects, but it also serves as a reference and a repository for me.

I write a number of posts on running and training, cooking, art and my travels. These are a few of the avocations that bring joy to my life. It’s fun to share my thoughts on these subjects with others. It forces me to really think, to reflect, to look at subjects with a critical eye. It’s therapeutic, and it’s a creative outlet.

An evening stroll past Tujague's on Decatur Street.

An evening stroll past Tujague’s on Decatur Street.

But the blog site also serves as a place for me to park information so I can readily retrieve it. I got tired of simply bookmarking sites on my web browser. I’ve got a million things bookmarked, and after a while, they become a jumbled mess.

So a couple of pages on my site serve as my own personal reference book … which can also be used by others. If you have any interest in these same subjects, I hope you’ll find them useful.

On the top menu, under “Places to Go,” I have listed two towns that we have visited recently, New York City and New Orleans. As I have come across places I wanted to visit or explore in these cities, I’ve included little write-ups on them and included links.

I’ve only visited New York once, so the links there are pretty small. That’s not the case with New Orleans.

Places to Go> New Orleans> Been There, Done That

This is a list of places I have gone and can personally recommend. I’m not a native, just an big fan of what I think is a unique, engaging American city. The locals may offer different recommendations, but these are what I can personally attest to. And when we visit, we generally quiz the locals to broaden our horizons.

Beyond the real obvious (Cafe du Monde, Pat O’Brien’s piano bar, Commander’s Palace, Bourbon Street and Jackson Square, all of which should not be missed by first-timers), I’ve included some places that a tourist may or may not normally go. There are so many choices in restaurants, bars and attractions in New Orleans that it can be hard to narrow the choices.


Bourbon Street revelers.

Bourbon Street revelers.

Among my top choices are: Brigtsen’s restaurant, Emeril’s NOLA and Emeril’s, Cochon Butcher and Drago’s. For bars, I’d recommend the Spotted Cat, Tipitina’s and Tujague’s (if for nothing other than a Ramos Gin Fizz). But there’s also Tracey’s (to watch a game) and Chickie Wah Wah (for live music). Bar hopping in Algiers is fun. Jeesh, where do you stop?

We’ve visited New Orleans three times in the past year, so the list of places we’ve been has grown rather fast. (Although not fast enough for me.)

But there’s never enough time to see all I want to see and go everywhere I want to go, so that’s why there’s another section…

Places to Go> New Orleans> Bucket list for NOLA

I keep this as a running list of places I want to go on my next visit. There are so many good places to get to, I can’t just remember them all. I have to keep them written down in some organized fashion.

As I review this list, I can’t believe I still haven’t attended a session at Preservation Hall. It’s been on the bucket list since the beginning, but somehow other things always get in the way.

I wanted to visit Carrollton Station on the last visit. We made it to the same general neighborhood (Brigtsen’s restaurant), but we didn’t make the short hop to Carrollton Station. That’s a regret.

I wanted to get to Howlin’ Wolf for more live music, but there just wasn’t time. I couldn’t remember the Maple Leaf, but it came to me when visiting with the locals at Tipitina’s. This time, I made sure to add it to the Bucket List.


Tipitina's, New Orleans, La.

Tipitina’s, New Orleans, La.

There are so many good places to eat in New Orleans, it’s impossible to get to them all. While listening to a podcast from WWNO — see the Useful Links section — I learned that there are now more restaurants in New Orleans than before Katrina, despite the population still being significantly less than before the hurricane.

Brennan’s is one of those touchstone restaurants that we somehow have never visited. Herbsaint is a place that I have heard many good things about, but we’ve never got there. The list goes on and on.


Many places have found their way onto the Bucket List through the recommendations of friends and fellow bloggers. WordPress offers a reader, and the reader can be set up to categorize blog posts that reference your favorite subjects. Add “New Orleans” to your list, and you’ll get lots of good stories.

I haven’t been very good at keeping track of where all the recommendations have come from, but I will now make a conscious effort to do so. One recent post that is a goldmine is from the blog eatdrinkculture.wordpress.com. Great blog in general, and here’s a link to a roundup of New Orleans restaurants. This post alone could keep me coming back for years.

My most recent visit to New Orleans was in mid-February 2013. We arrived the day after Fat Tuesday. We made the journey with several friends, which made the visit even more special. I was able to move a lot of items from the “Bucket List” to the “Been There, Done That” list.

But there’s still plenty left to explore in the Crescent City. And if you enjoy New Orleans or want some recommendations from an interested outsider, I hope you’ll continue to check back on my blog site because these pages are sure to be constantly evolving.

OFFER YOUR THOUGHTS: What are your recommendations for places to eat, drink, stay or explore in New Orleans?

Culinary excellence in NOLA

26 Feb

It should be no surprise that New Orleans does well when it comes to recognizing culinary excellence. If there are two things they do right in the Crescent City, it’s eat and drink.

A few days back, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its 2013 awards. According to this story at Nola.com, 11 New Orleans restaurants, bars and chefs have made this cut.

Here is the complete list of 2013 James Beard Award semifinalists.

We visited two award nominees in our most recent trip to the Crescent City: Brigtsen’s, nominated for Outstanding Service; and Donald Link, nominated as Outstanding Chef at Herbsaint but also the man behind Cochon and Cochon Butcher.

One New Orleans restaurant was named a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant: Borgne. I’ll have to add this to my bucket list.

And Emeril Lagasse will receive this year’s humanitarian of the year award. We visited Emeril’s NOLA restaurant this trip (Tip: order the fried chicken! Sorry, mom, Emeril’s version just edges out your’s. ) And we’ve eaten at the eponymous Emeril’s in the past.

Interesting side notes:

  • San Francisco had 24 make the semifinalist cut. I knew I liked that town!
  • New York City had, by my count, 36 semifinalists. The best chef semifinalists are nominated by region, but NYC is a region of its own. Twenty NYC chefs made this category alone.
  • George Formaro, the man behind Centro, Django, South Union Bread and others in Des Moines, made the cut for Outstanding Restaurateur. Centro is our tried and true lunch-time stop after the Des Moines marathon every October.

Bon appetit!

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