Cocktail Recipes

Famous New Orleans Cocktails You Can Make at Home

brandy crusta
New Orleans is often associated with drunken debauchery fueled by oversized pours of saccharin-sweet cocktails in unholy shades of red and blue. But beyond the tourist bubble is a city with an impressive and storied cocktail culture. New Orleans may not be the birthplace of the cocktail, but since the nineteenth century, it has been a place where some of our most enduring cocktails were developed or perfected.

With Mardi Gras on the horizon, we asked bar manager Rachel Wright of Mès Que to give us her preferred specs for some of New Orleans’ greatest cocktail contributions so you can try them at home.


sazerac cocktail

New Orleans’ most lauded cocktail original, the Sazerac, has disputed origins. Many sources trace its roots to the 1830s and credit creole apothecary Antoine Amadie Peychaud with creating the drink as a vehicle for serving his proprietary medicinal bitters. Back then, the drink was made entirely with French cognac, but by the 1870s, rye whiskey was the Sazerac’s characteristic base spirit. This may have been due to changing tastes, the nineteenth-century phylloxera outbreak that decimated European grape production, or some combination of the two. An absinthe rinse was also added at this time.

This version of the Sazerac reintroduces cognac to the picture, which is an acceptable variation. One thing that is not acceptable, however, is serving the drink on the rocks. That’s a major Sazerac faux pas.

making a sazerac

Yield: 1 cocktail

¼ ounce absinthe
6 dashes Peychaud’s
1 dash Angostura
¼ ounce simple syrup*
1 ½ ounce rye whiskey
½ ounce cognac
2 lemon peels, for garnish


  1. Roll the absinthe around a coupe or rocks glass to coat the bottom and sides. Pour off any excess.
  2. In a mixing glass, combine bitters, simple, rye, and cognac. Add ice and stir well to chill.
  3. Strain into prepared glass. Run an expressed lemon peel along the rim (and stem, if using a coupe). Garnish with second lemon peel.

*The classic recipe calls for a muddled sugar cube, but Wright prefers the texture simple imparts on the final product.

French Quarter Crusta

brandy crusta

Hot on the historical tails of the Sazerac is the Brandy Crusta. It dates to 1852, making it one of the Crescent City’s oldest cocktail contributions. It is characterized by its orange curaçao, lemon juice, brandy, bitters, and its calling card--a sparkling sugar rim. The cocktail is believed to be the brainchild of Joseph Santina of New Orleans’ Jewel of the South bar.

This riff on the classic, courtesy of Mes Que’s Rachel Wright, introduces calvados to the mix and cuts the original sugar rim with salt. It also brings anise/fennel and floral notes to the recipe by way of tarragon-infused oil and homemade flower bitters. If you prefer to keep things simple, omit the former and substitute Peychaud’s or Boker’s for the latter.

sugar rim

Yield: 1 cocktail

1 ½ ounce cognac
¼ ounce calvados
⅕ Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
¾ ounce lemon juice
1 bar spoon tarragon-infused grapeseed oil
2 dashes floral bitters (or substitute Peychaud’s or Boker’s)
Salt and sugar, for rim
Orange peel, for garnish


  1. Prepare your glass by moistening the rim with an orange wedge and rolling the edge in a mixture of equal parts sugar and salt.
  2. Add cognac, calvados, dry curacao, lemon juice, infused oil, and bitters to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake to mix and chill.
  3. Strain into rimmed glass. Garnish with large curl of orange peel.

Vieux Carré

vieux carre

A recipe for this spirituous classic first appeared in the 1937 cocktail book Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em. The author attributed its invention to Walter Bergeron of the lobby bar inside the Hotel Monteleone. (Contrary to popular belief, the Vieux Carré was technically not invented at the hotel’s famed Carousel Bar, since it did not open until 1949.) The drink takes its name from the New Orleans neighborhood where the hotel is sited, and its ingredients are emblematic of some of the cultures that make New Orleans so vibrant--French cognac and Bénédictine, American rye, Creole bitters, and Italian vermouth.

vieux carre

Yield: 1 cocktail

⅗ ounce cognac
¾ ounce rye whiskey
½ ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1 bar spoon Bénédictine
1 dash each Peychaud’s and Angostura
Lemon peel or cherry, for garnish


  1. Combine cognac, rye, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, and bitters in a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir well to chill.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass over a king cube and garnish with a cherry or lemon peel.

Absinthe Frappé

absinthe frappe

Absinthe and New Orleans go hand in hand. But if the whole louching thing isn’t your speed, an Absinthe Frappé is an easy-drinking alternative, especially in the dog days of a New Orleans summer. Invented in 1874 by Cayetano Ferrer of Aleix's Coffee House at the corner of Bourbon Street and Bienville (a bar now called Old Absinthe House), it cuts the rich, bracing herbaceousness of absinthe with a touch of sweetness and loads of ice.


Yield: 1 cocktail

2 ounces absinthe
¾ ounce simple syrup
6 fresh mint leaves, plus additional leaves for garnish
1 ounce club soda
Crushed ice


  1. Fill a glass halfway with crushed ice. (You can use a lewis bag and mallet to crush your ice cubes).
  2. Add absinthe, simple, and mint leaves to a cocktail shaker. Fill with standard ice cubes and shake to mix and chill.
  3. Strain into the prepared glass, over the crushed ice. Top with club soda and more crushed ice.
  4. Garnish with fresh mint and a straw.

Ramos Gin Fizz

ramos gin fizz

For something a little decadent, but not absurdly so, look no further than the Ramos Gin Fizz. It  was invented in the 1880s by Henry C. Ramos and is notable for its creamsicle-reminiscent flavor and thick egg white cap. Legend dictates that you shake the cocktail for an arm-aching 12 minutes to achieve full-froth, but a much shorter shake yields an equally tasty drink. Wright’s recipe, below, calls for a short wet shake shake followed by a prolonged dry shake.

ramos gin fizz

Yield: 1 cocktail

2 ounces Old Tom gin
½ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce orange juice
½ ounce simple syrup
½ ounce heavy cream
1 egg white
2 dashes orange flower water
1 ounce club soda
Orange wheel, for garnish


  1. Add gin, citrus juices, simple, cream, egg white, and orange blossom water to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake for 1 minute.
  2. Strain into a glass and discard whatever ice remains in the shaker. Return the drink to the cocktail shaker and shake an additional 6 minutes without ice to aerate the egg white. (You can give up sooner than 6 minutes; your egg white foam may not be as towering, though.)
  3. Strain into a highball or pilsner glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with orange wheel.

Find the tools and ingredients to make famous New Orleans cocktails on our Mardi Gras party supply page!

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