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Vieux Carré Recipe

Simultaneously boozy and smooth, the Vieux Carré may be our favorite New Orleans cocktail. Follow our easy Vieux Carré recipe and decide if it may be your favorite too.

Vieux Carre with White Background Centered

Sipping a Vieux Carré is like sipping New Orleans.

Invented in the heart of the French Quarter, this classic cocktail stands tall in a city that celebrates cocktails every day of the year. It’s especially popular during Mardis Gras and when the city hosts Tales of the Cocktail each year.

Vieux Carre with Black Background Centered
The Vieux Carré recipe has a lot of ingredients. Don’t let that scare you.

A unique blend of ingredients makes the Vieux Carré special.

First, there are a lot of them – four liquors and two different bitters – which creates a beverage that’s as sweet and boozy as it is herbal and smooth. Then’s there’s the liquors themselves. Just like the city’s population, their heritage represents a melting pot that includes France, Italy, the Caribbean and the good old USA.

What Is the Vieux Carré?

Vieux Carre with white Background
A special drink like the Vieux Carré justifies your best glass. We drank ours in this triangular prism glass.

Vieux Carré is another name for NOLA’s French Quarter where the cocktail was invented. Over the years, the Vieux Carré has become one of the city’s signature cocktails.

It’s a stellar sipper that combines no fewer than four liquors and two types of bitters in one glass. The resulting combination is both rich and wonderful.

History of the Vieux Carré

Vieux Carre at Carousel Bar in New Orleans
We drank this Vieux Carré at the Carousel Bar where the post-prohibition cocktail was invented in the 1930s.

We suspect that Walter Bergeron, a bartender at Hotel Monteleone‘s Carousel Bar, was a big fan of the Manhattan when he crafted the original Vieux Carré almost a century ago.

After all, this New Orleans drink is basically a Manhattan with a couple extra ingredients, namely cognac and Bénédictine herbal liqueur. He also added Peychaud’s bitters because that’s what one does in New Orleans

Carousel Bar in New Orleans
Snagging a seat at the Carousel Bar’s rotating bar requires good luck and even better timing.

Historians trace the Vieux Carré back to the 1930s, around the same time that Stanley Arthur published Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ‘Em. Today, the Vieux Carré is as famous in New Orleans as the Grasshopper, Pimm’s Cup and Bourbon Milk Punch. The Sazerac and Hurricane are in another cocktail orbit. Sorry Vieux Carré!

Drinking at the Carousel Bar is like stepping back into time. Not only can you sit at a bar that looks and rotates just like a carousel, but you can also sip a Vieux Carré at the same spot where literary luminaries including Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Rice and Truman Capote did the same.

Discover the most iconic New Orleans cocktails as well as the city’s most iconic bars. Then explore the best Mardi gras cocktails.

Vieux Carré Ingredients

Vieux Carre Ingredients
We used all of these items to craft one Vieux Carré cocktail at home. Not pictured is the ice that was chilling in the freezer.

Unlike many classic cocktail recipes, the Vieux Carré has a formidable list of ingredients and they’re all integral. But, once you acquire all of the following items, you can make the cocktail again and again:

  • Rye Whiskey
  • Cognac
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Bénédictine
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Peychaud’s Bitters
  • Small Ice Cubes (for shaking)
  • Large Ice Cube
  • Lemon Peel (garnish)
Liquor in Vieux Carre Recipe
We bought this large assortment of bottles to craft the Vieux Carré at home. It was worth it.

Other than the lemon peel, every ingredient in the Vieux Carré is either a liquor or bitter. There are no mixers in this New Orleans cocktail.

Rye, cognac and sweet vermouth play equal roles in the drink. Our recipe includes an ounce of each. While our recipe only calls for a half ounce of Bénédictine, the French liqueur’s herbaceous flavors are essential.

Bottles of Angostura and Peychauds Bitters
Bitters show up in a lot of cocktail recipes including the classic Vieux Carré recipe.

Angostura bitters and Peychaud’s bitters finish the recipe. Our recipe requires two dashes of each. But, since the botanical flavors in each little bottle are big, two dashes of each is the right amount.

How To Craft a Vieux Carré Cocktail

Crafted Vieux Carre with Bottles
Crafting a Vieux Carré is incredibly easy once you assemble the ingredients and bar tools.

Crafting a Vieux Carré cocktail is easy as pie once you assemble all of the ingredients. And, by ingredients we mean four liquors, two types of bitters and a lemon. Phew!

On the upside, you don’t need any special bar tools to craft a Vieux Carré. We use the following basic bar tools in our recipe:

You can improvise if you’re missing any or all of these bar tools. For example, you can use a small angled measuring cup instead of a jigger.

Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.

Pouring Cognac for Vieux Carre Recipe
We carefully measured the cognac for this recipe since we didn’t want to waste a precious drop.

The first step is to measure the Rye, Cognac, Sweet Vermouth and Bénédictine in a 2:2:2:1 ratio. We use a Japanese jigger for this step to ensure clean pours and minimize spillage.

Click here to purchase a Japanese jigger if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.

Pouring Liquor for Vieux Carre Recipe
We were surrounded by pleasant aromas as we poured each liquor into our shaker.

You’ll want to pour each liquor into a mixing glass immediately after you measure it. Almost any vessel will work if you don’t have a mixing glass. As an example, we used the bottom of our Boston shaker to craft this cocktail.

Click here to purchase a mixing glass if you’re feeling fancy.

Dashing Bitters into Vieux Carre
Don’t be bitter if you have to buy a bottle or two of bitters for this recipe. You can use them to craft many other cocktails.

The next step is to add two dashes each of Angostura Bitters and Peychaud’s Bitters into the same mixing glass.

As is always the case with bitters, a little bit of bitters goes a long way in this Vieux Carré recipe.

Stirring a Vieux Carre Recipe
The Vieux Carré is a cocktail that’s stirred, not shaken.

The next step is to add a handful of small ice cubes into the mixing glass and stir until the liquors and bitters are chilled and combined. This step should take about 20 seconds.

Straining a Vieux Carre Cocktail
We strained this Vieux Carré into our prettiest lowball glass. It’s a formidable cocktail that warrants the extra effort.

Once the liquors are combined and chilled, gently drop an extra large ice cube into a your prettiest lowball glass and then strain the liquid into the glass.

Click here to buy a jumbo ice cube tray. Not only will jumbo ice cubes impress your friends, but the jumbo ice cubes will melt more slowly while you sip your Vieux Carré cocktails.

Peeling a Lemon
We bought this Kuhn-Rikon Y peeler so that we can peel citrus fruit without muss or fuss. We also like its cute, pithy design.

Lemon is the traditional garnish for the Vieux Carré cocktail. Instead of creating a lemon twist, we simply peel a lemon slice with a Y peeler.

Click here to buy a Kuhn-Rikon Y peeler if you don’t have a peeler or want a cheap and cheerful upgrade.

Expressing Lemon on Vieux Carre Glass
Expressing lemon peel is a little step that goes a long way.

The final step is to express the lemon peel by rubbing it along the rim of the glass before gently dropping it into the glass.

Vieux Carré Alternatives

Vieux Carre with Pink Background
We won’t hold it against you if you don’t love the Vieux Carré as much as we do.

Once you craft a Vieux Carré, it’s unlikely that you’ll need any alternatives. However, there may be times when you’re missing an ingredient or two. Here are some ideas for that scenario:

  • Craft a La Louisiane with rye, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters and a maraschino cherry.
  • Craft a Manhattan with rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters and a maraschino cherry.
  • Craft an Old Fashioned with rye, Angostura bitters, water and a sugar cube.
  • Craft a Sazerac with rye, absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters and a sugar cube.

Vieux Carré Recipe

Vieux Carre with white Background

Vieux Carré

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The Vieux Carré is a New Orleans classic that will warm you from the inside out. Follow our easy recipe and craft the sophisticated sipper at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce cognac
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Bénédictine
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • 1 large ice cube
  • small ice cubes
  • lemon peel

Instructions

    1. Measure the rye, cognac, sweet vermouth and Bénédictine and pour each into a mixing glass.
    2. Add 2 dashes each of the Angostura and Peychaud's bitters into the mixing glass.
    3. Add small ice cubes and stir until the liquids are mixed and chilled - approximately 20 seconds.
    4. Drop a large ice cube into a lowball glass.
    5. Strain the liquid into the glass.
    6. Express the glass with lemon peel before adding it as garnish.

Notes

You can garnish with a cherry instead of, or in addition to, the lemon peel.

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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