If you're looking for the right way to finish off the evening, try the classic but lesser-known Vieux Carré.
What makes the perfect nightcap? To kick off an evening, you might look to an aperitif: a drink that’s light and dynamic, perhaps a bit bitter. Certainly nothing too aggressive.
But a nightcap is a different beast. The last drink of the evening? It’s allowed be a powerful one. It’s a drink to sip slowly — after all, its very purpose is to prolong the night. It could be a fine Scotch single-malt or a long-aged rum; a sherry, a port.
Or, it could be a robust cocktail: Sophisticated, complex, and worth lingering over.
“The Vieux Carré is named after the French Quarter in New Orleans,” says McCoy, “and was made by Walter Bergeron, head bartender of the Hotel Monteleone” — one of the city’s true classic establishments. Though invented back in 1938, the drink remains beloved by many a bartender.
Not too many classic cocktails have a split base, which is to say, two different spirits in the same drink. The magic of a well-made Vieux Carré is how smooth Cognac and spicy rye, the two starring ingredients, integrate and balance each other out.
According to McCoy, the complexity of the drink requires caution; be discerning. “I’m picky about where I order it,” he admits. “It’s a drink that when made well, is truly beautiful, but if not, can be overkill.”
A well-made Vieux Carré is a cerebral sort of drink. It shows off its layers — the spirits intertwining with herbal vermouth and Bénédictine, as well as two distinct bitters — and thus rewards sipping, like any great nightcap should.
“It’s traditionally served over ice in a rocks glass,” says McCoy, “but I like it served up with a lemon twist.”
Either one, a worthy nightcap.
Kenny McCoy’s Vieux Carré
1 ounce Old Overholt Rye
1 ounce Dudognon 5yr Cognac
1 ounce Dolin Sweet Vermouth
1 bar spoon Bénédictine
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.