Vieux Carré

Channel the decadence and debauchery of Prohibition-era New Orleans with a classic Vieux Carré recipe from Neal Bodenheimer.

Vieux Carre

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Sean Flynn

1 drink

Stanley Clisby Arthur's 1937 Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em attributes the Vieux Carré cocktail to Walter Bergeron, head bartender at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. Bergeron is said to have invented the drink in the mid 1930s, but you can still grab a perfectly made Vieux Carré today at the very bar it was invented, the Carousel Bar & Lounge (which features a circular bar that revolves like a carousel), tucked inside the Hotel Monteleone.

For those who can't make it to New Orleans anytime soon, this recipe from award-winning bartender and partner of New Orleans cocktail bars Cure and Cane & Table, Neal Bodenheimer, is the second-best thing. A true historian of the city's cocktail culture, Bodenheimer is also the author of Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Make 'Em, a book that chronicles the past, present, and future of New Orleans' rich cocktail history that also includes an interesting theory about the colorful history of the Vieux Carré.

Bodenheimer surmises that Bergeron may have invented the drink during prohibition while he was managing a “cigar shop,” which may have been a front for the illegal sale of alcohol. Bodenheimer wonders if the 1924 raid of Bergeron’s shop and his subsequent arrest gambling-related crimes could have been for more than just that: “It’s hard not to believe that he was slinging illegal hooch — Vieux Carrés, maybe? — in addition to cigars." Bodenheimer adds that New Orleans was called the ‘wettest city in America’ during Prohibition, so maybe Bergeron was "lucky," and his arresting officer was a Vieux Carré fan willing to turn a blind eye.

Bodenheimer’s theory has one validating factor: the Vieux Carré is a seriously delicious cocktail and it’s easy to believe that Bergeon’s arresting officer could have been a massive fan. The cocktail features a mix of rye whiskey, rich, sweet vermouth, herbaceous Benedictine liqueur, cognac, and a blend of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters. The result is a smooth, slightly sweet cocktail that demonstrates remarkable herbal depth from the unique combination of liqueur and bitters. Served in an old fashioned glass and garnished with a lemon twist (you'll notice we got a little creative with ours), the warming cocktail wafts gorgeous fragrance as you lift to drink it. Whether you’re making a Vieux Carré at home or enjoying one at the Carousel Bar, enjoy a few sips of history. 


Vieux Carré Recipe


  1. Build the drink in a chilled, double old fashioned glass over one large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon peel and serve.

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