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The Vieux Carre cocktail is a 1930’s classic from New Orleans! It’s strong and sippable, featuring rye whiskey, Cognac and vermouth.

Vieux Carre
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If you love a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, it’s safe to say you’ll love this drink too: the Vieux Carre! This unique classic cocktail comes from New Orleans: the name means “Old Square” in French, which refers to the French Quarter. It’s strong and alcohol forward, made with not one but two types of bitters. The complex flavor is ideal for whiskey lovers who love to relax with a slow sipper in hand. Here’s how to make it!

What’s a Vieux Carre?

The Vieux Carré cocktail comes from the 1930’s: it was created in the New Orleans’ Hotel Monteleone by a bartender named Walter Bergeron. He named it after the French Quarter, called Vieux Carre (French for “Old Square”). The drink was first printed in a cocktail book in 1937. It’s essentially a fancy Manhattan: starring rye whiskey and vermouth like the standard drink, but adding quite a bit of extras.

How to pronounce Vieux Carre? VOO care-A. This drink is actually a classic cocktail on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning there’s an “official” definition. The ingredients in a Vieux Carre are:

  • Rye whiskey
  • Cognac
  • Sweet red vermouth
  • Benedictine
  • Peychaud bitters
  • Angostura bitters

Another classic New Orleans cocktail? Try Milk Punch.

Vieux carre

More about vermouth

Vermouth is a fortified wine: a wine with liquor added to stabilize it. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet (usually red) and dry (usually white). Sweet vermouth is subtly sweet and spicy, with a hit of bitter on the back end.

You can drink sweet vermouth in cocktails, or even on the rocks as an aperitif. Store vermouth in the refrigerator, where it will stay good for up to 3 months. Here are all our favorite Vermouth Cocktails to use up a bottle!

All about Cognac

Cognac is a type of French brandy, a liquor made from distilling wine. It teams up with the sweet vermouth to battle against the spicy rye whiskey in the Vieux Carre. There are several grades of Cognac that shows how long it’s been aged:

  • VS or 3 stars (2 years)
  • VSOP (4 years)
  • Napoléon (6 years)
  • XO (10 years)

Bottles of XO can be upwards of $200! No need to go that high-end, of course. For the French Connection cocktail, you can use a mid-priced VS or VSOP Cognac. Other drinks that use Cognac? Try the tangy Classic Sidecar, the simple Stinger or French Connection, or boozy Between the Sheets.

Vieux carre cocktail

What is Benedictine?

Benedictine is an herbal liqueur made in France. It’s made with 27 different herbs, flowers, berries and spices, and was invented in the mid 1800’s. It’s sweetened with honey, and the flavor is lightly sweet and spiced. Benedictine is not used in many classic cocktails outside of the Singapore Sling, so we recommend it for the adventurous home bartender! Even so, it should be fairly easy to find at your local liquor store to make a Vieux Carre.

Peychaud bitters vs Angostura bitters

To finish off the Vieux Carre, you’ll use not one but two types of bitters! Using the two types brings even more complexity to this intense drink. Here’s a little breakdown:

  • Angostura bitters: The most common of all bitters! You’ll find a few shakes of this type of bitters in lots of classic cocktails, like the Classic Old Fashioned, Pisco Sour, and Champagne Cocktail. The flavor? It’s bitter with a hint of spice (think clove and cinnamon).
  • Peychaud bitters: These bitters are a little less common, most popularly known for inclusion in the Sazerac cocktail. The flavor is a little sweeter than Angostura, with hints of anise and mint.
Vieux Carre

How to make a Vieux Carre

Phew! Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, the easy part is making the Vieux Carre cocktail! This three ingredient cocktail takes only 5 minutes to make. Here are the main steps:

  • Stir together all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass. Why not a shaker like most cocktails? Well, shaking in a cocktail shaker dilutes the drink because of the ice, and since this is all alcohol you don’t want too diluted.
  • Don’t have one? You can definitely use any glass or container you like to mix the drink, then strain it into the serving glass. But if you want to look like someone who knows their cocktails, grab yourself a cocktail mixing glass. (Plus, it just looks cool.)

There are plenty of other famous drinks associated with New Orleans: a few of which are close relatives of the Vieux Carre! Here are a few New Orleans cocktails you should try:

  • Sazerac This drink is the official New Orleans cocktail, according to a decision by the Louisiana Legislature in 2008! It’s got rye whiskey, Cognac, and Peychaud’s bitters just like the Vieux Carre — but it also adds absinthe.
  • La Louisiane An improvement on the Sazerac (we think)! This one is even closer to the Vieux Carre, featuring rye, Cognac, sweet vermouth, and Peychaud’s bitters. But it’s got a different mix of proportions and adds absinthe for good measure.

When to serve a Vieux Carre cocktail

The Vieux Carre is a sophisticated and complex whiskey cocktail. It’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Vieux Carre

Vieux Carre Cocktail


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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x

Description

The Vieux Carre cocktail is a 1930’s classic from New Orleans! It’s strong and sippable, featuring rye whiskey, Cognac and vermouth.


Ingredients

Scale
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) rye whiskey
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) Cognac
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) sweet vermouth
  • ½ teaspoon Benedictine
  • 1 dash Peychaud bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Ice, for serving (try clear ice!)
  • For the garnish: Luxardo cherry or cocktail cherry

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds until very cold.
  2. Add ice to a lowball glass and strain in the drink. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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5 Comments

  1. Chef Michael Capuano says:

    Outstanding simplified history and recipe for a Vieux Carre. Bravo. Nice work.






  2. Frederick says:

    It’s Cajun French

  3. illuminaut says:

    VOO care-A, really? That’s only how you pronounce it if you’re an American who’s never learned a lick of French. Sad.

    1. Joanne says:

      Well, since “vieux” means “old” and not “french”, I’m not surprised.

    2. Chef Mikey Capuano says:

      illumi-NOT,

      An illumined person, a member of the illuminati, if you will, spends their time helping to guide, uplift, and educate others; not troll the internet posting adolescent or sophmorphic comments like that unnecessary blurb you are wasting precious real estate with above.

      It may be better stated phonetically by vyur kaa RAY; however, Vu or Voo is acceptable for an American as most Americans pronouce it Veux (voh).

      You did nothing to forward this conversation, nor compliment or critique the recipe. You made a snide remark like a child from behind an avatar, and I find that kind of behavior from someone referring to themself as ‘Illumined’ reprehensible.

      Warmly, and with all my best,
      Michael Capuano, F.R.C. XIIº, S::I::I::, M∴M∴