I’ve been gearing up for this pairing for a few weeks, and like a few others which have gone around these pages, this one puts a new spin on things once again. We will reach for the golden ring as we sit astride a painted pony. The fairground carousel has an interesting origin story, having derived from training exercises of Turkish and Arabian horsemen of the twelfth century. In the middle ages jousters would ride in circles practicing while tossing balls to one another. This tradition evolved into entertainment incorporate cavalry riders spearing tiny rings on tall poles. At the end of the eighteenth century amusement park carousels emerged and a menagerie of wild animals was soon added to the pretty horses.
If you don’t feel dizzy enough already, you will soon enough. We head to storied New Orleans next, to the Hotel Monteleone where we will toast the “Old Square” in the historic French Quarter. Inside the Monteleone we find the famous “Carousel Bar”, which is literally a rotating carousel. Each of the twenty five seats at the bar make a complete revolution once every fifteen minutes. While that may sound lovely and charming, try it while actually having a drink or two … The bar is also famous for being the birthplace of one of New Orleans’ most iconic cocktails, the Vieux Carre (Old Square). Local lore has it that in 1938, head bartender Walter Bergeron created the drink as a tribute to the multicultural flavor of his city. He added Cognac and Benedictine for the French, Rye whiskey for the Americans, sweet vermouth for the Italians, and spiced Angostura bitters for the Caribbean influence. Of course there’s a drop of Peychaud’s bitters too, to set it uniquely in the French Quarter. The Vieux Carre is a boozy delight and has stood the test of time as a true classic. Next time you are in New Orleans, stop at the Carousel Bar to have one – and hold on tight as you toast this tradition.
And the seasons they go round and round And the painted ponies go up and down We're captive on the carousel of time We can't return we can only look behind From where we came And go round and round and round In the circle game
- -Joni Mitchell
Vieux Carre c. 1938
3/4 oz. rye whiskey
3/4 oz. Cognac
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1 barspoon Bénédictine
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Lemon peel garnish is traditional.
For more about the dizzying, delightful Carousel Box see:
Boxes and Booze: Roundabout View