Anatomy of a Classic Cocktail: The Ramos Gin Fizz
The New Orleans invention rewards a grueling arm workout with a light, frothy dream of a drink
There’s a gin fizz and then there’s the Ramos Gin Fizz, a famous cocktail of the Big Easy.
The early “gin fiz” (only one “z,” according to the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas’s “Bartenders Guide”) called for one teaspoon powdered white sugar, three dashes lemon juice, one wine glass of Holland gin (genever), and a small piece of ice, shaken and served in a medium bar glass and topped with seltzer or sparkling mineral water for the fizzy part.
The Ramos Gin Fizz, on the other hand, is a riff on the original, created by bar owner Henry C. Ramos at his Imperial Cabinet Saloon in New Orleans in 1888.
A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
Ramos brought in more ingredients, such as egg white and cream, and required some pretty ample shaking, both for raising an eggy foam on top and preventing the cream from curdling in the citrus juices. Ramos was said to have employed 20 shaker boys who spent a requisite 12 minutes at their task.
Louisiana’s legendary populist Gov. Huey Long used to actually travel with someone designated to personally shake his gin fizzes. Stop in at the bar at New Orleans’s Southern Food and Beverage Museum and you can see a mechanical crank-and-shake device just for this purpose—built for the fun of it and based on a design from the early 20th century. The point is, this isn’t just a 20-second chilling shake!
The original recipe was kept secret, and Prohibition surely didn’t help anyone remember. But after the return of legal drinking, the Hotel Roosevelt acquired the rights to the drink’s name from Ramos’s son, and it remains a signature drink there.
A Note on Egg Whites
I use them all the time, daringly. Food safety experts will tell you that there’s a risk with any raw eggs. Options, for those more cautious than I, are buying pasteurized eggs or pasteurizing them yourself with a sous vide method. But egg whites in cocktails provide not only a lovely froth, but also a silkier mouthfeel. They also soften the acidic bite of citrus.
Ramos Gin Fizz
- 2 ounces Old Tom or London dry gin
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 3 drops orange flower water
- 1 ounce cream
- 1 egg white
- 2 drops vanilla extract (optional)
- 2 ounces club soda
Add all ingredients except for the soda to a cocktail shaker.
Shake without ice until your arms fall off (or at least two to three minutes). Add ice and shake more until well chilled.
Strain into a Collins glass, adding the soda at the same time. Garnish with an orange slice.