History: It must have been a slow day at New Orleans’s Imperial Cabinet Saloon in 1888 when owner Henry Charles Ramos dreamed up this classic, indulgent drink. How else would he have had the mental space and literal elbow room to combine gin, juice, cream, and egg whites, and then shake the thing for twelve minutes until it poured forth in its creamy, frothy glory? Any downtime was soon a memory, as the Gin Fizz was such a hit with cocktail-craving New Orleanians that Ramos had to line up twenty “shaker boys” just to keep up with demand (thirty-five during Mardi Gras). Ironically, Ramos despised drunkenness and served his last Fizz without qualm in 1919 as Prohibition approached. Luckily, he revealed his secret recipe to the New Orleans Item-Tribune before his death, and after Prohibition’s repeal the nearby Roosevelt Hotel resurrected the drink’s popularity. Indeed, Governor Huey P. Long was such a fan that he even dragged bartender Sam Guarino with him on trips so that he wouldn’t have to go without his favorite pick-me-up.
Nearly a century later, the Gin Fizz, with its zingy blend of citrus and dairy, and signature fluffy cap, remains a special occasion-worthy cocktail—even if the special occasion is just a long, lazy brunch. “I can’t think of anything else quite like its masterful combination of ingredients and technique,” says Ti Martin, owner of Commander’s Palace and contributor to the Museum of the American Cocktail. “Done right, it’s exquisite, like tangy liquid meringue with a gin hit.”
Mixologist Tip: Okay, a full twelve-minute shake isn’t mandatory. A couple of minutes will do, but still wrap a towel around the shaker so that your hand doesn’t suffer frostbite.
Variations: A Texas spin subs orange liqueur for the lemon and lime juices. And some mixologists believe in adding a couple of drops of vanilla extract.