Invented in the 1880s in New Orleans, the Ramos Gin Fizz is an ideal brunch drink (not to mention an excellent hangover cure). A rich mix of gin, cream, a bit of citrus, and an egg white gets shaken long and hard—twelve minutes in the original recipe—yeiling a light, frothy texture. All that shaking makes it the classic cocktail many bartenders love to hate: The drink’s creator, barman Henry C. Ramos, famously employed dozens of “shaker boys” to help handle the agitation.
When the Brennans, the family behind Commander’s Palace and more than a dozen other New Orleans restaurants, opened their eponymous Houston spot way back in 1967, the Ramos naturally appeared on the menu. But over the years, the Brennan’s of Houston recipe has morphed into its own Texas-centric version. The Lone Star secret? A half-ounce of orange liqueur, giving the drink a different citrus punch than the lemon- and lime-heavier original.
“I know this will come as a shock to all who read this, but Texans have a flair for the bold,” laughs Richard Middleton, who’s been running the bar at Brennan’s for nearly a decade. “The additional orange liqueur adds a fresh vibrancy to the Ramos that suits Houstonians like a comfortable pair of boots.” In fact, when Brennan’s of Houston reopened in 2010 after eighteen months of repairs from a kitchen fire, Middleton attempted to put the NOLA Ramos recipe on the menu. But, he says, “our faithful guests immediately cried foul,” and so he went right back to the Texas version.
Middleton suggests using a citrus-forward gin for this recipe and prefers American-made brands, recommending the easy-to-find New Amsterdam, the Philadelphia-made Bluecoat, the citrus-and-cucumber-based Uncle Val’s, or local favorite Dripping Springs, which is distilled just outside Austin. He also recommends using the freshest eggs you can find—their whites froth up more easily. And whatever you do, don’t skip the orange flower water. Only a dash of this floral elixir, which you can find at most specialty grocers and Middle Eastern markets, is needed, but it gives the drink an unmistakable note. “If you cannot find the orange flower water,” Middleton says, “don’t make a Ramos Gin Fizz!”