The Elle Rio Cocktail Is Full of Surprises

A New Orleans cocktail tastes like whiskey, but the starring spirit is…

Photo: Denny Culbert

Cachaça, distilled from sugarcane juice, is Brazil’s most popular spirit. It’s also a go-to for the cocktail maestro Neal Bodenheimer of the bar Cure in New Orleans. “This is one of my favorite cocktails, period,” writes Bodenheimer in his new cocktail recipe book, Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’Em from The Award-Winning Bar. “It kind of splits the difference between an Old-Fashioned and a lowish-proof Manhattan, with rich cinnamon notes and nuttiness from the sherry, then bitter amaro to snap it all together.” “Ryan [Gannon, the former head bartender] and I debated whether we should reveal the true inspiration for the name of this cocktail,” Bodenheimer writes. “But I decided the truth should prevail: Elle Rio is the name of a notable Brazilian adult-film star from the 1980s. And since cachaça, a sugarcane-based rum, is the iconic spirit of Brazil, Ryan felt like the name was an apt tribute. When I asked him the backstory of this drink, he laughed and told me that he basically created it to try to lure whiskey drinkers and get them to diversify their palates a bit. His ploy worked: So many people would order two or three of this drink, rave about how much they loved the ‘whiskey,’ and then find out afterward that they were actually drinking cachaça.” Fittingly, Cure serves plenty of these during October’s Old Fashioned Week.


  • Ingredients (Yield: 1 cocktail)

    • 1 oz. Avuá Amburana cachaça

    • 1 oz. Barbadillo oloroso sherry

    • ¼ oz. Varnelli Sibilla amaro

    • 1 tsp. Dubois Petite Canne sugarcane syrup

    • 7 drops Bittermens orange cream citrate

    • Orange peel, for garnish


  1. Combine all the ingredients except the garnish in a mixing glass filled with ice, and stir to chill.

  2. Strain into a chilled double old-fashioned glass filled with ice, garnish with the orange peel, and serve.

Recipe excerpted from Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’Em from The Award-Winning Bar, by Neal Bodenheimer and Emily Timberlake.