Literally meaning “old square,”vieux carré is the French term for the French Quarter, the oldest part of New Orleans. But the cocktail of the same name is a comparative youngster in the mixological world: It was created in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, head bartender at the Hotel Monteleone, a Royal Street institution since 1886. The drink actually predates the hotel’s famed rotating Carousel Bar, which was installed in 1946. The Vieux Carré is sort of a New Orleanian twist on the Manhattan, combining rye whiskey and cognac for the base, and Peychaud’s and Angostura for the bitters. It also calls for Benedictine, a complex herbal liqueur supposedly based on a 16th-century recipe from a French monastery. And the Vieux Carré is one of the few New Orleans-born classic cocktails that you can still order where it was created.
The recipe below comes from the Monteleone’s current food and beverage manager, Austin Doiron. It’s just the way Bergeron made it, but Doiron recommends two more modern spirits: Sazerac Rye, a whiskey distilled by Buffalo Trace in Kentucky and named for another classic New Orleans cocktail; and Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac, a brandy created to taste like the favorites of the 19th century with the help of eminent drinks historian David Wondrich.