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Classic Cocktails with Robert Hess: The Ramos Gin Fizz


Ramos Gin Fizz

Photo by Andy Norsen

As far back as the early 1700s, there has been a strong drinking ethos surrounding New Orleans. In those early days there were simple and straight forward drinks being served. Then in the 1800s various “Coffee Houses” opened up, and it was from these times that the ever classic Sazerac was born. Our modern times however have ushered in the almost frat-house revelries which surround Bourbon Street and the high-octane frozen daiquiri machines which seem to be on each corner. Let us forget that for the moment, and instead look back to a time just prior to American prohibition.

The Ramos Gin Fizz is one New Orleans drink which you may have heard of, but perhaps haven’t had the opportunity to try. It dates from the 1880s, when it was created by Henry C. Ramos, a famed bar owner of the day. He had what might seem to be a unique, and perhaps even contrary position in regards to how he ran his bar. Oddly enough, it is said that he embraced the popular notion of temperance, or drinking only in moderation. A drunkard horrified him, and if one of his customers was known to be drinking too much, he would be asked to stay away from the bar until he was able to get himself under better control. And unlike many bars, Mr. Ramos shut his doors promptly at 8pm so his customers could spend a proper evening at home with their families. While he would also have preferred to remain closed on Sundays, it was only due to his customer’s insistence that he reluctantly ended up opening. His Sunday hours however were for only one hour in the late morning, and one hour in the early evening, any more than that he felt, would be inappropriate. When Prohibition was passed in 1919, like all bars Henry Ramos shut his doors. But unlike many establishments, he refused to even consider a speakeasy or other form of underground operation. Prohibition was the law of the land, and Mr. Ramos would never go against that.

The Ramos Gin Fizz was the drink Henry Ramos, and his bar, was best known for. Because of its believed curative qualities, it was often ordered as a soothing “eye-opener” in the earlier part of the day. Aside from having a luscious flavor profile it’s most notable attribute is the ethereal mouthfeel. The rich-yet-foamy consistency comes from the raw egg white it includes and the robust shaking that turns it almost into a soufflé. Henry would have a series of barmen shake the drink, each passing their shaker to the next as they tired out. It is said it took nearly 12 minutes of very hard shaking to get it right. So you can see how many bartenders might be reluctant to promote this drink on their menus or otherwise recommend it to customers. There are however, easier ways to achieve this result without as much of a workout.

The technique is called the “Dry Shake” which was invented by a bartender by the name of Chad Solomon who was working at the Pegu Club in NYC at the time. The year was 2006 and egg-based drinks were quickly becoming quite the rage at Pegu. You could say that necessity was the mother of invention in this particular instance as Chad had literally broken his back and was looking for a less jolting technique to aerate the numerous orders of egg-based cocktails which required a lengthy shake. The technique consists of first shaking the drink without any ice, but with the spring removed from a hawthorn strainer and put into the shaker to act as an impromptu “whisk”. You shake it this way fairly hard for nearly a minute. Then remove the spring and add some ice, you now shake it some more to give the drink a proper chill, and strain it into the glass. If done properly, you should end up with a fairly thick foam on the top of the drink, which has enough body to stand on its own and lifts out of the glass as it fills up. While this method does make the Ramos Gin Fizz easier to make, it is still more of a process than your typical cocktail, so it is still not advisable to order one when the bar is busy.

Ramos Gin Fizz
• 2 ounces London Dry gin
• 1 ounce cream
• 1 whole egg white
• 1/2 ounce lemon juice
• 1/2 ounce lime juice
• 1 ounce (1-1) Simple Syrup
• 4 drops orange flower water
• 1 ounce soda water

Shake all ingredients, except the soda water, very hard in a shaker with the spring from a hawthorn strainer for about a minute. Then remove the spring and add some ice, shaking it again until well chilled. This should result in a fairly foamy consistency. Strain into a Collins glass and then top with the soda water.


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