Fizzing it Like Ramos

March 7, 2012

Confession: I like creamy cocktails. They seem to have a terribly bad rep these days amongst cocktail geeks, and I can understand that. My first cocktail evenings were spent drinking cheap and nasty fuzzy ducks and the like at student watering holes in the early 90s. This kind of sweet, cheap and garish fare is exactly what the current classic cocktail movement is rebelling against. Even semi-classics I enjoy like the Brandy Alexander and the Grasshopper don’t get much love. But that very fact perhaps contributes to a nostalgic enjoyment on my behalf.

However, there is one creamy drink which has incredible credentials from the school of cocktail hip – The Ramos Gin Fizz.

Not only is it old and linked to obligatory anecdotes, it’s also takes a hell of a lot of effort to make. (And it’s not really all that creamy).

Henry C. Ramos

Henry C. Ramos started serving up his invention, ‘The New Orleans Fizz’, which was soon to bear his name, back in 1888, where it was an instant hit in its hometown and rapidly spread in popularity throughout the US.

The Ramos (actually pronounced RAY-moss) requires an awful lot of shaking, but labour was cheap, so Henry hired a ‘shaker boy’ for every bartender to speed things along. He later streamlined this process by instituting whole lines of shaker boys. When a bartender finished preparing the ingredients he’d pass it to the top of the line where the first boy would shake until his arms were tired and pass it along. Apparently on Mardi Gras 1915 the bar employed a line of 35 shaker boys working continuously and it still wasn’t enough.

Gin Fizzes for all!!!

One of the more colorful devotees of the Ramos Gin Fizz was Huey Long, Governor of Louisiana and a rival of Roosevelt – from the left. He loved his fizzes so much that when he went up to Washington and discovered none of the bartenders there knew how to make one properly, he had his own guy flown up to teach the locals. It is even said that the New Orleans Airline Highway ends at the back door of what was then the Roosevelt Hotel so that when driving down from Baton Rouge, Huey could get to his drink as quickly as possible. If this all seems a bit ostentatious for a lefty, his slogan was ‘Every Man a King’. Ah, a socialist paradise where everyone was wealthy enough to have Ramos Gin Fizzes made for them every day (except for the shaker boys, I suppose).

On to the drink:

Ramos Gin Fizz

1 1/2 oz gin

1/2 oz lemon juice

1/2 oz lime juice

1 oz simple syrup

2 oz heavy cream

1 egg white

2-3 drops of orange flower water

2 drops of vanilla essence


Shake all the ingredients for several minutes. Add ice and shake for minutes more. Strain into a highball glass. Top with a little soda, stirring as you do so.

It really is important to shake this drink a lot. I’ve read from 8 to 12 minutes is standard. Egg white and cream are two ingredients which require good shaking, and when you put them together like this it really causes problems. Hence the shaker boy lines. With egg white, you need to ‘dry shake’ before adding the ice, and you need to keep the lid on really tight as there’ll be a lot of pressure and it will explode everywhere if you let go (it happened). I tried to shake this for 4 minutes before and after adding ice. Seemed to work.

For the gin, I used Old Tom the first time I tried, and it worked great. The second time I tried Tanqueray and upped the dose to 2 ounces. It was much less pleasant. If you try a London dry, don’t be tempted to make it strong, and you may even want to add a little more sugar. Otherwise use Plymouth or something without too strong a juniper taste.

The vanilla essence wasn’t in the original recipe that Ramos released after a couple of decades secrecy, but it has been claimed that he kept this as one little secret ingredient to give his fizzes a slight edge.

I like this drink a lot. Perversely I like all the work that goes in to it. I like that I had to go to New Zealand to buy the orange flower water for just this one drink. I like that it’s creamy and that it foams, yet is still stylish and classic. I like the play between the citrus, gin and cream. If it wasn’t for the colossal effort that goes into making them, I could quickly knock back way more of these than is good for me. Lucky I don’t have 35 shaker boys at my bidding.


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