Mixology Monday: Revisiting the Ramos Gin Fizz, Pisco Sour, and other Frothy Concoctions

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This month’s Mixology Monday sees me without ready access to a bar to mix a drink.  On well, I’m going to go ahead and post something anyway.  The theme this month is New Orleans cocktails, so I thought I could post a couple of tips related to making drinks containing egg white, with particular reference to that venerable old New Orleans drink – the Ramos Gin Fizz.

I had made it something of a mission to get a decent Ramos Gin Fizz while in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail.  What I really wanted was a Ramos Gin Fizz made by Chris McMillan (check out a video of him mixing one here).  Before leaving for New Orleans I rang the bar he now works at (in the Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel) and was told by that the great man would be behind the bar on the Friday and Saturday during Tales of the Cocktail from 4pm onwards.  I dropped past the hotel late on Friday afternoon.  The bar was deserted.  There was no queue out onto the street for Ramos Gin Fizzes.  The lobby was not filled with a couple of dozen drinks bloggers, passing a shaker or two around as they shook a couple of fizzes up.  I had lucked out!  Then I got a little closer and realized Chris McMillan was nowhere to be seen.  On asking if he was around I found he was not going to be back at work until the 25th.  Alas it was not to be.

Although the Chris McMillan Ramos Gin Fizz never happened, after the session on New Orleans Drinks I got the chance to ask Chris where I would get a Ramos Gin Fizz in New Orleans given that he wasn’t working his own bar that week.  He told me not to even try at his own bar unless he was there – which made me feel better about slinking out on the poor young guy tending bar there.  Chris suggested The Swizzle Stick Bar at Cafe Adelaide.  I graciously thanked Mr. McMillan before thrusting him out of my way and rushing to Cafe Adelaide.

Once again, it was not to be.  On a better day Chris McMillan’s suggestion may have been a good one.  I should have done well given that I believe my drink was mixed up by Lu Brow – the ‘bar chef’ at Cafe Adelaide.  Unfortunately I have little  good to say about the Ramos Gin Fizz I drank at Cafe Adelaide.  OK, I guess the ingredients and proportions were about right.  Unfortunately the execution was abysmal.  I shake a Daiquiri longer than Lu Brow shook this Ramos Gin Fizz.  I wasn’t expecting the bar to lower its shutters for quarter of an hour while everybody in the room took turns shaking my drink.  Indeed I was half expecting to be tossed out into the street for daring to ask for a Ramos Gin Fizz.  However, given that the place was as near empty as I saw it during Tales of the Cocktail, a shake lasting longer than 15 seconds would have been nice.  The drink tasted OK, but it was rather diluted (the crushed ice they seem to favor for all drinks in The Swizzle Stick Bar is not always the way to go), and texturally it was way off.  That said, at least I was able to go into a bar and order a Ramos Gin Fizz without throwing the barstaff into a fit of confusion.  You couldn’t do that in most places.

The Swizzle Stick Bar Ramos Gin Fizz was a sorry contrast to the exceptionally frothy Pisco Sour I enjoyed in The Alembic in San Francisco.  The Alembic pisco sour was probably the stand out drink from my U.S. trip.  The difference between the two drinks was the level of care taken with the execution.

So where am I going with all this?

I thought for this Mixology Monday I would throw a couple of Ramos Gin Fizz making tips out there.  I have not tried the third of these myself, since it is something I learned from a bartender/blogger while attending Tales.  I’ve now forgotten who told me this, so give a shout if you happen to be reading.  I haven’t tried the fourth either, but professional bartenders seem to like it.

Tip number 1 – Dry shake the mixture before adding any ice.  This shouldn’t need to be said, but many people skip this essential step.

Tip number 2 -Add the coil from your Hawthorne Strainer to the shaker while dry shaking (removing it when you add the ice).  The coil will act like a whisk and aerate the egg faster than if you shook without the coil in there.  So far as I know this technique is not traditional.  I have never seen it in a recipe.  However, my experiments have found it to work well.  The pisco sour at The Alembic was made this way.  The Alembic was the first bar where I have seen a dry shake done this way.  Congratulations to the Alembic for taking that extra little bit of trouble.

Tip number 3 – Add the sugar after your dry shake.  The theory behind this is that sugar acts as a stabilizer for existing foam, but actually inhibits foam formation.  I have not experimented with this yet.  However, I was surprised a few weeks back when a batch of pisco sours I made up turned out to have an exceptionally good foam.  Being a batch drink I got a little confused with the proportions and undersweetened to begin with, adjusting the sweetness later.  Perhaps the batch of drinks turned out well because I added about half of the sugar at the end.  While a Ramos Gin Fizz is not a Pisco Sour, I think you want both drinks to be as foamy as possible.  Therefore I suggest trying this technique.

Tip number 4 – You could always cheat and use one of those little battery operated blending sticks, which are small enough to fit into a cocktail shaker.  These seem popular in bars.  The Barsol Pisco brand rep thought they did a good job, as did numerous other people I spoke with.  I don’t have one but will pick one up at some stage.

The Ramos Gin Fizz recipe I use these days is below.  Some recipes leave out the lime, but I think the mix of lemon and lime is essential to the flavor.  I also like the vanilla essence, even if it may not be traditional.

2 oz gin

1/2 oz of lime juice

1/2 oz of lemon juice

1 egg white

2 oz cream

several drops of orange flower water (more if using the weak tasting middle eastern stuff)

a drop or two of vanilla essence

1 tsp sugar (add this after the dry shake)

A spash of soda water

Dry shake everything except the sugar and soda for at least a minute.  Add the sugar and give it another long shake over ice to chill and dilute a little. Strain into a fizz glass (or an undersized Collins glass) and top with soda, stirring as you do so to build a frothy head that rises above the glass and begins to run down the sides.  Watch the video above to see what I mean.  In fact why am I even bothering with a recipe here?  Just watch the video.

I did not attend the session on eggs in drinks at Tales of the Cocktail.  Does anyone who attended have more tips on getting better results out of drinks containing egg white?

2 Responses to “Mixology Monday: Revisiting the Ramos Gin Fizz, Pisco Sour, and other Frothy Concoctions”

  1. The Cocktail Chronicles » MxMo New Orleans Wrapup: Two-fisted style Says:

    [...] at Bunnyhugs — also known as the blogger who traveled the greatest distance to come to Tales of the [...]

  2. candy Says:

    I love this blog

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