The Classic Ramos Fizz & A Defense of Eggs
Hello there drinkers! Today I want to talk about a classic and very famous cocktail that has all but disappeared from modern bar menus: The Ramos Gin Fizz. This will be part one of a three part post about this drink. Today, we will learn about the history of the drink, provide the classic recipe, and defend an oft maligned cocktail ingredient. Check back tomorrow for tips, tricks, and troubleshooting, and on Thursday for several of my favorite variations!
A Brief History
The Ramos Gin Fizz was invented by Henry C. Ramos in 1888 at his New Orleans bar, The Imperial Cabinet Saloon. To make a Ramos Fizz, you mix Gin, cream, lemon juice, lime juice, gomme/gum syrup, an egg white, and orange flower water, and shake hard for an absurd 12 minutes, before pouring it over soda water. The result is a light, bright drink with a texture like no other. At the height of this drink’s popularity, Henry Ramos would sometimes have over 20 "shaker boys," behind the bar, just to shake up his "New Orleans" Fizz's for eagerly awaiting guests. It is said that even with all this dedicated staff, Ramos still had trouble keeping up with demand. His fizz was simply too labor intensive, and overall time consuming for a busy bar to handle. For these reasons, outside of a few historic hotel bars in New Orleans, you will be hard pressed to find a Ramos Fizz on a bar menu. Also, if you ever want to ruin a bartender’s night, order a Ramos Fizz just before closing time. All jokes aside, this cocktail, done right, is transcendent. It is indicative of its era, when people were still willing to wait for something to be made well. It's a drink that says, "If you can't wait 15 minutes, you don't deserve me," and there's something I kind of like about that.
The Classic Recipe Ramos Fizz
2 oz NVD Old Hollywood Ginn
1 oz heavy cream
1 oz gum syrup (Small Hands Foods or Liber & Co) or simple syrup (Sonoma Syrup Co)
.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 egg white**
3 dashes (18-24 drops) orange flower water (Fee Brothers)
1 drop vanilla extract (De La Rosa) *this is under some debate by New Orleans bartenders, but I like it*
1-2 oz soda water
Add first seven ingredients to a dry cocktail shaker, and shake hard for one minute. Add half a cup of ice, and continue shaking at least 3 minutes, or up to the original 12 (you might need to grab some friends for shaker relay). Strain into a Collins glass, and top with soda. Finish with a gentle stir and the single drop of vanilla. Garnish with a lime twist. Makes one 12-14 oz cocktail.
In Defense of Eggs**
Eggs do amazing things to cocktails. However, for the majority of the public, the idea of putting raw egg into their beverage is nauseating at best, and could even be dangerous! Right? Wrong. A thousand times wrong. First let me debunk the health concerns. Yes, uncooked eggs, in very rare instances, can transfer salmonella. How this works is salmonella from the chicken coop gets onto the outside of the egg. When you take that egg and crack it, the inside of the egg comes into contact with the outside, possibly transferring the salmonella to your egg white. Because that egg white doesn't get cooked, you could get sick. But you could have gotten just as sick by licking the shell. So, all you have to do to eliminate the chance of getting sick from raw eggs, is quickly rinse the shell with warm water before cracking.
But won't it make my drink all slimy, you ask? Absolutely not. In fact, raw eggs don't have a whole lot of flavor, so the only real reason to put them in a drink is to change and improve the texture. Not to make it slimy. That would be awful. Egg whites and egg yolks do different things to cocktails, just like in cooking or baking. Some drinks will call just for the egg white, some others just for the yolk, and others still for the whole egg. Egg white proteins like to stick to each other. So when you shake them or whip them up, they create a lattice, like a net, that traps air bubbles. This is what makes a soufflé rise, and those peaks on your meringue stiff. In fact, for an egg white cocktail, you are basically making a soft meringue in your shaker. The proteins in the egg yolk don't like to stick to each other. They like to spread out and emulsify into the drink. So adding an egg yolk will give your drink a silky, rich, heaver texture, akin to adding gum syrup. Adding the whole egg will, you guessed it, do a bit of both. You will get more body in the base of your drink, as well as a light foam on top.
If this little manifesto for eggs seems unwarranted, let me say this. The majority of professional bars now use dehydrated egg white powder in their cocktails, solely because of negative reactions from customers to seeing fresh eggs cracked behind a bar. Egg white powder can clump, is much more expensive, and can alter the proportions of classic cocktails. Love the egg, the real egg, and it will love you back.
Good luck and happy shaking! If you run into any troubles making this notoriously finicky cocktail, check back tomorrow for Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting. Until then...
Your ever humble "shakerboy"
*Napa Valley Distillery always recommends drinking responsibly.
**Napa Valley Distillery suggests using caution when consuming raw eggs due to the slight risk of food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend that you use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.
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