Vieux Carré - A Cocktail from the French Quarter in New Orleans

By Timo Torner / Last updated on August 29, 2023

Vieux Carré is a creation right out of the old French Quarter in New Orleans. It is a truly delightful mix of cognac and whiskey.
Vieux Carré and bitters

The famous French Quarter of New Orleans is home to many influential cocktails in the history of mixology. One of them is the Vieux Carré Cocktail. The refined recipe is full of flavor and contains cognac, whiskey, sweet vermouth, D.O.M. Bénédictine, and bitters.

Quick Facts Vieux Carre Cocktail

  • Method: stirred
  • Flavor profile: boozy, dry
  • How to serve it: over ice
  • Best glassware: rocks glass
  • Alcohol content: ~ 26.5% ABV, 19 grams of alcohol per serving

The Vieux Carré is a short drink and comparable to the Manhattan cocktail. However, the Vieux Carré is a lot more complex. 

Vieux Carré and bitters

Vieux Carré Cocktail Recipe

A short and boozy drink based on Cognac and Whiskey.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cognac, rye
Servings: 1
Calories: 160kcal
Cost: $3.10

Ingredients

  • 0.75 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 0.75 oz Cognac
  • 0.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 bsp D.O.M. Bénédictine
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 orange peel - for garnish

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients into your mixing glass together with plenty of ice.
    0.75 oz Rye Whiskey, 0.75 oz Cognac, 0.75 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1 bsp D.O.M. Bénédictine, 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters, 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Stir for at least 20 to 25 seconds until all ingredients are well-chilled. This also will get you the right amount of dilution for the ice.
  • Strain over a large, clean ice cube into a rocks glass.
  • Garnish with an orange peel. - Twist and squeeze it gently while holding it over the glass to release essential oils.
    1 orange peel

Nutrition

Serving: 2.75ozCalories: 160kcalCarbohydrates: 6.11gSugar: 6.11g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Recommendations for the Ingredients

For a short drink, the Vieux Carré has a relatively long list of ingredients, making this one of the most sophisticated and ambitious of the vintage cocktail classics: 

  • Rye whiskey: this type of whiskey is more spicy than others and makes for a great base. Sazerac Rye and Wild Turkey 101 are great affordable options, and we love Whistle Pig 10 years in this drink. It's a bit more pricey, though.
  • Cognac: This premium brandy adds beautiful flavors to the drink, and you should invest in quality - however, you don't need to go for too fancy. Hennessy V.S. is our go-to option for the Vieux Carre.
  • Sweet vermouth: the sweet, rich fortified wine brings balance to the mix and a little relief from the other high-proof components. If you don't have a favorite brand, we recommend Antica Formula.
  • D.O.M. Bénédictine: a herbal liqueur from France with a distinct, unique flavor profile. You don't need much of it, but it adds to the taste of the drink. Read below if you wonder if you should get a bottle.
  • Bitters: We like to use a mix of the two classics - Angostura's Aromatic Bitters and Peychaud's. You can also opt for only one of both.

Do you really need Bénédicte for the Vieux Carre?

For an authentic Vieux Carré Cocktail, you do need D.O.M. Benedictine. However, you can replace it with other herbal liqueurs if you don't want to get a bottle.

With only a bar spoon, the question of whether it really makes a difference and if you really have to buy a bottle of this liqueur is understandable and justified. Yet, it does make a difference:

D.O.M. Benedictine is a liqueur made with herbs, spices, citrus, and saffron from Normandy in France. The flavor is extremely complex, and intense. So as little as one bar spoon will alter the overall taste of your drink. 

However, if you want to replace it, Green Chartreuse, Drambuie, and even Jägermeister are among the common substitutes.

How does a Vieux Carré taste?

The Vieux Carré is intense, boozy, and bold. It's sweet, bitter, smooth, and very alcoholic. The drink's base is a blend of Rye and cognac, both of which are able to unfold their aroma. The spicy notes from the whiskey blend amazingly well with the smooth, fruity, floral notes of the premium brandy. 

The rich sweet vermouth combined with the herbaceous notes from D.O.M. Bénédictine brings a broad mix of herbs, spices, and botanicals. To round everything off, two different cocktail bitters add depth of flavor.

If you're familiar with both Manhattan and Sazerac, you can look at the Vieux Carré Cocktail as a mix of these two.

The Vieux Carre Cocktail

What does Vieux Carré mean?

Vieux Carré literally translates to Old Quarter. Vieux means old in French, and Carré quarter or square. It refers to a common nickname for the French Quarter in New Orleans: Old Quarter.

The French Quarter in New Orleans is probably the most famous part of the town. And as the name very much implies, it was under strong French influence. And the cocktail pays a well-deserved tribute to it.

History of the Vieux Carré

It was back in 1938 in the legendary Carousel Bar where Walter Bergeron mixed up the very first version of the Vieux Carré. Located inside Hotel Monteleone, the Carousel Bar was one of the most popular spots in the French Quarter at that time. 

Maybe you noticed that, despite the hotel being in the French Quarter, its name is Italian. This mix of heritages also reflects in the cocktail recipe:

The components of the Vieux Carre are French cognac, French brandy, American Rye whiskey, and sweet Italian vermouth. -A truly brilliant representation of the diverse American society in the early 20th century.

And its simple yet refined classiness is a principal reason why this cocktail is still on many cocktail menus all over the country.

New Orleans is home to many famous cocktails. And the Vieux Carré is certainly one of the more popular ones, but there is more:

Related Cocktail Recipes

Here are some more classic cocktail recipes you should try if you're a fan of the Vieux Carré Cocktail.

Drinks from New Orleans

Many different classic cocktail recipes originated in New Orleans. The most famous creations are 

More Cognac Cocktails

If you like the Vieux Carré and want to try more cocktails based on Cognac, how about:

  •  The Horse's Neck with a Kick? An initially alcohol-free ginger beer drink that, over time, evolved into a gingery Cognac cocktail with an innovative orange peel garnish. 
  • Or if you like something minty, try the Stinger Cocktail. It combines Cognac with Creme de menthe. 
  • Another fabulous option is the French Connection, an elegant mix of Amaretto and Cognac. 

For even more cognac drinks, head over to the overview of our favorite brandy cocktails.

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