Vieux Carré Cocktail

Vieux carre cocktail with ice and garnished with a cherry

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
207 Calories
0g Fat
14g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 207
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 4mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 4mg 0%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 63mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The Vieux Carré (pronounced in the Cajun and Creole style "vyur kaa ray") is a classic cocktail straight from 1930s New Orleans. It is a complex and fascinating drink that is as popular today as it was when it was first created.

The History of the Vieux Carré Cocktail

Walter Bergeron created the Vieux Carré at New Orleans' Hotel Monteleone in the 1930s, naming it after the French phrase meaning "old square" which referred to the French Quarter. The drink remains a specialty of the establishment and sipping one at the Monteleone's spinning Carousel Bar is a memorable experience.

The recipe was first printed in the 1937 edition of "Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em" and it was a big hit in its first years. Though it has never been forgotten, the cocktail did fall out of favor for a number of decades and went into relative obscurity. All of that changed during the recent resurgence of interest in classic cocktails and the revitalization of great rye whiskey. With the skills of bartenders and the availability of fine ingredients, the Vieux Carré is once again on every cocktail enthusiast's list of truly great drinks.

What Ingredients Are in the Vieux Carré?

This cocktail is a short, slow sipper that begins with equal parts of rye whiskey, cognac, and sweet vermouth. Not one, but two bitters are used and there is a hint of a classic herbal liqueur to give it even more dimension. The Vieux Carré is a slightly sweet, spiced, and warming drink with herbal, citrus, and smoky notes. It's similar to a Manhattan but more complex thanks to the cognac, Bénédictine, and two kinds of bitters. It is a truly great cocktail and one of the signature drinks of New Orleans.


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"If you love a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, the Vieux Carré is the next drink to add to your rotation. Essentially a Manhattan with a few additions that make it something entirely its own. There are several ingredients to collect, which make this a tougher drink to execute, but the effort is well worth it." —Tom Macy

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Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for vieux carre cocktail recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  2. Combine the rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, bitters, and Bénédictine in a mixing glass filled with ice.

    Ingredients added to a mixing glass with ice

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  3. Stir well.

    Stirring the mixture with a spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  4. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice.

    Cocktail poured into an old-fashioned glass with ice

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  5. Garnish with a cherry or lemon twist.

    Cocktail garnished with a cherry

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  6. Serve and enjoy.

    Amber-colored vieux carre cocktail with ice and cherries

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

How to Make the Vieux Carré for a Crowd

To make a large batch of Vieux Carré for a party, follow these steps:

  1. Make one Vieux Carré and measure its volume in ounces before and after stirring with ice and straining. The difference between the numbers is the amount of water that is incorporated into the drink.
  2. Multiply each ingredient, including the water, by the number of servings you want to make.
  3. For the bitters, divide the number you got in Step Two by 2. Bitters tend to become more pronounced over time in batched cocktails so you don't need to use as much. Alternatively, since the recipe calls for 1 to 2 dashes of each type of bitters, you can just assume 1 dash in your initial calculations.
  4. Use the resulting numbers to help you figure out how many bottles of alcohol you'll need to buy. Remember that alcohol is usually sold in 750mL bottles. 750mL is approximately 25 1/4 ounces.
  5. Once you have your ingredients, measure them out according to the math you did in Steps 2 and 3 (including the water).
  6. Mix the ingredients together, place in a serving vessel, and chill well.
  7. To serve, measure out the amount of cocktail you recorded in step 1 after being stirred with ice and strained. Pour it into a glass filled with ice and garnish as directed.

Read more about how to batch cocktails here.

Choosing a Rye Whiskey

Though the rye whiskey and cognac are equal pours in the Vieux Carré, the rye takes center stage. Its naturally spicy flavor profile brings it to the forefront of this drink and that's why it's important to choose a great rye. The market for rye whiskey continues to expand and this recipe is a perfect place to explore any new bottle you come across. Many of the best rye whiskeys are coming from small craft brewers so look around for bottles that may not get national attention. There are some hidden gems out there.

How Strong Is the Vieux Carré?

Most rye whiskey is bottled above the standard 80-proof. This higher strength allows those spicy rye notes to really stand out and adds to the depth of the whiskey. It also makes rye a perfect option for any whiskey cocktail. With that noted, the Vieux Carré's estimated alcohol content using a full-flavored, 100-proof rye whiskey along with a mild 80-proof cognac is about 29 percent ABV (58 proof), one of the strongest cocktails you can mix up. While it is potent, it's also full of flavor and that is why the original recipe makes just under a 3-ounce drink. Go slow with this one as it is very easy to have one too many.