The World's Most Difficult and Delicious Cocktail: Ramos Gin Fizz, According To Rich Report
There will be no love between your triceps and your taste buds.
Surely no busy bartender hasn't already muttered hatefully under his breath about the Ramos Gin Fizz?
Among the reasons the Ramos Gin Fizz is so special is that it is the most labor-intensive and difficult classic cocktail drink in the world. I don't know what second place would be, but I know it isn't close. Getting your bartender to hate you is the quickest way to make it, and it is still ordered, made and consumed. If you have to ask, I suspect it is because you have never had it. Historically, the Ramos Gin Fizz has endured for the same reasons chefs bake souffles, engineers assemble Ferraris, and directors cast Marlon Brando. It is notoriously difficult work, but its quality cannot be denied.
It was in 1888 that a tavernkeeper in his early 30s, Henry Charles Ramos, opened the Imperial Cabinet Saloon in the French Quarter. Ramos was an interesting man. Despite being an avid opponent of drunkenness, this consummate barman made his living serving drinks. As soon as he saw any sign of inebriation, he intervened and ejected the patron, closing the bar at 8 p.m. each day, ensuring he didn't contribute to the "moral decay" described by the temperance movement.
The eponymous cocktail he invented earned Ramos acclaim despite the fact that he ran his bar in the manner of a librarian. In 1895, a New Orleans paper referred to him as the “most famous mixologist in the South,” and in 1900, when the Kansas City Star proclaimed that the Imperial Cabinet offered “the best gin fizz anywhere in the world,” he became a local celebrity. The cocktail seems simple enough at first glance, a variation on a Gin Fizz: gin, citrus, sugar and soda. Silver Fizz can be made by adding an egg white to that, and Ramos Gin Fizz can be made by adding cream, orange flower water, and about ten minutes of aerobic exercise to the Silver Fizz.
It's hard to make Ramos because you need to shake so much if you want the texture just right and use cream and egg whites. Essentially, you're whipping egg whites to form a meringue that stands firm above the glass's rim. The process took 12 minutes, according to contemporary reports. As Ramos' fame grew and his business picked up, he had to hire shaking assistants, youngsters who stood at the bartender's elbow and shook drinks for him. A report said that 35 shakermen worked behind the bar during Mardi Gras in 1915: The bartender would make a drink, give it to the first one, who would shake it for a while, then give it to the person next to him, and so on, creating an assembly line of glinting silver pistons, as Ramos' famous Gin Fizzes poured out from the end.
The Ramos Gin Fizz has a texture that sets it apart from other drinks. It feels like a pleasant dream. A Ramos Gin Fizz differs from a gin drink, which would normally have a piney backbone, because it is essentially a beverage, rather than a gin drink. It has a cloudy structure instead of a piney backbone.
With all that bicep work, egg white and heavy cream become light and almost airy, with a subtle floral touch from orange flower water, lifted by soda and meringue, and with the citrus and sweetness adding just the right amount of tension to keep you coming back for more. In spite of the fact that theologians debate whether or not there are brunches served in heaven, I think we can all agree that if they do, they will be serving them with Ramos Gin Fizz.
Almost fourteen years have passed since the Volstead Act went into effect, ushering in the start of what would end up being nearly 14 years of Prohibition. Many barmen have moved across the Atlantic, but none has fought it and Henry Ramos has decided to close his bar for good. In 1925, despite the fact that he would not live to see legal alcohol return, he gave a final act of the kind of generosity that he was known for in sharing his recipe with the world in the New Orleans Item-Tribune, which enabled the drink to live on and so it has, to the frustration of busy bartenders as well as to the delight of everyone else.
Ramos Gin Fizz
- 2 oz. gin
- 0.5 oz. lemon juice
- 0.5 oz. lime juice
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- 2 dashes orange flower water
- 1 oz. cream
- 1 egg white
- 2-3 oz. soda water
The cocktail tin should be filled with all the ingredients except the cream and soda water. Seal and shake for 15 to 20 seconds without ice. Adding three to five cubes or a generous handful of pebble ice to the cocktail tin, seal, and shake vigorously for three to four minutes. In the meantime, in a chilled, 10- to 12-ounce Collins glass, add approximately 1 to 2 inches of soda water to the bottom of the glass and shake vigorously. Add the cream to the cocktail, shake briefly to mix it all together, and then strain into the glass with a strainer and let it sit in the fridge for a few minutes to let the foam set up. Then put the glass in the fridge for at least a minute, but preferably more like three or four.
If you want to lift the foam head above the glass rim once it has set up, you will need to poke a small hole in the center of the foam with a straw or bar spoon and slowly pour the remaining cocktail into the center hole until it reaches the point where the foam rises above it. It is possible to add more soda if you run out of cocktail, but be careful. Even the best Ramos will mushroom if it gets too high, so do not push your luck. Garnish with a straw atop the foam and your sense of accomplishment.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS
The gin will not dominate like it normally does, so it can still screw everything up even if you go classic here. Don't go crazy with your local gin that is made with gooseberries and frankincense. I would recommend Tanqueray Ten as my all-time top choice. It is a classic and juniper-forward gin with a whisper of citrus and chamomile, while Beefeater is an excellent choice, as are gins as gentle as Plymouth and Hendricks and as robust as Junipero. There's nothing wrong with being unique as long as it doesn't try too hard to be.
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In order to make the technique work, one of the most important things you need to do is determine the amount of ice you need to use. If you don’t use enough ice, you will get less reliable results, and the head will stand firmer above the rim of the glass. However, if you use too much ice, you will make it insufficiently chilled. While some guides insist on using two cubes maximum, I feel this cocktail is too warm. I recommend using four Kold Draft cubes (1.25 inches) or even better if you have the option of pebble ice. You should whip and chill, but not overdilute.
Considering the legacy of the drink, it might seem likely that he wanted to call for both lemon and lime in order to be obnoxious, but according to David Wondrich's seminal Imbibe, this was a common epicurean touch at that time. If you have both on hand, why not use them both at the same time? If you do not, either works fine on its own. If you are using lemon juice, cut the citrus down to 0.75 ounces and if you are preparing lime, keep it at 1 ounce.
In order to make simple syrup, add equal parts sugar and water, stir to dissolve the sugar. Ramos' original recipe called for superfine sugar, but it is much simpler and more precise to make a syrup.
There are many different kinds of hydrosols, but orange flower water is one of them. It is made by distilling flowers non-alcoholicly, similar to how essential oils and perfumes are made. In any middle eastern market, a well-stocked cocktail supply store, or even online, you can easily find it.
Considering that it is likely that you do not own this ingredient, you may be wondering, “Is it really necessary?” The answer, unsatisfyingly, is both yes and no. It can be done without it and still taste good, but not in the sense that you can still make it without it. As a matter of fact, I would have to say yes, because the perfumed floral essence plays an important role in its overall charm. It is intense, yet superb. I would really recommend it.
In case you are not a fan of orange flower water, you can give the cocktail a little flare by using something else instead of it. Something could be a few raspberries, a little St. Germain or cinnamon syrup instead of simple, or maybe even that weird gin I warned you not to use. Among the Ramos variations I had made, I added melted mint chocolate chip ice cream to the cream and eggs in addition to the cream and eggs. It was amazing.
If you want richness and body from a Ramos, heavy cream is a must, but a Ramos with half-and-half tastes just as amazing. Do not go leaner than that.
As it is when you are eating eggs, egg whites are not very tasty in cocktails, but they are crucial here for their structure, just like when you eat them. It is generally considered safe to consume raw egg whites, as I have never heard of anyone becoming ill after drinking raw egg whites, but I guess the risk is not zero, so if you are apprehensive about it, please do not consume it. In my opinion, vegan Ramos are possible, but I admit I have never tried them.
For this particular drink, I do not care about the brand of soda water as long as I can get as many bubbles as possible. Even if you are going to use a lunch sipper such as San Pellegrino or Perrier, which usually do not have as much carbonation as a cocktail, bubbles aren't really an important part of this drink. Ramos Gin Fizz was originally made with soda water that was shaken in the tin, meaning once served it wouldn't have been bubbly at all. Whatever you have will do just fine.