These days, serving liquor with breakfast is seen as taboo, as popular culture suggests that it’s “indecent” to drink, particularly hard liquor, before noon. However from colonial days until well into the 20th century, liquor was a staple of the breakfast table, and for many the liquid “eye-opener” was a regular part of one’s morning ablutions. And while the break-the-fast meal isn’t exactly a morning affair, it’s light fare, brunch-like quality makes a splash of alcohol a bit more palatable.
The morning drink came in many forms: While it was most often a simple shot of rum or whiskey, from the early days of the republic there were always those who required a more gentle and sophisticated morning potation. For instance, John Bernard, an English actor who toured the U.S. during the first decade of the 19th century, recorded in his book, “Retrospections of America,” a visit to a Virginia farmer who daily “breakfasted on coffee, eggs, and hoe-cake, concluding it with ... a stiff glass of mint sling [i.e., mint julep].” And by the end of that century, there were a whole slew of complex mixed drinks for the morning. Some had rather colorful names, such as “Fog-Cutter,” “Gloom-Lifter,” and “Corpse-Reviver,” but arguably the most famous of these morning-time tipples was New Orleans’ “Ramos Gin Fizz.”
Created by Henry C. Ramos, a bartender who set up shop in New Orleans in 1888, The Ramos Gin Fizz is a silky, creamy, fluffy concoction composed of gin, citrus, cream, sugar and egg-white, which goes down as easily as a New York egg-cream. Ramos’ Fizz soon became so popular with natives and visitors to New Orleans that he had to buy a bigger bar. And, according to Stanley Clisby Arthur, who wrote about the Ramos Fizz in his 1937 book, “Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ’Em,” during the 1915 Mardi Gras customers would line up outside Ramos bar for more than an hour and “35 shaker boys nearly shook their arms off but were unable to keep up with demand.”
While Ramos had always kept the formula for his Fizz a closely guarded secret, in 1925, at the height of Prohibition, and a few years before his death, he shared his recipe with a reporter from the New Orleans Item-Tribune. The recipe that follows is based closely on that original.
The Ramos Gin Fizz
* 3 tbsp. of Gin (Ramos’ recipe calls for Old Tom Gin, a sweet type of English gin, but I prefer to make it with either Tanqueray or Plymouth Gin.)
* The juice from half of a freshly squeezed lemon (about 1 ½ tbsp.)
* The juice from half of a freshly squeezed lime (about 1 tbsp.)
* 1 tbsp. of powdered sugar
* 2 tbsp. of cream or half-and-half
* 1 egg white (While those who are concerned about ingesting raw egg can omit the egg white, the resulting drink will lose much of its creamy, foamy texture.)
* 3-4 drops of orange blossom water (Available at most Middle-Eastern food stores, and at many gourmet food stores. The orange blossom water is best added with an eye dropper, as even a few drops too many can overpower the drink.)
Place the above ingredients in a large cocktail shaker with about 2/3 of a cup crushed ice, and shake vigorously for one-to-two minutes. Strain into a chilled tumbler, and top with a few tablespoons of chilled seltzer or club soda. Stir briefly, then enjoy.
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