Several weeks ago Tracy and I had a friend over to indulge in brunch. We love brunch in our house, that celebration of those glorious hours of limbo between morning and afternoon on any given weekend—a time for the savory and the sweet, the caffeinated and the alcoholic. A good brunch will almost always lead to a lethargic day filled with absolutely nothing and the need to heartily engage in said nothing, which usually translates to an impromptu nap on the couch. And though our excuse for this occasion—though one never needs an excuse for brunch—was to plan a friend's bachelorette party, the entire event really sprang into being because of a truly magical thing: the Ramos gin fizz.
Say those three little words to a room full of people and watch the effects. Those who have delved into the bubbly creamy froth, you know at once who they are. Their eyes sparkle and this ever-so-small smile forms on their faces. I have seen it happen more than once. Invariably, they will move their chairs closer, lean in and with a conspiratorial tone, take you into memories spotted with minuscule details: the first time they sipped a Ramos gin fizz, the best, the worst, even the heft of the shaker, the ache in the arms, and still even more rare, the imagined ache in the arms. But this excitement is not reserved solely for initiates. Something about the name, familiar and yet unfamiliar, translates that there is something innately special to discover. The Ramos fizz rookies too lower their voices to that familiar hushed whisper reserved for taboos and secret societies, inch their bodies closer, and say, "What is that?" They are hooked even before they have faced down the frothy, frosty glass. It is just one of those drinks.
Fizzes are not new creations. They trace back to the olden times of yore, or at any rate to at least the 1880s, if not before. David Wondrich has traced the print origins to a recipe published in 1883. The New Orleans gin fizz, a special iteration of the silver fizz, was created in the 1880s at Meyer's Restaurant in New Orleans by a certain Henry Charles Ramos. It has been a New Orleans institution ever since. It differs from the classic fizz recipe in its use of cream and orange flower water. But it is those little differences that make this drink such a big deal. Supposedly the combination of the egg white and the cream is what makes the Ramos fizz such a challenging drink to make correctly. Though both elements will foam easily one their own, when they occupy the same shaker they become stubborn. The secret to making a this drink is all about technique, because there is shaking any old drink, and then there is shaking a drinkwith egg whites and cream. These drinks take stamina—especially if you are making three of them, one at a time, all while waiting for the first pot of coffee to percolate. At one point, Henry Ramos employed 15 lads to shake those fizzes, and they shook those fizzes for up to 15 minutes, each. They formed a line and passed those frosty shakers one to the next. This is as much of a testament to properly mixing a drink as it is to the Ramos gin fizz's popularity.
Ramos Gin Fizz
2 ounces gin 1 ounce heavy cream 1 egg white
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1 tbsp simple syrup
3 drops orange flower water
1 ounce club soda
Dry shake all ingredients except club soda. Add ice and shake again, at least until your arms are really tired and your hands are frozen. Strain into a highball glass and very slowly drizzle in the club soda.
Note on Ingredients: I have made a Ramos gin fizz with Bombay Dry, Ransom Old Tom, and a 50-50 split between Aviation and Bellringer. They were all wonderful, though my favorite is the Ransom with all of that spice.
When a Ramos gin fizz is placed before you, with those foamy bubbles blossoming over the rim and that sheen of ice forming on the outside, you can't help but feel pretty special. Even if you made the drink yourself, and can already feel the ache building in your muscles from all that shaking. As you descend past that citrus-laden foam, into the effervescent liquid below, you will be downright besotted. Smooth and creamy, herbal and tart in equal measure, with just the right amount of sweetness, how can you go wrong? But don't dally in awe; drinks with egg whites weren't meant to be lingered over like a julep. I give you permission to swig at will. Once a fizz gets warm, it loses a certain amount of its luster. So don't be offended if your guests are sitting before empty glasses before you even sit down—it is a compliment, just go with it. If you drink it at the right pace, not too slow not too fast, and if all of the other forces in the universe are aligned, you can almost feel yourself transported to another time. Even if that time is nap time.