A close up shot of a Vieux Carré cocktail in a stem glass with a lemon peel garnish
Vieux Carré aka ‘Voo-Car-Aye’

I’ve never owned a bottle of brandy. Well, that’s not entirely true. Technically brandy means anything distilled from fruit wine, and I do have a bottle of Calvados (made from apples). In the stricter sense, most people think of brandy as a liquor distilled from grapes and aged in wooden casks. The most famous of all brandies is Cognac, which must adhere to very specific production and sourcing methods.

Given that brandy is such a long standing holiday tradition and I had no idea how to use it in a cocktail, I felt obligated to pick up a bottle and do some experimenting. Luckily my local specialty liquor shop had a decent selection and some knowledge to drop on me. I settled on a bottle of Cardenal Mendoza, a Spanish sherry brandy aged for 15 years in the Jerez region.

A photo of 6 bottles - rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, brandy, angostura bitters, peychaud's bitters and Benedictine
Everything you need for a Vieux Carré

The most well-known classic brandy cocktail is Brandy Alexander, which is damn delicious, but very dessert-y. I wanted to try something more refined, and stiff enough to combat the current situation with the US election. Vieux Carré couldn’t be a more perfect fit for the occasion. It’s pure booze and magically delicious. Developed in the 1930s at the famous New Orleans Hotel Monteleone (now Carousel Bar), the recipe is very specific. Substitutions, even on the bitters, are not recommended.

A selfie of Ava drinking a Vieux Carré
First ever sip of a Vieux Carré

The key to this drink is getting it freezing cold and achieving proper ice dilution. Be sure to stir vigorously for at least 40 seconds. When the liquid is ice cold, stop stirring and take a taste. It should be velvety smooth with zero hint of sharpness from the booze. If it’s still a little sharp, keep stirring.

The last and surprisingly important step is to flame a lemon peel over the glass. If you’ve never done this before, it’s easy! Just cut yourself a piece of lemon peel, hold it above the glass, hold a flame in front of the peel side, and quickly squeeze it in half to express the citrus oil. This should cause the flame to very briefly ignite, adding a wonderful finishing touch to your Vieux Carré.

A motion photo of a Vieux Carré being stirred over ice in a stirring glass



  1. Stir all ingredients vigorously on ice for about 40 seconds
  2. Once it’s ice cold, have a taste
  3. When the sharpness of the alcohol is gone, it’s ready
  4. Strain into a fancy glass
  5. Flame a lemon peel above the glass (See instructions at the bottom of this article if you’ve never done this)
  6. Rub the lemon around the edge of the glass
  7. Drink your troubles away

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