La Louisiane Cocktail

If it is true, as Mark Twain opined, that obscurity and a competence … is the life that is best worth living, then La Louisiane Cocktail has lived a worthwhile life indeed. A first-rate cocktail that seems to fall off the face of the earth, how does that happen?

More formally known as Cocktail à la Louisiane, this pastis-tinged combination of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Benedictine is a simple and delicious cocktail, inexplicably missing from the published cocktail repertoire. It appears in the 1937 Famous New Orleans Drinks and How To Mix ‘Em, where S. C. Arthur recorded it as the signature drink of New Orleans’ Restaurant de la Louisiane. And then it disappears completely.

I first learned of La Louisiane from one of Robert Hess’s videos; he has since published the recipe in his 2008 Essential Bartender’s Guide, still the only book I’ve found (besides Arthur’s) that includes it.

La Louisiane is a cross between the Sazerac and the Manhattan. It has some of the characteristics of each, with the aromatic, herbal depth and richness of Manhattan, and the characteristic anise nose and finish of the Sazerac’s absinthe or Herbsaint.

La Louisiane Cocktail, cold-glass.com photo © 2010 Doug Ford. All rights reserved.
La Louisiane Cocktail

The drink should be made very small, and very, very cold. These flavors are, as Paul Clark says, a “rich, voluptuous mix;” they will become unbalanced and cloying if you let them warm up. And they make a fine aperitif cocktail.

Cocktail a la Louisiane

  • ¾ ounce rye (Wild Turkey 101)
  • ¾ ounce sweet vermouth (Dolin rouge)
  • ¾ ounce Bénédictine
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • wash of absinthe or Herbsaint

Stir the first four ingredients with ice until very, very cold; wash a small, chilled cocktail glass with Herbsaint or absinthe, and strain the mix into the glass. Garnish with brandied cherry.

This drink qualifies as another in the “equal parts” category, along with the Negroni and Boulevardier. My opinion of that category continues to change for the better.

The high-proof Wild Turkey 101 rye stands up well to the Herbsaint and Bénédictine. I would guess that Rittenhouse 100 would work well here, too, but Alas! there seems to be none in Minneapolis right now.

Failed Experiment of the Day: I got to thinking about how deliciously genever substitutes for rye in the Sazarac, so I tried the same stunt in La Louisiane. I won’t do that again. La Louisiane is not as forgiving of such trickery as the Sazerac. The Bénédictine is the source of the problem, I think. The drink is way too sweet with genever, and the flavors just don’t combine happily. You definitely need the rye whiskey to balance this one out.


12 thoughts on “La Louisiane Cocktail

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  1. There are others that have published it including the instance I spotted last night in The How and When from 1940. Still one of my favorite drinks and much more flavorful than a Vieux Carre.

    1. I just knew there had to be references to such a delicious item somewhere. Thanks for helping to fill in my missing knowledge. I haven’t seen The How and When — I’ll have to go on a search for that one.

    2. By the way: I’m delighted that La Louisiane is one of your favorites. I enjoy the Vieux Carre occasionally, but I agree that La Louisiane seems to have more going for it–a bit more complex and interesting flavor.

  2. I just want to add a simple note of appreciation and encouragement. Your recipes — every single one that I have tried so far, and I have tried quite a few — are truly exceptional. Thanks for sharing this wealth of information with all of us. I know that you didn’t arrive at these superb recipes easily.

  3. There’s a very similar Gin drink to this called the Vancouver, which calls for Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine and bitters (I’ve seen both orange and Angostura recommended). However, my preference is to replace the Sweet Vermouth with Punt e Mes and drop the bitters, which pushes it closer to Negroni territory (perhaps a cross between the Negroni and the Martinez). My recipe: 1.5 oz Plymouth Gin, 1 oz Punt e Mes, 1/2 oz Benedictine.

    1. I wish I liked that combination of gin and sweet vermouth more. Every once in a while, something like the Martinez is good for a change of pace, but then it takes forever before I think of it again.

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