Vieux Carre
Vieux Carre

The Vieux Carré is a classic New Orleans cocktail. It is a blend of brandy and rye whiskey, bitters, Benedictine and vermouth – a combination that will warm your blood and uplift your spirit.

The Vieux Carré is a classic, complex signature New Orleans cocktail. It consists of a strong and beguiling blend of Brandy and Rye, Bitter, Benedictine and Vermouth– a combination that warms your blood and invigorates your spirit.

What is a vieux carre?

Typically pronounced “voo-kah-ray” in New Orleans, the Vieux Carré is full-bodied and moist. It’s made up of almost equal parts rye whiskey, cognac, and vermouth, all accented by the herbal, spicy, dark honey flavor of Benedictine. Splashes of Angostura and Peychaud’s Bitter – the two most iconic and fundamental flavors – add notes of aniseed, clove and even nutmeg; these are felt more than tasted, but are nevertheless indispensable.

The Vieux Carré is one of the strongest cocktails you can mix (nearly 58 proof when all is said and stirred), and it’s also one of the more soulful, with the best qualities of Manhattan, Sazerac, and old-fashioned stirred into one.

What is the history of the Vieux Carré?

In the 1930’s, Walter Bergeron was the head bartender at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans when he created this variation on the Sazerac (New Orleans’s). other, and original, cocktail). Bergeron gave it the French name for the “old square” we call the French Quarter and added brandy or cognac to the Sazerac’s blend of rye and bitters.

It was the introduction of brandy that truly made this drink an international drink, with French brandy now being introduced with the up-and-coming American rye, sharing a glass with Italian vermouth and Caribbean bitters. Brandy (particularly cognac) also evokes a very specific moment when focus began to shift to rye whiskey as a base after a phylloxera outbreak in France that devastated brandy production. In this drink, both eras swim together in one glass.

The best whiskey for the Vieux Carré

The decision to use rye whiskey or bourbon should have less to do with tradition than with taste: the corn-based bourbon has a smooth sweetness and full-bodied flavor that pairs well with the cognac, while the rye whiskey’s crisp, spicy tones are drier are flavors that complement (and add interest to) the smooth, fruity, well-rounded flavor of the cognac.

Rye is recommended here for precisely this reason, with the added benefit that its higher alcohol content contributes to the strength and full-bodiedness the drink has long been known for.

  • Rittenhouse Rye 100 Bottled in Bond Whiskey is a classically styled, spicy rye that is high-percentage and inexpensive. It works just as well in darker, alcoholic drinks like citrus cocktails, but really shines in drinks like the Vieux Carré, with so many other key notes to play with.
  • Sazerac Straight Rye Whisky is a New Orleans original that, although slightly less potent at 90 proof, carries well and, if you believe us, stays true to the rye that was produced a century ago at the start of the Vieux Carré.

The best cognac for the Vieux Carré

Could you use a generic brandy in your vieux carré? Assuming you are in dire straits, you could very well do so, although it would be best to keep that fact a secret. Cognac is a double-distilled blend of multiple grapes from the Cognac region of France, all aged in oak that gives the spirit its own subtle spicy notes.

  • Pierre Ferrand Ambre and H by Hine VSOP Cognac are both great options, albeit pricey. The former has a soft fall fruit elegance without being overly sweet, while H by Hine is drier but just as cooperative in a drink like this.
  • More affordable but thoroughly enjoyable (and often stored here). Remy Martin VSOP. (The VSOP designation means that it has been aged in oak barrels for at least four years.)

The best vermouth for the Vieux Carré

Traditionally, your Vieux Carré is prepared with a standard sweet vermouth. In this recipe we recommend (if you can find it) Carpano Antica Formula vermouth. This vermouth is a slightly bitter and full-bodied blender with notes of fig, cocoa and caramel in addition to the vanilla it is famous for.

What is Benedictine?

Like absinthe with a Sazerac – the ancestor of the Vieux Carré – Benedictine is a brandy-based liqueur that adds deep notes of herbs, spices and dark honey. While using much more than a scant quarter ounce risks making your drink far too sweet, that amount is very, very sufficient.

Benedictine helps balance everything, not just your bitterness and sweetness, but the many complexities on the palate. It is indeed indispensable.

Try these variations on the Vieux Carré?

Vary this drink too much and you’ll end up in the weeds, way outside of the French Quarter. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to play.

  • Old Pineapple: Ezra Star’s riff preferably substitutes pineapple rum for the cognac Plantation Rum Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple.
  • The new carousel: After vintage spirits and forgotten cocktails, The Carousel Bar (birthplace of our dear Vieux Carré) has switched to using dry vermouth instead of sweet. “It works that way too.”
  • Add a mezcal float: After preparing the drink, lightly pour 1/4 ounce of mezcal into the glass over the back of a bar spoon. Topping up the drink adds a smokiness and light chocolate flavor – an aromatic note and tongue-twister in one.

More classic New Orleans cocktails

  • Pimm’s Cup
  • Hurricane Cocktail
  • Sazerac cocktail

Old Carre

preparation time
3 minutes

total time
3 minutes

1 serving


  • 1 ounce rye

  • 1 ounce cognac VSOP

  • 3/4 ounce Carpano Antica Formula vermouth (or sweet vermouth)

  • 1/4 ounce Benedictines

  • 1 pinch Angostura bitters

  • 1 dash of Peychaud’s Bitters

  • Lemon slice for garnish


  1. Combine:

    Place all ingredients in a mixing glass half filled with ice and stir until cool.

  2. stress:

    Strain and pour over ice in a Rocks or Old Fashioned glass.

  3. Garnish:

    Garnish with a lemon or orange slice.

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