My images of the Gin Fizz date back to my high school days. And not all of those images are pleasant, mind you. On a recent trip to New Orleans, I had the opportunity to meet Cheryl Charming, bar mistress of the Bourbon O Bar inside the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, who enlightened me on a proper Gin Fizz. And surprisingly, it wasn’t the gin and Collins mix of my youth.
The Gin Fizz is a New Orleans native, dating back to 1888 when Henry Ramos created the “New Orleans fizz” for his Imperial Cabinet Saloon. The drink’s popularity can be tied to its rather unique blending process – being shaken for 12 minutes to achieve its pillowy texture. Back then, bars used a line of “shaker men” – think relay race of cocktails. Each person would shake the drink vigorously for several minutes, before passing it along to the next shaker. Rumor has it that during the 1915 Carnival, Ramos’s establishment had more than 30 shakers behind the bar.
You’ll find very few places these days that shake the drink for an extended time, much less, any that employ multiple people to do so. Bourbon O employs modern technology to achieve that same velvety finish of the original drink. It’s the only bar that can claim a custom-made shaking machine (Cheryl got the inspiration from a paint-shaking machine) to replace the original shaker boys.
If you want to give the drink a try yourself at home and enlist some friends as shaker boys, here’s the recipe. The key is dissolving the sugar before adding ice so that the sugar acts as an emulsifier, while the alcohol cooks the egg whites.
1 1/2 oz. gin
1 Tbsp. simple syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1 fresh egg white
1 oz. heavy cream
3 drops orange flower water
1 oz. club soda, chilled
Combine the first six ingredients in a shaker without ice and shake vigorously to combine. Add ice to the shaker and shake again for at least six to 12 minutes. Strain into a glass, top with club soda and the orange flower water and stir.