Today we are casting fear aside and making a classic drink, that I have been avoiding for quite some time. The sun is shining and the day is fun of promise, so I am going to give this intimidating brunch classic a shot. Let the chips fall where they may and devil take the hindmost we are going for it. So, won’t you please join me now as we stand and shake the Ramos Gin Fizz.
A lot of the drinks we make have nebulous origins, shrouded in a bit of mystery, obscured by lore, but not this one. This New Orleans classic is well-documented from the very beginning way back in 1888 when it was created at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon by Henry Charles “Carl” Ramos. There is a significant amount of lore around the showy presentation of this drink, but not its origins. The hook for this brunch classic is the foamy head. It is said that you can judge just how well made this drink is by how well that frothy head holds the garnish, a single straw stood straight up in the center of the glass. There are stories of Ramos employing chains of “shaker men” who would pass this drink back and forth shaking for between 12 and 15 minutes for each drink. Best I can tell, that’s a good bit of marketing and the showmanship of having your drink go through several hands is a thing of beauty, but not strictly necessary to make the drink correctly, which we will attempt to do now.
Grab your tins and pop in 2 ounces of gin, I used New Amsterdam Statusphere; 1/2 an ounce each of freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice, 3/4 of an ounce of rich simple syrup, half a barspoon of Orange Blossom water, 3 drops of vanilla extract, I use Bell Buckle Country Store Pure Vanilla Extract; one egg white and 3/4 of an ounce of half & half. Add ice, crank up Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” and shake well to chill About the end of the first chorus, dump that ice and go for a dry shake. Really lean into it during the “I knows”. The song doesn’t have any real connection to the drink, but I like it and it has a nice steady beat for shaking and it’s only about 2 minutes long, which is more than ample to get this one where you need it to be. We actually passed this one around the kitchen and all three of us took turns during the dry shake, mainly because the kid really wanted to help. Which brings me to an important point, when dry shaking some pressure can build up in the tins, so remember to let that off periodically, or just hold on tight and be aware when you do open them. The boy did not get to wear too much during his dry shake, but enough to call for a new shirt. When well mixed and frothy pour your mixture into a collins glass, but do it with style by simultaneously pouring club soda with the other hand from well above the glass to make sure the two streams mix in the air before hitting the glass. But only fill the glass about 2/3 of the way, then let it sit for about a minute for the head to form up. After that minute fill the glass with the remaining mix to lift that head above the top of the glass. Pop a paper straw right in the center of the glass and marvel at your cocktail wizardry, unless you understand the protein chains and science going on here, in which case just smile confidently that science continues to do its thing with no care whatsoever for the crowd or its opinions.
Ok, this drink is just stupid good. There is a nice sort of sweet and tart thing going on, but also a creaminess and an effervescence. Yeah, it is complicated. There is a lot going on here and it all works. Add this to your brunch menu, you will not be disappointed.
I have been intimidated by this one for a while. Reading all those stories of the chains of people shaking for a quarter of an hour, creating light and fluffy meringue like heads that rise inches above the top of the glass without collapsing was a lot to take in. But it turns out that if you follow the recipe, use the correct ingredients and basic techniques, science will do its part and guide you to a happy conclusion. I like that about science. The way it just works. Way back when the world was young, I was introduced to an amazing article in American Scientist that truly changed the way I look at the world, Bert Hansen’s “The Complementarity of Science and Magic Before the Scientific Revolution“. I had a xeroxed copy for many years and would reread it from time to time to remind me to be humble. At it’s most basic, you could consider it an expansion of Arthur C. Clarke’s premise that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” but it really goes much deeper than that. Take a few minutes to track it down and give it a read. You weren’t doing anything tonight anyway and it’ll help to pass the time, with any luck you will be a bit smarter and better for it. If not, I’ll give you a full refund on the advice I dispense so inexpertly. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.