Cocktails in New Orleans: The Contessa
When you spend an entire week in the French Quarter in New Orleans, there will be cocktails. Lots and lots of cocktails. Here is one of the most enchanting
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar is a landmark in the French Quarter, a romantic oasis just off Bourbon Street on Bienville. Stepping into this bar is like stepping back into time, with its ornate dark wood bar dominating the room and the dignified but friendly white-coated bartenders quietly mixing up their exquisite concoctions..
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar makes the best Sazerac in town (go ahead, argue with me if you have a better candidate) and they make a lovely French 75 (D’oh!) in the classic manner, with Courvoisier Cognac and Moet et Chandon Champagne Manhattan? Check. Negroni? Sure thing.
But if you’re looking for fruity drinks that still have style, structure and authority, they have that too.
The Contessa, served “up” and pretty in pink, is enticing and rewarding. It’s bright, lively with citrus, infused and enthused with lush Ruby Red grapefruit and tangy rhubarb flavors and is amazingly easy to drink.
The Contessa is based on Boodles London Dry Gin, which is combined with Aperol aperitif/bitters, Ruby Red grapefruit juice, rhubarb compote, and orange bitters. It is an intriguing blend of sour, tart, acidic, and complex bitter elements. Each of the ingredients brings its own type of bitterness; some show in the front of the mouth, some show in the middle of the palate, some show in the back palate, and some linger long and lovely in the finish, that aftermath of pleasure usually accompanied by a low “Ahhhhh” of appreciation.
As befits a finely crafted cocktail, the Contessa is in perfect balance, with all its parts in harmony. Each aroma and flavor is there, each registers on the senses, yet none ever establish dominance over the drink.
That concept of balance, the mixing of ingredients—and by ingredients we include the ice, the emulsion through shaking, and the dilution, as well as the gin, bitters fruits and citrus—is the most crucial factor in a cocktail such as this. It must have an engaging sweetness—but not too much, or it cloys. It must have bitterness—but not so much that it becomes unpleasant or repellent. It must be cold—but not so cold as to depress the aromas and flavors. The Contessa accomplished that balancing act with delicate precision, and remains fresh and inviting all the way down to the last sip of grapefruity goodness.
In the hot and steamy riverine climate of New Orleans in August, the Contessa is a wise choice for a gin sour with a noble touch. The only difficulty will be stopping at one.