A bartender advocating abstinence and adhering to Prohibition-era principles might seem an unlikely originator for one of New Orleans' iconic cocktails. Yet, it was the imaginative and law-honourable Henry C. Ramos who, in 1888, crafted the inaugural Ramos Gin Fizz, leaving an indelible mark on the city's cocktail landscape.
Ramos held a prominent standing in the community, renowned for his gentlemanly demeanour and commitment to maintaining a high standard at his bar. His establishment closed promptly at 8 p.m. each night, discouraging prolonged drinking sessions, and on Sundays, it opened for just two hours in response to community requests.
Maintaining a commitment to moderation and moral standards, the Imperial Cabinet, under Ramos's management, admitted only the most well-behaved clientele. Ramos actively engaged with patrons, vigilant for any signs of inebriation. Strongly disliking drunkenness, he made it a point to identify unruly customers to bartenders, ensuring that they would not be served additional drinks.
A 1928 excerpt published in the New Orleans Item-Tribune claims that “nobody could get drunk at the Ramos bar, not only because old Henry wouldn’t let them, but because drunkenness would take away their appreciation of the drinks.”
Encompassed by such a culture of prioritising quality over quantity, Ramos crafted the Ramos Gin Fizz in 1888 at the Imperial Cabinet. Initially named the 'New Orleans Fizz,' the cocktail quickly gained popularity, leading to increased patronage at the Imperial Cabinet.
The initial formula comprised dry gin, heavy cream, fresh lemon juice, powdered sugar, egg white, lime juice, and a touch of orange flower water. After a vigorous shake, the concoction is delicately poured into a Collins glass and topped with a splash of soda water, that lends a delightful effervescence. The outcome? A luscious and invigorating cocktail designed to be enjoyed sip by sip until the very end.
In the realm of cocktail legend, Ramos' concoction reportedly demanded an arduous 12-minute shaking schedule. Following his sale of the Imperial Cabinet Saloon in 1907, Ramos bought The Stag nearby, where the cocktail gained prominence. Ramos even went to the extent of organising an assembly line of employees, aptly dubbed "shaker boys."
Ramos reportedly poured his final gin fizz on the midnight of 27 October, 1919, after he whole-heartedly adopted the principles of Prohibition. He firmly shut the doors of the Imperial Cabinet. Despite his departure from the alcohol business, Ramos zealously guarded the cocktail's recipe until his demise, unveiling it to the New Orleans Item-Tribune only days before his passing in 1928. In his disclosed recipe, he emphasised that "the secret to success lies in the good care you take and in your patience, and be certain to use good material."
Add the gin, simple syrup, heavy cream, lemon and lime juice, orange flower water and egg white into a shaker and dry-shake (without ice) vigorously for about 10 seconds.
Add ice and shake for at least 15 seconds, until well-chilled.
Strain into a Collins glass.
Pour a little bit of club soda back and forth between the empty halves of the shaker tins to pick up any residual cream and egg white, then use that to top the drink.