Fresh off a term as Governor of Louisiana, and a few years removed from the end of Prohibition, Senator Huey Long pulled off a publicity stunt of Dukakis proportions in July of 1935. He flew in bartender Sam Guarino from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans to show the staff at the New Yorker Hotel in New York City how to make his favorite cocktail. And because he had also invited throngs of reporters to watch, he used the opportunity to badmouth President Roosevelt and the New Deal.
Long's favorite cocktail was the Ramos Gin Fizz, a drink whose secret recipe might have been lost to the ages had its creator, Henry Ramos, not published it following the enactment of Prohibition and the shuttering of his saloon.
A mix of gin, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites, cream, orange blossom water and soda, the Ramos Gin Fizz is a refreshing, opaque summer drink that's as good in the morning as it is in the evening. It's also extremely time consuming to make. "At the height of its popularity before Prohibition, Ramos would employ as many as 35 'shaker boys' whose only job was to shake the drink," explains Velvet Tango Room owner Paulius Nasvytis. "They would actually relay shakers to each other as their arms got tired."
If all that seems excessive, consider this: Ramos' original recipe called for a 12-minute shake, all in the interest of properly working the egg white and cream into a frothy, almost meringue-like consistency. We watched Nasvytis make an excellent Ramos Gin Fizz in about three minutes' time.
About the gin
"Some recipes call for a London dry gin, but I find that juniper only gets in the way of the citrus and blossom water," notes Nasvytis. He advocates for Hendricks, a more botanical, cucumber-infused offering.
About half & half
While many recipes use cream, Nasvytis prefers half & half. "This is a drink that is supposed to be light," he reminds us.
About the egg white
To the uninitiated, consuming a cocktail prepared with raw egg white is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with dysentery. "Isn't that dangerous?" they'll ask.
Danger, of course, is relative. The FDA and CDC put the odds of an egg being contaminated with salmonella at 1 in 20,000, while the National Safety Council puts the odds of dying in a car accident at 1 in 6,500 annually. Put differently, this means that most of us are more likely to die on the way to the farmer's market (which is where you should buy your eggs to be even safer) than we are from consuming a raw egg white.
"I like to think of raw eggs in drinks in much the same way I think about ceviche," Nasvytis adds. "There's always an acid in there to neutralize any bacteria, or in this case, an acid and a spirit. You aren't just eating a bowl of raw fish."