Vieux Carre / Nouveau Carre

Vieux Carré Cocktail

I know, I know. A Vieux Carré is supposed to have Peychaud’s bitters in it. As you can see, it was at the tippy top of my shopping list.

Vieux Carré Cocktail

But I went to four liquor stores that specialize in cocktail liquors and spirits and three didn’t have it. And the fourth, when I showed up, was inexplicably closed for some sort of fermeture exceptionnelle. There was no sign, no nuthin’, so I don’t know. I tried peering through the darkened window to see if they had the bitters but couldn’t tell and didn’t want to use up another precious day of my life since I had already spent three days on the “Peychaud’s Project”, and needed to move on with my life. Plus passers-by were starting to look at me funny as I began hoisting myself up on a fire hydrant and a drainpipe on the building, hoping to get a better look inside the closed shop.

vieux carre cocktail recipe Vieux Carré Cocktail

I will confess that at one of the shops there was a bottle of cardamom bitters which was absolutely wonderful smelling and likely would have been good.

But it was €29, or – gulp – $38, and as much as I love cardamom, and spending money on things I’ll only use a few times in my life…and I have cabinet-loads of various foods and other items to prove it…I passed.

Vieux Carré Cocktail

Then I remember yet another store, one that specializes in whisky, and only whiskey. (Yes, I spelled it the two different ways to give them equal time.) Since I’m nothing if not tenacious (and don’t want to stir up trouble between French and English), I mapped out the route. Luckily it only took me half a day to head over there…only to find the whole place boarded up. By that point, I had no choice but to accept defeat. Or devote the rest of my life to finding a little brown bottle of bitters with an eyedropper in it, which would be fine, although I’d be forever known as the crazy person in Paris wandering around the streets, muttering about bitters under his breath, and scaling fire hydrants.

And what did I need those elusive bitters for? I wanted to make that classic Vieux Carré, which I’d had at a cocktail bar around a year ago and loved it. Although it has a French name, it was invented in New Orleans, not in France, hence the hard-to-obtain bitters I suppose. But because I can’t leave well enough alone, or am a masochist for punishment, I wanted to try barrel-aging the cocktail, and tried to track down a small oak barrel in Paris.

drink fixin's

I’m not going to tell you how that turned out, but I was beginning to think that the six weeks or so that it took to barrel-age a cocktail was going to be about 5 weeks, and 23 1/2 hours too long. Fortunately my friend Forest lent me her aging bottle, which worked well, although the little fella is tiny – it seems a shame to make and age a cocktail, only to end up with just a couple of drinks. But good rewards come to those who wait – right?

Rye whiskey is the classic, but I ended up using Canadian Club, which isn’t as intense as the other rye whiskey that I had on hand. But I watched a video on aged cocktails with Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who is considered the “pioneer” of barrel-aged cocktails, and he said that it was perhaps better not to start with something very strong or aged; since you’re aging it yourself and it kind of defeats the purpose of aging something yourself – which I could certainly relate to as I seem to be aging faster than this cocktail.

Vieux Carré Cocktail

So Mr. Morgenthaler, if you ever come to Paris, let’s use some of that pioneering spirit and help me find those bitters, and a barrel. Believe me, I can wait.

(Actually, I don’t seem to have a choice.)

Vieux Carre / Nouveau Carre
Makes 6 cocktails

I lie awake at night, not only wondering where I’ll find bitters and barrels, but fearing the wrath of – well, everyone – if I take liberties with, well…anything. Believe me, I know every inch of my bedroom ceiling. And I recognize that this isn’t a classic Vieux Carré. So feel free to put a bit of white-out over your screen, covering up that name, and going with Nouveau Carre.

I’m in the process of barrel-aging my cocktail for six weeks and will report back. Am not sure how you can replicate the aging process at home (and if anyone has any other ideas for me, I’m all ears), but you can make these and drink them right away. If doing so, I would use rye whiskey. Canadian Club is made with rye, but does not label itself as rye whiskey and is not as strong as those that are labeled as such.

  • 4 ounces rye or rye-based whiskey
  • 4 ounces Cognac
  • 4 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 teaspoon Amaro bitters, or 4 dashes of bitters

Pour the whiskey into a cocktail shaker or pitcher, along with the Cognac, vermouth, and bitters. Fill with ice cubes and stir until well-chilled, then strain into ice-filled cocktail tumblers. Garnish each with a twist of lemon or perhaps a candied cherry – or both. You can also serve it up, without pouring it over ice, if that’s your thing. Because you’re an adult, which means that you can do whatever you want. (And if you’re not an adult, you shouldn’t be drinking cocktails in the first place.)

Related Links

The Scofflaw

Sidecar Cocktails

Whiskey versus Whisky (Eric Asimov, The New York Times)

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  • May 10, 2013 2:19pm

    liquid amber…it looks lovely against the sunlight
    what is the floaty thing?

  • Claire
    May 10, 2013 2:25pm

    David, all the classic cocktails were invented by people who were experimenting! If someone is so rigid that they can’t tolerate a little bit of substitution and experimentation, then they are just too sad. Beautiful pictures and, as is more often than not, I’ve learned something new from you today. I’ve never heard of aged cocktails. Very interesting. And what a beautiful aging bottle. What is that item that’s in the bottle?

  • May 10, 2013 2:47pm

    Love the Canadian Club shout out. That’s my hometown’s brew.

  • May 10, 2013 2:57pm guess – it’s a piece of perforated (for fun) oak … Anyone?
    David, you remind me silly me running around a city in a search of some exotic, sometimes expensive, recipe elements. Good luck with your aged cocktail – it sounds very interesting.

  • May 10, 2013 3:10pm
    David Lebovitz

    mabel & Claire: It’s a piece of American oak from a barrel stave, which is supposed to give the liquor/cocktail an aged flavor. I like the idea but was surprised when I saw how small the bottle was. If you’re going to age something for 6 weeks, it should make more than 6 cocktails for all that patience! : )

    Samantha: When Forest came over last time to make Scofflaws, she had me taste drinks made with Hudson’s Manhattan rye (which is great, but is also €65/$85 bottle in Paris) and Canadian Club. The Hudson’s was great but I bought a few bottles of Canadian Club on a “flash” shopping site here in France and thought I’d try it. Hey, if it’s good enough for Don Draper…it’s good enough for me.

    Olga: It’s odd that it’s always one specific thing, the thing that I am desperately searching for, that eludes me. The store where they had all the bitters, including the cardamom one, they had a cabinet-full of them – except Peychaud’s, which I think is pretty widely used by cocktail folks.

  • naomi
    May 10, 2013 4:05pm

    You come to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. There are usually several bitters vendors there, along with lots of other items I know I need. Fortunately I won’t need to stumble far searching. Let me know if you want me to pick anything up and send it on.

  • May 10, 2013 4:21pm

    A baby seal walks into a bar. The bartender says, “What’ll you have?”
    The seal replies, “Anything but the Canadian Club!”

    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

  • MD Smith
    May 10, 2013 4:35pm

    What’s the name of the bitters you are looking for? If I can find it in Washington DC, I’ll bring it to FBC5 (assuming I can get it past TSA).

  • May 10, 2013 4:50pm

    David, I’ll be happy to provide you with a bottle or two of Peychaud’s bitters if you wish. I’ll be staying in Paris for a couple of weeks beginning June 10th. Let ,e know if there are any other hard to find ingredients that I might be able to help you with as well.

    Best wishes,


  • A fan in New Jersey
    May 10, 2013 4:58pm

    What is the last item on your shopping list? Creders? Crackers?

  • May 10, 2013 5:01pm

    What a great experiment. I’d never heard of aging a cocktail (beyond aged eggnog, that is). I can’t wait to hear how the aged version compares. Are you ironically going to call the aged version the Nouveau Carré? I have some Peychaud bitters. Wish I could drop by and lend you my bottle. But Vermont is a little far.

  • May 10, 2013 5:06pm

    If Bitter Truth bitters are easier to find for you (I believe the company is in Germany), their Creole Bitters are patterned after Peychaud’s. Peychaud’s are brilliant red and have a pronounced anise note.

    Or we can send you some.

    The aging bottle comes from Tuthilltown Spirits near New Paltz, NY, I believe — they sell those in their gift shop at the distillery. They make that Hudson bourbon you had. The “honeycomb stave” is from one of their barrels, and it’s how they try to increase the surface area exposed to the spirit in the wood. They sell small (3 or 5 gal) used barrels as well, but there’s a little bit of a waiting list and international shipping may be hefty. I’ve found lots of places online who’ll sell you a small charred unused gallon-size (or other sizes) barrel, too.

  • May 10, 2013 5:11pm
    David Lebovitz

    Vidiot: Where did you find those barrels in France?! I looked far-and-wide. I did get in touch with a Cognac distiller that had barrels, but they were quite large.

    Alain: I am going to London in a few months and will stock up there, but thanks. (Have considered making my own, since I’ve seen instructions in various places for making bitters. But probably easier to buy them, and faster. Um, well..)

  • May 10, 2013 5:12pm

    I’ve just seen the bitters listed on Amazon! Going to give it a go! I’ve made the Vin d’Orange which will be ready in about 3 weeks – can’t wait – made enough to serve right through the summer! Just to say that I so enjoy reading your posts.

  • kay
    May 10, 2013 5:13pm

    excuse me David – how could you miss an opportunity to make your own!!!!

  • May 10, 2013 5:19pm


    I should clarify — I’m in NYC and Tuthilltown isn’t far from me, so it wasn’t that hard to source a small barrel. I’m guessing most distillers around you work with the big 50gal or similar sizes. I bet these places I found online (or the Tuthilltown folks) would ship you a barrel, new or used, from the States, but costs may be prohibitive as it’s basically heavy oak wood.

    The folks at one of the Experimental Cocktail Club bars in Paris may be able to help you find Peychaud’s, too, or have a line on a barrel. I met ECC’s Nico de Soto not long after the NYC branch opened and he was very friendly and approachable.

    Also, one of our coauthors at Cocktailians will be in Paris starting next week, and I might be able to persuade him to tuck a bottle of bitters into his luggage.

    good luck!

  • May 10, 2013 5:30pm
    David Lebovitz

    patricia: Enjoy the wine! : )

    kay: Yes, as mentioned in the comment just above, I’ve seen recipes for making your own bitters. But it’d be quite a chore to track down some of those ingredients here. So I’m a-ok buying a bottle. Am still considering that cardamom one..

    Vidiot: I know the owners of Le Mary Celeste/Candelaria/Glass, and they might have had some. And I probably could have brought my little bottle there for a few drops, I suppose. As for the barrel, getting things shipped here can be a major challenge (and with customs, shipping, and duty, it all adds up.) Lucky you to live close to Tuthilltown. Their rye is amazing..and I’m sure their other liquors are as well.

  • sarahb1313
    May 10, 2013 5:32pm

    I stumbled upon a bottle of Kina L’avion D’or (gorgeous label, couldn’t resist even though I didn’t really know what it was) and on the back were a few recipes for old cocktails. The actual product was very hard to locate and I ended up ordering it to be shipped.
    The scent was mesmerizing.
    I made Vespers…. aside from being very potent, the flavors were unique and interesting.
    Good enough for friends to now request I make them again.

    I think you would like it- very aromatic.

  • John K
    May 10, 2013 5:37pm

    You may know Corti Brothers in Sacramento, California has a fine selection of gourmet items including a great selection of bitters and they do mail order. I have been using them for over 30 years with fantastic results.

    • May 10, 2013 5:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      I know Darrell Corti and his shop is great..if you live in the US. Overseas shipping is a whole ‘nother beast as there are shipping charges, as well as a host of taxes, customs and duties, plus the problem with getting packages delivered, which can be a real challenge.

  • kathy
    May 10, 2013 5:50pm

    That sounds like a Manhattan to me. A very uptown drink. Except, I have never known a Manhattan to contain Cognac. What does that give it? Funny, the bitters I have always used is Angostura Bitters. Have no idea even what it gives the drink, but every recipe calls for it, so, I have always added it. BTW, those candied cherries are the worst. I was just served a Manhattan at a friends house who had soaked fresh cherries in Brandy and sugar for 6 weeks in the fridge. A fabulous addition to the drink, and so much better than those god-awful candied cherries you buy.

  • May 10, 2013 6:09pm

    I never aged at home or used hard to find bitters, but that paragraph `I lie awake at night…´ that I can relate to. Is it because food blogs give us an audience? It baffles me sometimes how many hours are spent thinking about an ingredient or recipe, but enjoy every second

  • bill
    May 10, 2013 6:09pm

    David, i was looking for small oak barrels recently and found them advertised as vinegar barrels. many of the ones i found came from france.

    • May 10, 2013 6:32pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks – I was looking for them in a 1–2 liter size, and there are a couple of words in French for them – include barrique, fût and tonnelet (and tonneaux, and I’m not sure what the difference between all of them is!) so it was a chore to wade through all the websites, etc, looking for them. Interestingly, a lot of French things people get in the US aren’t available in France, such as those “French” butter keepers (which I’ve never seen anyone use, or even sold, in France!) Someone who is a Cognac distiller did have some he said he perhaps could sell me, but they were larger than I wanted – I mean, I’d love to have 50 liters of cocktails aging in my apartment. Although I don’t think it would do all that much for my productivity!

  • simone
    May 10, 2013 6:13pm

    Cardamom Bitters!!! Oh my that sounds great will have to try to and see if it is available in the USA. I am on a cardamom hit right now after a recent trip to Stockholm and going crazy over their cardamom buns!

  • anna
    May 10, 2013 8:22pm

    No, a Vieux Carré is a non-defunct (and THANK GOODNESS IT IS) trashy bar in West Des Moines, Iowa. They had no right even *thinking* of naming that place after such a delicious sounding beverage!

  • anna
    May 10, 2013 8:22pm

    now-defunct…. must be their cheap liquor getting to me.

  • leslie bacon
    May 10, 2013 8:25pm

    Did you realise that both Wednesday (end of war, victory in Europe) and Thursday (Ascension) were holidays this week? The French seem to take both seriously, though there was more for Victory in my village. Every town has a monument to the lost soldiers of both wars, and wreaths were everywhere on Wednesday. So maybe that is why your store was closed….

  • Seba
    May 10, 2013 9:15pm

    For what it is worth, the Peychaud’s produced today are a far cry from what they once were when the drink was originally concocted, being artificially flavoured and coloured. Being forced to use an alternative is a blessing in disguise!

  • May 10, 2013 9:51pm

    Had a similar experience trying to track down tamarind concentrate recently. You’d think it’d be easier to find given its used in Thai and Mexican cooking. I wanted to avoid going all the way to 99 Ranch and instead ended up visiting a Whole Foods, a Ralphs and a Vons plus coming home empty handed….fail.

  • Linda Sapp
    May 10, 2013 10:19pm

    I’d like to make a suggestion, David. Download Grocery IQ. It’s a paperless way to keep your grocery lists plus anything else you want lists of. I also use it for hardware and plants. Very convenient and so easy to use. My phone stays with me and so do all my lists. They’re ever so easy to delete what you have bought and also add things you need to buy. Try it; you’ll love it!

  • Poornima
    May 10, 2013 11:25pm

    “muttering about bitters under his breath, and scaling fire hydrants.”… are so funny….!

  • Kaylie Magestro
    May 11, 2013 4:28am

    Sounds to me like you could use a stiff cocktail after this adventure!!

  • deedee
    May 11, 2013 8:21am

    Maybe u can try Gamme Vert or truffaut ? They are specialize in gardening and a friend bought a barrel at Gamme Vert.

  • May 11, 2013 9:21am

    I made my own lemoncello once and it was delicious but it tasted exactly the same as the one I could buy in the store and it was very labor intensive not to mention the waiting time. So, after that, I decided to just buy it-about the same price surprisingly.

  • May 11, 2013 12:50pm

    I’m always surprised when I see Canadian Club abroad. I thought it was more of a local thing but I recently saw it in Peru! In Canada “Rye and Ginger” is a popular hi-ball bar drink (just Canada Dry and Canadian Club!). If I found that abroad I’d be very surprised!

    • May 11, 2013 1:12pm
      David Lebovitz

      I believe that Canadian whisky became popular in France during the years of prohibition in the US, and it’s still available, although not really widely. The French love whisky, but have taken to Scotch and primarily drink that, and rye-based whisky is hard to find.

      • Bill
        May 11, 2013 1:24pm

        Yes. Canadian Club was originally made by Hiram Walker ltd. in Windsor, Ontario CANADA. HW made his fortune and established/expanded his business during prohibition. During the 60s & 70s Walker also owned Courvoisier Cognac (among other things). There was a lot of interchange Can-Fr as you can imagine. I believe both are now owned by Ricard (the pastis people).

  • May 11, 2013 2:19pm

    Btw, made the egg curry. Left you a comment

  • Bebe
    May 11, 2013 5:25pm

    The bottles of Angostura bitters that many Americans have in their liquor cabinets have usually been there for years. That is the only name I’ve ever heard connected with bitters. (A tiny sip is supposed to be very good for an upset stomach!) I think I still have my late parents’ bottle. Supposedly it lasts forever.

    I saw a mention of Carrefours as a French source. Also the internet. Nothing else tastes like it.

  • Bebe
    May 11, 2013 5:27pm

    And here is Peychaud’s

  • latafiolesucree
    May 11, 2013 7:10pm

    Why don’t you make your own yogurt? It takes less work than walking to the store.

    • May 12, 2013 2:30pm
      David Lebovitz

      By the time I age my own whiskey, candy my own cherries, and hunt down recipes for making my own bitters, not sure I have any time left for making yogurt!

  • Alexis Delgado
    May 12, 2013 2:26am

    Woodinville distillery sells an Age your own whisky Kit that includes a small oak barrel, Don’t know if they would ship it all the way to Paris though….

  • Sylvia
    May 12, 2013 3:08pm

    By A fan in New Jersey on May 10, 2013 4:58 PM
    What is the last item on your shopping list? Creders? Crackers?

    I think it says “meat crackers” which is making me giggle for some reasonl

  • May 12, 2013 9:08pm

    The next time I’m in Paris, I’ll remember to pack a few bottles of bitters in my bag for you, David!

  • Jen Norfolk
    May 12, 2013 11:02pm

    I so enjoy this blog (and your books!). And now, my Pimm’s on the back porch Victoria Day weekend will have to include a few more selections. So many cocktails, so little time…

  • ENH
    May 13, 2013 6:30am

    Whisky store boarded up? A sadder sentence I have never read.
    I hope it wasnt Maison du Whisky. I fell in love with that beautiful store my last trip.

  • parisbreakfast
    May 13, 2013 8:11am

    Gotta wonder how much the renewed popularity of cocktails is due to the world watching Mad Men?

  • Michael Duffy
    May 14, 2013 1:16am

    Meat crackers? Now don’t those sound yummy? Really David, you have to start writing more legibly if you want us to continue looking over your shoulder!

  • Denise
    May 14, 2013 1:47pm

    Ahhh, so I’m not the only one to show up at random stores looking for xyz to find them closed for a week or two, or just for the day I show up. Thanks David! I’m sure your Nouveau Carre cocktail will be fantastic.

  • SK
    May 15, 2013 9:48pm

    You need to add some Benedictine in there! Aside from being true to the original, it rounds out the cocktail and gives it an herbal je ne sais quoi. Of course, it might take you another 4-6 weeks to find it there…

    Good recipe:

  • nbm
    May 17, 2013 12:10am

    David, you slacker. Obviously you have to craft your own barrels. (From WP: “Examples of a cooper’s work include but are not limited to casks, barrels, buckets, tubs, butter churns, hogsheads, firkins, tierces, rundlets, puncheons, pipes, tuns, butts, pins and breakers.”)