Ramos Gin Fizz. See recipe link, below. (Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post/Food styling by Amanda Soto/The Washington Post)

I think of the Ramos Gin Fizz as the Mount Everest of drinks. Not because it is extraordinarily difficult to make, or because it represents the pinnacle of cocktail achievement, but because of mountaineer George Mallory’s famous response about why he wanted to climb Everest: Because it’s there.

The Ramos, a cool column of citrus and gin topped with a white plateau of foam, is perhaps the most iconic in the family of fizzes. It was possibly invented by and definitely made famous by Henry C. Ramos, a saloonkeeper in New Orleans in the early 20th century.

An early example of the celebrity bartender, Ramos was known for the high standards and decorum he insisted upon at his bar. Chris McMillian of Revel Cafe & Bar in New Orleans, himself a fourth-generation bartender and co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, says that part of the enduring Ramos legend includes a story that when temperance crusader and bar-hatcheter Carry Nation saw how Ramos ran his establishment, she purportedly said that if all liquor purveyors were like him, there would be no need for Prohibition.

His good behavior clearly wasn’t enough to turn the tide, though. When the law came down, he closed up shop. “It’s long been my contention that nobody alive has ever drank the true Ramos Gin Fizz, because Henry Ramos closed his doors in 1919 — 100 years ago this year — with the advent of Prohibition,” says McMillian.


Cottontail Fizz; see recipe link, below. (Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post/Food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

He notes that Ramos once said in an interview that no one could get drunk off Ramos Gin Fizzes. “I’ll postulate because it took so long to get one,” McMillian quips.

To be clear: These days, the Ramos is famous primarily for being a pain in the — excuse me, for being what we might, in a person, describe as “high maintenance.” Per Stanley Clisby Arthur’s 1937 book, “Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’Em,” the original had nine ingredients: a tablespoon of powdered sugar (simple syrup is more common these days), a few drops of orange flower water (a highly fragrant distillate whose nose is far more flowers than oranges), lime and lemon juice, a jigger of gin, cream, egg white, seltzer and a few drops of vanilla extract (that last is listed as optional).

That shopping list makes it fussy enough, but its reputation is due more to the technique used to combine those ingredients: Various historical accounts suggest that, to achieve the drink’s silken texture and high-top fade of foam, bartenders shook it for north of 10 minutes.

At Ramos’s establishment, its creation employed a line of men, each shaking the drink until he tired and passed it on to the next. Arthur , describing the scene: “The corps of busy shaker boys behind the bar was one of the sights of the town during Carnival, and in the 1915 Mardi Gras, 35 shaker boys nearly shook their arms off but were still unable to keep up with the demand.”


Apricloud Fizz; see recipe link, below. (Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post/Food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

This anecdote strikes me as a great example of early bar myth-building — the pre-Prohibition equivalent of drinks that change color or have an elaborate scaffolding of garniture on top. In an era when you couldn’t lure customers in with cocktail eye candy on Instagram, what better way to draw crowds than with a drink that would send customers out talking about the show before the sip?

The legend of the Ramos has driven drinkmakers to treat it as an Everest of sorts and devise various means of scaling it: changing up that long shake time, using different sizes and shapes of ice, using a blender, changing up the order of shaking with and without ice. At a couple of bars, I’ve even encountered a machine that holds two shakers and agitates them for minutes on end. At around $1,000 a pop, they seem extreme, but they did make me hope that “Terminator 16: Rise of the Ramos Machines” — in which a resentful robot travels back through time to force Sarah Connor to make her own damn cocktails — might be somewhere in our future.

I am willing to work for a good drink. But the reality is that I’ll be making these cocktails myself, and let’s just say that when God was handing out Upper Body Strength, I had gone back to the Freckles line for a second helping.

Happily, most bartenders I’ve chatted with about the Ramos seem to concur that extreme shake times aren’t necessary. These days, many have gravitated toward a method called the reverse dry shake, in which you shake the drink first with ice to chill and dilute it, then strain out the ice and re-shake it, whipping up the egg and cream back to that silken texture without the ice melt to interfere. Few find it necessary to give it more than three minutes shaking.


Becky’s Back at It; see recipe link, below. (Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post/Food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

Personally, I’ve found Ramoses (Ramosi? Ramosen?) that fail do so less because of undershaking and more because of an overly generous hand with the orange flower. A few sparing droplets produce a subtle, pleasant florality; a few drops more and your Ramos will taste like you’ve been spritzed in the mouth by one of the perfume snipers who lurk in the cosmetics sections of fancy department stores.

At Hank’s Cocktail Bar in the District, beverage program manager Hunter Douglas does a reverse dry shake, puts the drink back in the refrigerator for a minute or so, and only then gently adds the modicum of soda that raises the foam above the rim. “You don’t want to break that souffle on top,” he says. Douglas apparently feels even more strongly about orange flower water than I do; he leaves it out entirely, instead finishing the drink with a mist of orange extract. It’s a lovely variation — as is his berry-brightened Becky’s Back at It, which provides an echo of the Ramos, minus the fizz.

That fizz is another element that can sink the drink, ironically in the process of trying to raise it. Because the visual of that high-hat foam has become such a focus, sometimes people add too much soda to get it. By adding just a little soda, “you’re not so diluting the drink . . . as to mask the gin to the point that you can no longer recognize it,” McMillian says. “And once the botanical elements of the gin become the central flavor element, then it becomes a delicious and complex drink with many layers of flavor.”

I like a Ramos when it’s perfectly made, but maybe more, I like the basic template: the spirit balanced with sour and sweet, the richness of cream, and yes — I do love the pillowy cloud of foam. Once you master it, you can take it in all sorts of directions. And I’m grateful to have a means to create it that doesn’t require exhaustion or repetitive stress injuries. After all, if your milkshake is going to bring all the boys to the yard, wouldn’t you like to have some energy left for socializing when they arrive?

Allan is a Hyattsville, Md., writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter: @Carrie_the_Red.

Recipes:

Ramos Gin Fizz

1 serving

These recipes call for raw egg white; if you are concerned about a risk of salmonella, use a pasteurized egg, such as Davidson’s brand.

Use a smaller Collins glass here (no larger than 12 ounces), so that you won’t be tempted to add too much soda, which will over-dilute the drink. You don’t have to serve this with a straw, but a straw helps guide the addition of soda at the end.

We found orange flower water at Ace and Batch 13; it can also be bought online and at many cooking supply stores.

MAKE AHEAD: Leftover simple syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Adapted from various traditional recipes.

Ingredients

For the simple syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

For the drink

Ice

1½ ounces gin

½ ounce fresh lemon juice

½ ounce fresh lime juice

1 large egg white (see headnote)

1 ounce heavy cream

3 drops orange flower water

1 to 2 drops vanilla extract (optional)

1 to 2 ounces chilled club soda or plain seltzer

Steps

For the simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil; once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat. Cool completely.

For the drink: Chill a Collins glass. Fill a shaker with ice.

Add the gin, lemon, lime, egg white, 1 ounce of the simple syrup, the cream, orange flower water and the vanilla extract, if using. Seal and shake vigorously for 30 seconds, to chill, then strain into the Collins glass.

Discard the ice from the shaker, then pour the drink back into it. Seal and shake vigorously for 30 to 45 seconds, then pour into the Collins glass.

Insert a straw into the drink, then add the club soda or seltzer, pouring it along the straw to avoid depleting or damaging the foam. (The straw is optional for serving, but it does help preserve the foam as you drink.)

Cottontail Fizz

1 serving

To make this drink vegan, use 2 tablespoons of aquafaba (chickpea liquid) instead of the egg white.

From Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan.

Ingredients

For the simple syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

For the drink

Ice

2 ounces fresh carrot juice (see headnote)

1½ ounces gin

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

1 ounce ginger liqueur, such as Domaine de Canton

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 large egg white (see headnote)

Chilled seltzer water, to top

Steps

For the simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil; once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat. The yield is about 1 cup. Cool completely.

For the drink: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add the carrot juice, gin, lemon juice, ginger liqueur, ½ ounce of the simple syrup, bitters and the egg white. Seal and shake briefly to chill the ingredients, then strain into a Collins glass, discarding the ice.

Pour the drink back into the shaker; seal and shake vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the drink back into the glass. Insert a straw through the foam on top and pour the seltzer gently down the straw until the foamy head rises above the rim of the glass.

Serve right away, with the straw.

Apricloud Fizz

1 serving

Rothman & Winter’s is available at Ace and Batch 13 in the District; Mathilde Pêche is a nice alternative.

From Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan.

Ingredients

For the simple syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

For the drink

Ice

1½ ounces gin

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

1 ounce heavy cream

1 ounce apricot liqueur, such as Rothman & Winter (see headnote)

2 dashes peach bitters (optional)

1 large egg white (see headnote)

Chilled seltzer water, to top

Steps

For the simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil; once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat. The yield is about 1 cup. Cool completely.

For the drink: Chill a Collins glass.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add the gin, lemon juice, cream, apricot liqueur, ¼ ounce of the simple syrup, the peach bitters, if using, and the egg white. Seal and shake briefly to chill the ingredients, then strain into the glass, discarding the ice.

Pour the drink back into the shaker; seal and shake vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the drink back into the glass. Insert a straw through the foam on top and pour the seltzer gently down the straw until the foamy head rises above the rim of the glass. Serve with the straw.

Becky’s Back at It

1 serving

MAKE AHEAD: The berry syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Any leftover syrup is tasty over vanilla ice cream or stirred into iced tea.

Adapted from a recipe by Hunter Douglas, beverage program manager at Hank’s Cocktail Bar in the District.

Ingredients

For the berry syrup

24 ounces (3 cups) water

12 ounces (scant 1¾ cups) sugar

12 ounces fresh or frozen mixed berries, such as strawberries, blackberries and raspberries

For the drink

Ice

2 ounces vodka (Hank’s uses Absolut Elyx)

¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

1 ounce heavy cream

1 large egg white (see headnote)

Steps

For the berry syrup: Combine the water, sugar and berries in a blender; puree until fairly smooth, then strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a container, discarding the solids. Stir until the sugar has fully dissolved, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a few days). The yield is about 3 cups.

For the drink: Chill a large coupe glass.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add the vodka, lemon juice, 1 ounce of the berry syrup, the heavy cream and egg white. Seal and shake vigorously until well chilled, then strain into the coupe.

Discard the ice, then return the drink to the shaker; seal and shake vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour into the coupe and serve right away.

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