You never forget your first time, so they say. And they’re usually right. Such is the tale of my very first encounter with a cocktail whose very name exposed me as a novice to the wonders of the Ramos Gin Fizz. After butchering the name to my long-suffering bartender at the Olde Absinthe House, she seemed to take a little delight in informing me that it called for a raw egg white, and wanted to know if I was allergic.Hold the phone…
I’m not an egg nog drinker. I don’t even like my eggs runny, just scrambled all the way. So why would I want to drink a funky sounding drink that I couldn’t even pronounce with confidence, and which advertised a raw egg as its feature ingredient? Well luckily, my bartender that day was very persuasive, as was my disdain for just another run of the mill liquor/mixer/half-expired fruit garnish concoction, so I took a chance, and it changed my whole perception of what a cocktail could, and should, be.
It turns out, the Ramos Gin Fizz is one of the oldest cocktails, and as luck would have it, it had allegedly been created less than a half-mile from my barstool by one Henry Ramos back in 1888. The historical gravity alone did enhance my experience that day, as did the irresistible combination of flavors and textures which danced around on my tongue. It literally tasted like soda shop nostalgia to me. It turns out my eggophobia (not a fear of waffles, or a real word, for that matter) was very misguided and foolish, because it really steals the show. A seasoned bartender will shake the ingredients senseless with the egg white gyrating alongside the various citrus juices and heavy cream, frothing up into a splendid meringue if done with enough patience and gusto. One need only add soda water(preferably straight from a classic fountain-style soda dispenser from a Norman Rockwell print rather than the aggressive soda gun-on-a-tentacle found in most bars and restaurants), and magic happens, as the slow soda influx transforms the meringue into an Everest-like glacier which creeps slowly to the top of the glass and beyond, waiting to nestle your straw. A loving drop or two of the even more indispensable orange flower water onto the fluffy top brings the drink home to the heavens.
Since that fateful day, I’ve settled into my favorite Ramos yet, and it’s hard to beat. With 9(!) ingredients, Bar Tonique’s Ramos is as classic and true as you’ll find, and they take the time to get it right. I don’t even try to order it anymore if the bar is too packed, because I know it can really put the brakes on the bartender’s flow with its many needs and nuances. I’ve been to several bars since, some storied in their own right, and none has matched Tonique’s, although Cure’s comes close, and their unrequired but totally welcome orange peel garnish is an aromatic addition. Avoid the Ramos if you even sniff the prospect of vanilla as an ingredient, as some misguided soul felt that this was an acceptable addition over time; it is not acceptable, really, unless you want a Vanilla Gin Fizz, which doesn’t, and shouldn’t, exist.
So drop any egg squeamishness you might harbor and take a trip through time, and order a Ramos Gin Fizz next time you see it on a menu at your favorite watering hole. Ramos rhymes with Stamos, as in John Stamos, just so you know.