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The Ramos Fizz: A Classic Drink to Kick Off the Presidential Campaign Season

During the spring and summer before a presidential election, like clockwork, politicians from both major parties declare their intention to run for president. So far this year four Democrats and ten Republicans have formally announced their intention to seek their parties’ nominations (and on Monday, Jeb Bush is likely to become the eleventh Republican candidate). Most of these declarations follow a model that has been in use for more than a century: The would-be candidate schedules a press conference—usually in his home town, or at least in his home state—at which he declares his candidacy and gives a speech explaining why he is the best choice for president. While the candidates themselves are often fascinating, this methodology has become staid, and in truth…boring.

However, every now and then a candidate bucks the trend, and comes up with a truly original way to announce his candidacy. No doubt one of the most original campaign-launches was that of Huey “the Kingfish” Long, Louisiana’s radical-populist Democrat Senator, who launched his presidential campaign eighty years ago next month, at a press event in Manhattan’s New Yorker Hotel. During this event Long described FDR’s administration as combining the worst features of “concentrated capitalism, Stalinism and Hitlerism.” Long intended, he said, to run on a “share-the-wealth” platform, which he claimed would forestall the otherwise inevitable revolution.

What made this event so unusual, was what had preceded the announcement: a cocktail demonstration. Long had flown in his favorite bartender, Sam Guarino (who, ironically, was the Head Bartender of the Hotel Roosevelt in New Orleans) to demonstrate, in the New Yorker’s bar, how to produce a Ramos Gin Fizz. It was only after the gentlemen of the press were well-sauced with free Fizzes, that Long invited them up to his suite in order to announce his candidacy.

One of the classics of mixology, the Ramos Gin Fizz is a silky, creamy, fluffy concoction that is composed of gin, citrus, cream, sugar and egg-white, which goes down as easily as a New York egg-cream—and it’s a great summertime sozzle. The drink was invented by Henry C. Ramos, a bartender who set up shop in New Orleans in 1888. Ramos’ fizz soon became so popular with natives and visitors to New Orleans that he had to buy a bigger bar, and, according to Stanley Clisby Arthur (who wrote about the Ramos Fizz in his 1937 book, “Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ’Em,”) during the 1915 Mardi Gras, customers would line up outside Ramos’ bar for more than an hour and “35 shaker boys nearly shook their arms off but were unable to keep up with demand.”

Like his politics, Long’s cocktail recipe was rather unorthodox, and consisted of “A noggin of gin, the white of one egg, two drops of orange flower water, dash of vanilla, one-half glass of milk with a little tincture of cream, pulverized sugar, a small dash of seltzer and lots of ice. Shake well for ten minutes.” I’ve tried Long’s recipe a few times, and have not been able to make it palatable. Fortunately though, while Ramos had always kept the formula for his Fizz a closely guarded secret, in 1925, at the height of Prohibition, and a few years before his death, he shared his recipe with a reporter from the New Orleans Item-Tribune. The recipe that follows is based closely on that original.

As for Long’s presidential campaign, it ended, tragically, six weeks after it began, when Long was assassinated in Baton Rouge by the son-in-law of one of his political enemies.

The Ramos Gin Fizz

3 tbsp. of Gin (Ramos’ recipe calls for Old Tom Gin, a sweet type of English gin—Hayman’s Old Tom Gin would be a good choice—but I prefer to make the drink with Plymouth Gin.)

The juice from half of a freshly squeezed lemon (about 1 ½ tbsp.)

The juice from half of a freshly squeezed lime (about 1 tbsp.)

1 tbsp. of superfine sugar

2 tbsp. of cream or half-and-half

1 egg white (While those who are concerned about ingesting raw egg can omit the egg white, the resulting drink will lose much of its creamy, foamy texture.)

3-4 drops of orange blossom water (Available at most Middle-Eastern food stores, and at many gourmet food stores. Sadaf produces orange blossom water which is kosher certified. The orange blossom water is best added with an eye dropper, as even a few drops too many can overpower the drink.)

Place the above ingredients in a large cocktail shaker with about 2/3 of a cup crushed ice, and shake vigorously for one-to-two minutes. Strain into a chilled tumbler, and top with a few tablespoons of chilled seltzer or club soda. Stir briefly, then enjoy.

By Gamliel Kronemer

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