By Pinky Gonzales
Of course it is the week of Fat Tuesday and Lent, and the good city of New Orleans is on our minds and so are it’s drinks. LUPEC Boston’s column in this week’s Dig is on the Roffignac cocktail, a kind of elegant, no-frills, tasty highball. Its exact story is fuzzy, but its origins seem to go back to the early part of the 19th century, when cocktails were fledging. The drink is named after a French Revolution refugee-turned-progressive New Orleans Mayor and state Senator, Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac, who may have liked to drink ‘em. It’s a Cognac or Brandy, raspberry, and soda water concoction, and personally, makes me pine for summer. Not a bad Winter blues beater (take it from me!) The original used a now-extinct raspberry syrup called Red Hembarig. I don’t know what our best store-bought choice is today as there are a number of them but I made a fresh raspberry simple syrup and that was not only good enough for me it was delicious.
So as Mayor in the 1820s, Roffignac, perhaps more of an “Obama” of his day than say, a Bush (ouch it’s hard to type his name), introduced and implemented a fistful of forward-minded ideas to make the Crescent city what it is today. According to Ryan Mayer in Where Y’At magazine, “He seems to have been the first official in New Orleans to appreciate its dawning commercial importance, and set himself earnestly and laboriously to prepare the city for its coming greatness.” Cool. He paid great attention to keeping the streets clean, planted trees, paved the streets, spearheaded some early levee planning, and lit the lantern-carrying Quarter with streetlamps in 1821. Pittoresque, no?
The swell little tome, Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix Them by Stanley Clisby Arthur is a fun source for the recipe and a bit of history. It instructs:
“1 jigger whiskey
1 pony sirup
seltzer or soda water
Pour ito a highball glass the jigger of whiskey (or use Cognac, as in the original drink). Add the sirup, which may be raspberry, grenadine, or red Hembarig, the sweetening used in New Orleans a century ago [that would be 1837.] Add the soda water. Ice of course.
Cheers to progress, cheers to the swampy city.