Historic Roosevelt Hotel Cocktail Menu

Posted on: May 6th, 2009 by admin 4 Comments

Here’s more historic menu goodness from the Roosevelt hotel, with the official drink list full of classics that will, we hope, return to the Roosevelt this year along with their 21st Century concoctions. I don’t have an exact date for this menu, but presumably it predates the move of the Sazerac Bar to the Roosevelt Hotel in 1949, as you’ll note the conspicuous absence of the Sazerac Cocktail on the menu, as well as mentions of the bar.

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I love the beginning … ‘Correct drinking is an art, which is gradually coming back in America, after sixteen years of Prohibition.’ It is indeed, and is once again a lost art for so many. Perhaps we need this menu introduction again, in an age where on weekend nights people stand eight deep at the bar to order vodka tonics or vodka and Red Bull.

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While we see no Sazerac here, the Ramos Gin Fizz is, of course, front and center. Many classics here, with the interesting specification in many of J. & W. Bitters (made by Jung and Wolff) rather than Peychaud’s Bitters, as there were some rights issues at one point. (I’ve become hazy on the details, but Ted ‘Dr. Cocktail’ Haigh has done much research into this subject, and can perhaps enlighten us in the comments!)

There are also some odd versions here … The ‘Casino’ shown here with rum, anisette and pineapple juice bears no resemblance to what one would normally expect a Casino to be, with gin, maraschino, lemon juice and orange bitters.

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Sadly, I expect room service will end up being a bit more than a nickel per drink.

4 Responses

  1. Jane Cutler says:

    I’m a bit confused. I read the history of the Sazerac Bar above, and about Huey Long’s affection for it — about how he liked to come down from his suite to drink and chat in the Sazerac Bar. There’s a problem with the timeline, however. Huey Long died in 1935 and it says here the bar moved to the hotel in 1949. New Orleans historian, Aurthur Hardy, tells a similar story about Long and the Roosevelt. The bar is described as art deco, which was waning in popularity in by the late ’30s.The murals are dated circa 1930s. I’m not one to stand in the way of a good story. I have included the Sazerac in a novel set in 1941. Since it is a work of fiction, I have lisence to keep it as a location for the story’s action. But before the fabulous Roosevelt opens its door, someone needs to get the story straight. The Huey Long story seems apocryphal, but I hope it is true!

  2. Jane Cutler says:

    I take it back, Aurthur Hardy said nothing of the kind. See how this kind of thing starts! Can’t wait to have a signature cocktail at the Sazerac Bar!

  3. Dr.Cocktail says:

    I concur. The menu looks (based on prices) just post-WWII.

    Generally speaking, it isn’t extraordinary not to find the Sazerac on the menu in this period. New Orleans went through spans of its existence when, like Times Square, it descended into seediness – or was at least perceived that way, by both residents and tourists. Post war saw the juxtaposition of such a period and the developing prosperity of post-war America. Some of the old traditional hallmarks of the city were viewed – through a jaded eye – as colloquial and down market…just when tourism was showing signs of life.

    The ironic upshot was, it took the fancy modern Roosevelt Hotel to have the extraordinary foresight to license the rights to the Sazerac name, in 1949, from the Sazerac Company…to the benefit of both organizations. The Roosevelt was likely unwilling to put the Saz’ on the menu before sealing that deal. Both the original Ramos and Sazerac businesses were closed down in 1920 due to the advent of Prohibition. The Roosevelt had acquired the rights to the trade name of “Ramos Gin Fizz” right after Prohibition was repealed, and that’s why it appeared on hotel menus earlier.

    The Grunewald became the Roosevelt in 1923. There would be no Sazerac or Ramos Fizz there for the next ten years by order of law under the National Prohibition Act. By 1934 the Fizz was on the menu. Though the Sazerac would not be until on or after 1949, it surely does not mean the bartenders there wouldn’t MAKE one for you! Theirs is a service industry. Therefore Ms. Cutler’s accounting would ring true anytime from December of 1933 on, in virtually any fancy bar in the city.

    As an aside, there is a labeled bottle of Jung & Wulff’s (J&W) Bitters on display at The Museum of the American Cocktail in the Riverwalk. It was, by the way, J&W’s own version of Peychaud.

    Also, please allow me to offer congratulations on revitalizing one of the three greatest New Orleans hotels in history. We can all still send thoughts of goodwill to the Monteleone, just as we continue to lament the long absence of the grand old St. Charles. The smartest move you could make for the worldwide reputation of the Sazerac Bar (which had become pretty awful under Fairmont control) would be to install Chris McMillian as head barman. Expert mixer, impresario, commanding presence, and cocktail historian of world renown…he, the joyous new Roosevelt, and the Sazerac Bar are a match made in heaven.

    Finally, during Tales of the Cocktail this year, I’ve enthusiastically opted to choice of lodging the Roosevelt – of course! The new, expanded and revised deluxe edition of Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails will be available at Tales, and it would be my honor to sign copies for you all.

    Very best wishes,
    Ted Haigh

  4. [...] Time: here’s the original bar menu, super neat! No Sazerac, but the Ramon Gin Fizz seems to have been all the rage. Also make sure to [...]

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