As a cocktail famous for its unusually long and exhausting preparation method, it’s a wonder that the Ramos Gin Fizz has outlasted just about every drink fad in the last century. Likened to “drinking a flower,” this silky, aromatic concoction is unlike any of its fizzy predecessors.
In 1888, Henry C. Ramos purchased the Imperial Cabinet saloon in New Orleans and introduced the world to the New Orleans Gin Fizz. He also served the cocktail at his next saloon, The Stag, but renamed as the Ramos Gin Fizz. The Stag’s position near the popular St. Charles Hotel helped the cocktail rise to emblematic fame in New Orleans, especially during festivals.
The “Ramos” differentiator comes not without warrant. On top of the standard gin fizz combination of gin, sugar, lemon juice, and club soda, he added egg whites, orange flower water, lime juice, cream, and powdered sugar (in place of cane sugar). In drink lore, what happened next was 12 minutes of cocktail shaking. Ramos was a perfectionist, and his namesake drink wasn’t perfect until it reached an almost-whipped state. Allegedly, his original instructions dictated that vigorously shaking—all the way to the 12-minute mark—would perfect its consistency. Experts agree that five minutes was probably closer to the actual shake time.
Twelve minutes or not, the process was so laborious and time-consuming that Ramos hired several full-time “shaker boys” to help prepare his gin fizzes. In Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ‘Em, Stanley Clisby Arthur recalls that “in the 1915 Mardi Gras, 35 shaker boys nearly shook their arms off, but were still unable to keep up with the demand.”
Despite the craze, Ramos did not tolerate drunken tomfoolery. Those who came to visit the Imperial Cabinet knew of its policy against drunkards and strict, 8 p.m. closing time. The saloon was a calm space and a stage for fine cocktails—not a place for late-night debauchery and disorder. Ramos followed the rules, and with the ratification of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited alcohol’s manufacture, transport, or sale in the U.S., he quickly and quietly shut down the bar for good in 1919. He died before Prohibition ended.
A 1928 issue of the New Orleans Item-Tribune published advice from the late Ramos, who insisted that the key to the cocktail was care, patience, and quality ingredients. Readers were instructed to “shake and shake and shake until there is not a bubble left but the drink is smooth and snowy white and of the consistency of good rich milk. The secret in success lies in the good care you take and in your patience, and be certain to use good material.”
Even with serious dedication and biceps to match, 12 minutes is quite a marathon. But hiring a team to do it for you? Now that’s a hard thought to shake.
Need to Know
Finding a Ramos Gin Fizz is easiest in New Orleans, but there are bars all over the world that still serve this drink. You can also try asking your local bartender to make you one off-menu. But there's a good chance that she'll say no, or pull out an electric blender.