New Orleans cocktail book shows city’s elegance

If your idea of ​​a New Orleans cocktail is an alcoholic concoction colored with Kool-Aid, a cocktail made with hand grenades or a novelty glass that resembles a hurricane lamp, stop thinking like a college student on his first trip to Bourbon Street and go. Check out the new book from elite bar owner Neal Bodenheimer.

“Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em,” by Bodenheimer and food writer Emily Timberlake, is filled with recipes for cocktails created at Cure, the craft cocktail bar Bodenheimer founded in 2009. The bar is widely recognized as a modern-day New Orleans destination bar for craft cocktails. This book has recipes for vinegar, Manhattans and bitter slings interspersed with some history of New Orleans, its drinking culture and the men and women who created the drink.

Bodenheimer, whose family first settled in Louisiana in the 1850s, was a bartender in New York who planned to eventually open a cocktail bar. But then Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and, like many New Orleanians who watched the disaster unfold in their hometown, Bodenheimer felt an immediate need to return.

“I just decided I wanted to … go home,” he said during an interview with The Associated Press.

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Cure opened in 2009 on rue Freret, far from the more famous tourist spots like rue de France or rue des Magazines. The strip became an important anchor as the street not only recovered from Katrina’s heavy damage but also became a thriving food street. In 2018, Cure was honored with the prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program. It was also the first of many bars and restaurants that Bodenheimer is now involved with.

There are Cane & Table and Peychaud’s in the French Quarter, Vals Restaurant on Freret Street, and just last year, his first venture outside of New Orleans – Dauphine’s Restaurant in Washington.

New Orleans’ reputation for drinking and partying is well known. During prohibition, New Orleans was called the wettest city in the country. Today in some New Orleans neighborhoods, people can legally drink a glass of alcohol as they walk down the street.

This book includes recipes for many classic cocktails associated with New Orleans, including the Ramos Gin Fizz, Vieux Carre and Sazerac. (Bodenheimer laments but firmly denies the local legend that the Sazerac was the world’s first cocktail.) But most of the drinks are the creations of Bodenheimer and the staff at Cure. With a few exceptions, every season Cure introduces a new Bodenheimer drink to its diverse, creative staff.

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“I’ve worked with incredible people,” he said. “It’s incredible how someone brings their own talent to making a drink. And that talent is unique.”

There are certainties in the book and its recipes that may surprise readers who expect to “let the good times roll” to New Orleans drinks. Ramos Gin Fizz is shaken for 2½ minutes. Cure uses unscented hand soap at the bar so as not to distract from the citrusy scent that is expressed. Bitters are added to the drink using a dropper instead of a dasher bottle.

Liz Williams, founder of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and one of the authors of “Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans,” said Bodenheimer and Cure did not make the “crazy, complicated drinks” sometimes seen. in another place. For example, there is no Bloody Mary with valuable fruits and vegetables from the wild.

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“There’s a lot of elegance to the way the drinks are presented,” she said.

Williams credits Bodenheimer with promoting the people who work at Cure by helping them move to new positions the way New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme is known to do: “He understood that rising tides rock all boats.”

The book is interspersed with essays by Bodenheimer’s friends and contemporaries that illustrate various aspects of the city’s drinking culture and reflect on the nostalgia of college history. One section features New Orleans photographer and writer, L. Kasimu Harris, who documented the city’s remaining black neighborhood bars in his book “Vanishing Black Bars and Lounges.”

Another section details Bodenheimer’s travel schedule and tips for Mardi Gras, including the recipe for the eponymous punch. Basically, the book is, as Bodenheimer describes it, “a love letter to the city from me.”

“It means honoring … the city and honoring the work of the people who have graced us with their talent behind the bar at Cure,” he said.

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