I have an almost magnetic attraction to dishes and drinks that are fussy. Call it a natural predisposition toward being high-maintenance. If it requires some kind of complicated technique or a bunch of painstaking work to make it happen, I want to try it. Unfortunately, because the things that are best in this world take a lot of time, I often end up loving my highly-detailed discoveries, which makes me the asshole who makes the bartenders at Parliament shake up several Ramos gin fizzes every time I stop by.
We briefly mentioned this cocktail in our list of 2014's best cocktails, but the Ramos gin fizz is worth more digital ink than just a quick blurb. There are good cocktails, and then there are those that make you realize that you just can't go back to drinking bad booze anymore. Even when you've got only $10 left in your pocket, you're still going to have an overwhelming urge to take the bus down to Parliament and spend it all on just one more fizz.
I had my first Ramos at a snooty bar in New York City, where the bartender lectured me for at least thirty minutes about the painstaking process of whipping the cocktail into its characteristic froth. Egg whites are hand-separated, mixed with orange blossom water and gin, then shaken until the bartender's arms are very near falling off. When I first ordered the cocktail from bartender Lucky Campbell, he cheerfully started shaking. That's a guy who really loves his job behind the bar.
At Parliament, the Ramos comes with at least a 10-minute wait, which is really a bargain considering that the mixologist who invented the drink insisted that it be shaken for at least 12. Now, bartenders only need a few minutes to whip the cocktail in a shaker, but the bar is packed full of mustachioed dudes deeply interested in the crazy-ass techniques that Campbell and his band of barmen are doing back there.
Who can blame them? Those guys are hand-carving ice, setting shit on fire, and even spray painting the tops of cocktails. Still, none of the flashy showmanship is necessary when you're talking about a drink that has endured on cocktail menus since at least the 1880s, when it was invented by its namesake, Henry C. Ramos, at New Orleans' Roosevelt Hotel. Since, the Ramos has gone in and out of fashion, but Parliament's version of the cocktail is, hopefully, here to stay.
Much like a meringue, egg white is whipped in a shaker with heavy cream, sugar and a little citrus juice until it is light and frothy. The cocktail is then poured into a tall glass, where the foam mounds over the top. This part of the drink is easily the most delicious, but unfortunately gives it an overtly phallic appearance. Order a Ramos and you're assuredly going to get a comment from a whiskey-drunk guy about how much it looks like a dick. Just laugh -- it comes with the territory.
The drink's characteristic flavor is a few drops of orange blossom water, used traditionally in Spain's version of a Mardi Gras King cake. In reality, the orange blossom water has more scent than flavor, but that doesn't keep it from adding a distinct floral quality to the airy cocktail. Even if you're not particularly into floral flavors, orange blossom water is light and innocuous. It doesn't have the same perfume-in-your-face strength of rose water.
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The cocktail is then garnished simply with a fan-cut orange peel, and carefully brought to your table by the waitress. It's inevitable that a little of the foam will fall over onto the sides, but no matter -- no one's going to judge you for licking the glass. Or maybe they will. Either way, you should still probably do it. It isnt necessary, though, to drink the cocktail so quickly that you miss out on its delicate flavors. This is a drink to be sipped, and the foam is sturdy enough to wait around for you to finish.
A couple of weeks ago, Campbell introduced a pumpkin spice-infused Ramos gin fizz that is much more than a novelty. There isn't really much of a coffee flavor, but the nutmeg is very present, and the flavors are very reminiscent of the foam off the top of a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. Basic bitch jokes aside, the flavors in this incarnation of the Ramos are delicate and nuanced, and I hope it sticks around until spring rolls around. When I last visited, bartender Brad Bowden implied that they may be introducing a new Ramos this month with more Christmas-inspired flavors.
However you feel about craft cocktails, this is one of those drinks that is worth the $15 that you're going to shell out for it. If you're skeptical, go sit at the bar and watch your bartender mix that drink. Your arms will be so damn tired at just the thought of shaking a cocktail that long that you'll gladly tip them even more. But you won't feel so guilty as to stay away from ordering another.
(Pro tip: During Parliament's Monday-Friday Happy Hour, the Ramos gin fizz is a steal at only $7.)