Recapping my ’08 trip home to New Orleans for Christmas …
Next up was a trip to Lüke, one of my very favorite places in the city. Not just mine — when my friend Rocky in Seattle saw my update that I was eating there, he sent back, “I hate you with a deep and burning passion. From Hell’s Heart I stab at thee!” (Envious, a little? Heh. Aah, he knows that I’d have teleported him there in a second if I had the technology.)
As is my wont, when I go to Lüke I frequently drink an Ojen Frappé. Ojen (OH-hen) is a sweet anisette made in a small village in Spain that, for some reason, New Orleans fell in love with ages ago. Ojen cocktails appear in Stanley Clisby Arthur’s famous 1937 tome Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em, appeared at many famous New Orleans restaurants, and an icy Ojen Frappé was the traditional toast for Rex, King of Carnival, every Mardi Gras.
There’s just one little problem. Ojen isn’t made anymore.
Turns out that people in Spain, and even the people in Ojen, got out of the habit of drinking it and there was really only one place in the world where it was still being consumed at all — New Orleans, where it’s been popular for a long time. Unfortunately we weren’t enough to keep an entire distillery going, and the Manuel Fernandez distillery decided to discontinue the product, sending some New Orleanians into a bit of a panic. One final run of 500 cases was commissioned, and … we drank it. It’s gone. Well, other than people’s personal stocks and several cases the Rex organization put away. (And three bottles in my bar.)
Lüke bought a big chunk of the remaining stock so that they could offer the cocktail on their regular menu, and until they ran out it was one of the last bars in the world where you could get this drink.
If you’ve got any Ojen left, this is a great way to drink it. If not, you can approximate the flavor by using Anis del Mono Dulce from the Vicente Bosch distillery in Catalonia (the sweet variety, not the dry “Seco” variety), or Marie Brizard Anisette.
According to a comment in the above nola.com link, Lüke are now making this drink with Obsello absinthe, making it their version of an Absinthe Frappé to which I imagine they’ll have to add some simple syrup. Use an ounce to ounce-and-a-half of Obsello absinthe and a tablespoon of simple syrup instead of the Ojen or anisette.
2 ounces Ojen (substitute Anis del Mono Dulce or Marie Brizard anisette).
3-4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters.
Pack an Old Fashioned glass with crushed ice. Add ojen, bitters and seltzer, and stir until the glass is frosty.
By the way … the above drink, plus this, is what set Rocky off:
Choucroute garni, or “dressed sauerkraut,” is a classic Alsatian dish of sauerkraut and onions cooked in pork stock, white wine (usually Riesling or Gewürzraminer) and spices (usually juniper berries, cloves, black pepper and more), along with pork products of various kinds. At Lüke the choucroute comes with housemade spicy pork sausage, Berkshire pork belly and pig knuckles.
It was absolutely heavenly.