Royalty in a glass: A Q&A with Russ Bergeron of The Roosevelt New Orleans

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The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt New Orleans features Carnival-inspired cocktails fit for a king or queen.
  • The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt New Orleans features Carnival-inspired cocktails fit for a king or queen.

Russ Bergeron, beverage manager and sommelier at The Roosevelt New Orleans, shares his favorite Carnival cocktails and two drink recipes to get readers into the Mardi Gras groove.

Gambit: What do you do at the Roosevelt (other than taste booze all day)?

Bergeron: I’m in charge of beverage selection at the Sazerac Bar, the Fountain Lounge Teddy’s Cafe, the Rooftop Bar and in-room dining. I’m in charge of the beverage menus and of training staff on wines and spirits.

When you come up with drinks or design cocktail menus, what is your idea flavor palate?

It depends on the season. I consider the season first, then gravitate to spirits. For spring, I turn to clear liquors. Gin is really popular right now, along with mescal and tequila. We pair them with bright flavors like citrus, herbs like basil and mint, and cucumbers. I start by choosing a base spirit and then pick a backup spirit or cordial based on the flavor profile. I’m on a gin kick myself right now — on a recent trip to (Alameda,) California, I brought back St. George (Spirits) gin, which has replaced Hendrix on our menu. This gin is great — it’s distilled in an old airplane hangar. We put it in a (seasonal) specialty cocktail called The Rose, and it’s so popular it may have to stay on our regular menu. We’re selling so much of it the distillery in Alameda can’t keep up with our demand for their gin.

What inspired you to create the Roosevelt’s two Mardi Gras cocktails, Vive Le Roi (Long Live the King) and Vive Le Reine (Long Live the Queen)?

I didn’t want anything purple or green — those are either too sweet or have food coloring in them, or are too creamy. I wanted to come up with two drinks that were indicative of Mardi Gras, and what two characters symbolize Mardi Gras more than the king and the queen. I wanted it to play off the idea of the king and queen’s champagne toast at the (krewe’s float) den before parading or at Gallier Hall.

What’s your favorite cocktail to drink during Carnival?

Well, it depends. If you’re on a parade route, cans of beer are the go-to. Vodka is more temperate to my system over time if I’m walking around. If I’m at a bar though, it’s shots of Jameson.

What’s the best emergency pick-me-up cocktail?

An Old Fashioned — it’s my (standard) on any given day. It’s also a litmus test for bartenders. I think the best to-go cocktail is something like a rum and Coke or a vodka-tonic. It’s best to keep it simple.

Do try this at home: Bergeron shares the recipes and instructions for his Carnival-themed libations.

Vive le Roi! Long live the King!
  • Vive le Roi! Long live the King!

Vive Le Roi
Ingredients:
¾ oz. Grand Marnier
¾ oz. Chambord
2 dashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters
Sparkling wine

Directions:
• Add Grand Marnier, Chambord and bitters to a shaker.
• Add ice and stir.
• Strain the mix into a chilled flute glass.
• Top with sparkling wine.
• Garnish with a Luxardo cherry and an orange twist.

Vive le Reine! Long live the queen!
  • Vive le Reine! Long live the queen!

Vive Le Reine
Ingredients:
¾ oz. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
¾ oz. White Creme de Cacao
3 dashes of vanilla extract
2 oz heavy cream

Directions:
• Add all ingredients to a shaker.
• Add ice and shake.
• Strain the mix into a martini glass.
• Garnish with purple, green and gold sugar.

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