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Historic Birthday: Henry C. Ramos

Today is the birthday of Henry C. Ramos (August 8, 1846-September 18, 1928). Ramos was born in Indiana, but moved to New Orleans when he was 41, in 1887. There, he bought and ran several prominent bars and invented the Ramos Gin Fizz, which is named for him.

Here’s a biography of Ramos from his Find-a-Grave page:

Henry RAMOS should be listed here as “famous.” Ramos came to New Orleans in 1887 and took over the Imperial Cabinet Saloon at Gravier and Carondelet downtown. In 1907 he purchased the Stag Saloon, near Gravier and St Charles. In the city that literally invented the first American cocktails, Ramos moved things forward with his invention of the Ramos Gin Fizz. Frothy, citrusy, smooth-as-silk. Demand for it was so high he employed 35 “shaker boys” during Mardi Gras 1915. Prohibition shut him down, but the cocktail reemerged after his death in the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans in the 1930s. The drink is still served at places in New Orleans like the Bar UnCommon, the French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s, at Cure and at all the Brennan restaurants.

And this account is from the Bakery Blog:

In perhaps the most ironic twist in New Orleans cocktail history, the Ramos Gin Fizz was invented by a bar owner who actually was not a fan of drinking: Mr. Henry C. Ramos, known to his friends as Carl.  Ramos, originally born in Indiana, began his career in a beer saloon, called Exchange Alley, and worked the alcohol circuit in Baton Rouge for several years before deciding to invest in his own property in New Orleans with his brother as a partner.  The pair purchased the Imperial Cabinet in 1887, a bar located on Gravier Street in what is now the Central Business District.

Ramos was widely respected in the community and was considered to be a gentleman of the highest quality; he ran his bar to reflect this.  He closed his bar every evening at the decent hour of 8 o’clock to discourage all-night drinking binges and was open for a mere two hours on Sunday afternoons and only then because the community begged it.  The Imperial Cabinet was upheld to strict standards of temperance and morality, accepting only the most well-behaved of clientele. Ramos was known to spend his time conversing with his patrons in order to keep an eye out for anyone who was toeing the line of tipsy.  He hated drunkenness and ensured that any unruly patrons were pointed out to the bartenders so that no further drinks would be served.  The 1928 New Orleans Item-Tribune states that “nobody could get drunk at the Ramos bar, not only because old Henry wouldn’t let them, but because drunkenness would take away their appreciation of the drinks.”

It was in this culture of quality over quantity that the Ramos Gin Fizz was created by Ramos himself in 1888.  Originally called the ‘New Orleans Fizz’, the drink became an immediate hit and the Imperial Cabinet became busier than ever.  Ramos’s original recipe included a sprinkling of powdered sugar and stipulated that the cocktail must be shaken for 12 minutes before serving, quite the undertaking for any skinny-armed bartender.  Because of the rigorous shaking needed and the popularity of the drink, Ramos had up to 20 bartenders working at any given time.  These gin fizz makers were called ‘shaker boys’ and often rotated in relay lines to share the burden of shaking the cocktail.  The drink became so popular that during the Mardi Gras season of 1915 it was said Ramos had to employ 35 bartenders just to keep up with the number of New Orleans Fizzes ordered.

Ramos was said to have served his last gin fizz at midnight on October 27th 1919 as he became an avid supporter of Prohibition and firmly closed the doors of the Imperial Cabinet.  Even after leaving the alcohol business, Ramos guarded the cocktail’s recipe up until his death, revealing it to the New Orleans Item-Tribune only days before he passed in 1928.  He included in his recipe that “the secret in success lies in the good care you take and in your patience, and be certain to use good material.”

Today, there is even a brand of gin named for Henry Ramos, produced by the Sazerac Company.

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