Henry C. Ramos: A Gentleman Among Bartenders

Henry C.Ramos is most often remembered as the inventor of the Ramos Gin Fizz. Although this is a drink worth remembering, Henry Ramos’ real contribution to the world of bartending was his attitude. He was highly respected by his clientele, hated drunkenness, and ran his bar as he thought that it should be, regardless of financial gain or loss.

Below is an article that was reprinted in the New Orleans Tribune in 1928 following Ramos’ death. It pays tribute to Ramos as a man we all could learn from, and who I someday hope to emulate as a bar owner.

New Orleans Item-Tribune
Sunday, September 23, 1928
How Late H. C. Ramos Made His World Famous Gin Fizz;
Intimate Glimpses of the Man

A tribute to one of New Orleans’ greatest treasures, the Original Ramos Gin Fizz, was written some years ago by Don Higgins of the Item-Tribune staff. Henry Charles Ramos, the creator of that famous drink, died last Tuesday, and Mr. Higgins’ story of the drink itself is a fitting epilogue to Mr. Ramos’ useful and genial life. The article is reprinted herewith.


Henry Charles Ramos
inventor of the Ramos Gin Fizz

Just the old fellows with a tender spot in their hearts and a longing in their stomachs for the ripe days of yore when mixed drinks were cool and smooth and stimulating, poignant and refreshing, expanding and enheartening, trouble erasing and joy bringing, plentiful and inexpensive-just the old fellows who were the good fellows are invited to read this column.Upstarts, turn to some other story. Ladies, bless you, this won’t interest you. Raw liquor drinkers, there’s nothing here for you either.

A Boon to the World

But you old boys who could and still can delight in the fragrant bouquet, the correct blend and the delicious taste of a mixed drink that may be described without hyperbole as an artistic creation, here’s to the point and right smartly:

That delightful old gentleman, Henry C. Ramos, whose palace de palate, coarsely called a bar, was known before July of 1919 to every real connoisseur of drinks in the civilized world, has consented to publish for the first time his formula for the “ONE AND ONLY ONE,” otherwise and more commonly named RAMOS’ ORIGINAL GIN FIZZ.

Before you read and carefully file this formula, pause a moment as you used to pause before you sipped one of those snow white, velvety fizzes so that you might add the great pleasure of anticipation to the greater one of consumption. Pause and consider in awe the fortune about to befall you-you who have not been wafted into a nepenthean revelry for more than six long years by the gentle potency of that inspired decoction.

Tragedy of Prohibition

Pause while you recall the leaden feeling you had when the venerable Mr. Ramos, law abiding to the core, closed the doors of his bar at 712 Gravier street the moment the gong rang the dry law into effect, took his prized formula with him and announced he would never dispense beauty and calm repose again in liquid form so long as the government said no.

Don’t you remember hearing from the lips of others who loved those smooth fizzes and cocktails and juleps that the Ramos bar should be exempt from the law on the ground it never dispensed intoxicating liquors?

“Nobody could get drunk in the Ramos bar,” was the word, “not only because old Henry wouldn’t let ‘em, but because drunkenness would take away their appreciation of the drinks. And whoever heard of a man weak enough to get drunk on Ramos’ gin fizzes, anyhow? Inspired? Yes. Happy? Yes, yes. But drunk? No, no, no!”

Secret of Revelation

Just one more little delay and then you may study the formula. You are probably wondering how it comes that Mr. Ramos now consents to make it public after these years of arid monotony, or punishment by bootleggers’ poison, as your case may be. Well, the surprising secret is that no one had the brass bound nerve to ask it of him before and he has been willing all along to give freely this boon to discriminating drinkers.

In his roomy, cool old Creole home at 726 North Rampart street, the old gentleman received the caller who had suffered palpitations of the heart a few moments before when he was told by telephone the formula would be given him.

You remember his ruddy face and genial blue eyes sparkling behind silver rimmed, ear bowed spectacles, his snowy hair, his pure white shirt with the diamond in its bosom, his short, stout frame? Ah, the artist that he was, and the meticulous care with which he supervised the making of those fizzes, the pains he took to build up those juleps that he alone could build, with their cool greenglades and limpid pools surmounted by a dazzling ice cap which sparkled in a hundred irridescences and sent forth the beautifully blended aroma of lemon, rosebuds, mint and cherry!

“Drink Freely,” Too

Answering the door himself, he gave cheery welcome and after a few commonplaces said impressively:

“Now I will give you the formula for the one and only one, the Ramos Original Gin Fizz. But in publishing it you must say that if success does not attend the first mixture, a second should be tried. And be sure to use an airtight shaker and to shake and shake and shake until there is not a bubble left but the drink is smooth and snowy white and of the consistency of good rich milk. The secret in success lies in the good care you take and in your patience, and be certain to use good material.”

With that Mr. Ramos handed over the following receipt.

“One and Only One
Ramos’ Original Gin Fizz

(1) One tablespoonful powdered sugar.
Three or four drops of Orange Flower Water.
One-half lime (Juice).
One-half lemon (Juice).
(1) One Jigger of Old Tom Gin. (Old Gordon may be used but a sweet gin is preferable).
The white of one egg.
One-half glass of crushed ice.
About (2) tablespoonsful of rich milk or cream.
A little Seltzer water (about an ounce) to make it pungent.

Together well shaken and strained (drink freely).

To those who may have forgotten, a “jigger” is a stemmed sherry glass holding a little more than one ounce.

Having the formula, old fellows, if you are as good M.D. professors as Mr. Ramos-or the mixologists who used to be with him-Paul Alpaute, Eddie Champon, and his brother, W. O. Ramos-and if you have the ingredients, you can magically erase the past six years with a few shakes and you will believe yourselves standing once more with a foot on the rail amid a group of choice drinkers in front of the mahogany at 712 Gravier street. Note well the last words of the formula: “(Drink freely).”

——————

But as Mr. Higgins might have added, “drink freely” was an invitation only to gentleman drinkers. “Drink wisely” was his word to any others who, by sad mischance, found themselves usurping a place at the bar.

No Booze for Boozer

For Mr. Ramos was no mere vendor of drinks. With the pride of an artist, he demanded a properly appreciative clientele. He scorned the money of those who desecrated his liquid masterpieces by getting noisy on them.

Portly and jovial he presided simultaneously over the work of his 15 or 20 helpers and pleasure of his guests. Their pleasure was his pleasure, but that pleasure must be measured. Did someone laugh two notes too high over a jolly quip from a friend? Mr. Ramos laughed with him, but below the bar his forefingers [sic] was pointing to the offender and his thumb was pointing straight at the floor. On the next round of drinks, the loud-voiced one was forgotten by the bartender.

Temperance was a fundamental precept at the Ramos establishment. A Drunkard horrified him, and if gossip reported that some customer was hitting too hard a pace-even though he came sober always to the Ramos bar-Mr. Ramos would call him aside some evening and suggest that he stay out of the Ramos bar until he had mended his ways.

It used to be said, mournfully, that if all the saloon-keepers had been like Mr. Ramos, prohibition would never have come to pass. More than that, it probably would never have been thought of. And why should it have been thought of?

No Drunks There

For no man ever got drunk at the Ramos bar, and no man could eat the lotus leaves there while an anxious wife burned a lamp in the window or sent a child to call his attention to the clock in the steeple, then striking 1 o’clock.

Promptly at 8 o’clock every evening the doors of the Ramos bar were closed, and no one remained within. Mr. Ramos was firm about that, as about everything else, and the tinkle of cash registers in the saloons which roared on into the night, or into the dawn, could not lure him to sell a single Gin Fizz or Sherry Flip after the hour which he had set, without the law’s suggestion, as a decent closing hour.

So, too, on Sundays. While other saloons enjoyed a rushing trade, Mr. Ramos’ establishment presented a Sabbath mien to the world. At the almost tearful insistence of his regular patrons, who could not endure a full day without a drink and would drink nowhere else, he was prevailed upon to open his doors for an hour in the morning, 11 to 12, and for an hour in the evening, from 4:30 to 5:30. But he did not approve of this, and opened his doors with an air of resignation. It was against his principles, and if his customers had given him peace he would have kept the doors shut all day Sunday, Sunday-closing-law or no Sunday-closing-law.

No one can guess the amount of money Mr. Ramos scorned by his rigid observance of his own principles. But he gained, at least, something he prized more highly than money-the respect of all his community. His customers were gentlemen, and he offered them gentlemanly entertainment.

Gentlemen, of course, would not violate the law. Mr. Ramos would want no traffic with the kind of men who would drink when the law forbade it. So when prohibition laid its heavy hand on the land, in 1919, Mr. Ramos promptly shut his doors.

“I’ve sold my last Gin Fizz,” he announced at the stroke of midnight. Prohibition had come to the Ramos bar. But not temperance. Temperance had always been there.

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