Henry C. Ramos

Words by Theodora Sutcliffe

Originally from: Vincennes, Indiana
Profession: Bartender
At: New Orleans

At midnight on 27 October, 1919, Henry "Carl" Ramos served his last ever Gin Fizz.

One of very few bartenders to have given his own name to a cocktail that was famous both during his lifetime and beyond, Henry Charles "Carl" Ramos was born in Vincennes, Indiana, to German-born parents, on 7 August 1856. His family moved to his adoptive home of New Orleans when he was a little child.

Carl's shaker-intensive Gin Fizz, and his saloons, were so famous that, long after he retired, his death was noted in Time magazine. Many of his bar crew would also go on to successful careers.

One of his obituaries recalls the style of the man: "... 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..."

Others recall the sheer style of his saloons. The Ramos Gin Fizz required so much laborious shaking that, during Mardi Gras in 1915, a chain of 35 "shaker boys" handed shakers one to another behind the bar.

Yet despite his fondness for diamonds, Ramos was not exactly a theatrical saloon-keeper in the Jerry Thomas mode. A dedicated Freemason (one obituary reported that he reached the 32nd degree, one short of the very highest level), he was, in later life, like the overwhelming majority of US masons, a teetotaller.

As such, Ramos took his responsibilities as a vendor of booze seriously. He closed his saloon at 8 o'clock every evening, and opened for only two hours on Sundays. He kept a wary eye for signs of drunkenness in his bar, and would stop service at the slightest sign of rowdiness.
Apparently, if Ramos heard that a customer was drinking too much outside his premises, he would take him to one side and endeavour to assist him - even, in some cases, helping him out financially.

Before buying his first saloon, the Imperial Cabinet, with his brother in 1887, Carl had worked at a lager beer saloon on Exchange Alley. He seems also to have run saloons in Baton Rouge and Birmingham.

Ramos' gin fizz was legendary - yet, unlike men like Duncan Nichol and Donn Beach, who did their best to take their recipes to the grave - he was prepared to share it for posterity.

With the onset of Prohibition, good things, for Ramos, came to an end. Perhaps still grieving the death of his teenage daughter Stella a couple of years before, he announced at the stroke of midnight, "I've sold my last Gin Fizz."

Carl died on 18 September 1928, after a short illness. His drink, however, survives him.

As gin fiend Xavier Padovani says, "It's a classic drink, an immortal cocktail that can be drunk at any time of the day and in any kind of glassware, yet a marvellously convivial drink to make as it always involves sharing its story with guests or the shaker with fellow bartenders."

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