Why Oysters And A Ramos Gin Fizz Are A Match Made In Heaven

Imagine yourself sipping a cocktail in New Orleans. There's jazz in the street and the smell of red beans and rice in the air, but what drink is in your hand? If you're doing it NOLA-style, there's a pretty good chance it's either a Sazerac or a Ramos Gin Fizz — the two signature cocktails of the city. 

Tasting Table caught up with chef Nina Compton at a New Orleans-inspired jazz party thrown by Shake Shack and Tabasco, where she let us in on the secret for perfect pairings. To round out a Cajun or Creole dish, naturally, the James Beard Award-winning chef is whipping up a NOLA-inspired cocktail — and it's all about balance. For heavier dishes like jambalaya or etouffee, Compton prefers a Sazerac to "open up [the] appetite. That's a good way to just get the juices flowing and have a good meal." But, the opposite is true when serving something lighter, explains the chef: "I like to have something very crisp and light to compliment the oysters."

Compton formerly worked under Daniel Boulud at his flagship restaurant DANIEL in NYC, where the institution of "dollar oyster happy hour" rules the city's food scene all summer long. But, as the authority at NewOrleans.com succinctly puts it, "Oysters in New Orleans are their own food group." In other words, Compton knows a thing or two about oysters, and if you ask her, when you're enjoying a Ramos Gin Fizz, oysters are the ultimate food pairing.

Light citrus meets salty brine

If you've never tried one, the Ramos Gin Fizz is made primarily with vigorously shaken egg whites. Though an involved drink for bartenders (so a pain in the neck during happy hour), it's been a New Orleans classic since it was invented in 1888 at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon. Still, the effort produces an impressive drink, combining gin, simple syrup, heavy cream, egg white, club soda, and orange blossom water for a mild sweet-tart flavor. A drink like the Ramos Gin Fizz is "a good way to start, something light and effervescent, then you have these nice briny oysters, [which are] super salty, with something that's creamy and a little bit sweet," says Compton.

We recommend minimal dressings, like a champagne mignonette or a simple lemon squeeze, to keep those oysters from overpowering the cocktail's creamy orange blossom flavor. If you are dining local in The Big Easy, hit Acme or Pascal's Manale for a dozen oysters on the half shell. Otherwise, Compton's suggested pairing is a great excuse to embark on a mini food tour of your local restaurant scene: Hit up an oyster bar, then pop over to a cocktail bar for a Ramos Gin Fizz. You could even flex your culinary muscle and make a ritzy Oysters Rockefeller at home for a cocktail hour that'll leave dinner party guests speechless. (You'll certainly flex a few literal muscles as well if you shake up a batch of Ramos Gin Fizzes for the crowd.)