In the late 1790s, Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac arrived in New Orleans and soon became a very busy guy. He was a state legislator, a director of the State
Bank of Louisiana, and a soldier in the Battle of New Orleans. Roffignac later served as mayor from 1820 through 1828, creating the city’s first fire department and bringing cobblestones and gas lighting to the streets of the French Quarter.
Unfortunately, Count Roffignac died before his namesake drink was invented. According to The Mascot, the local paper of Storyville, the drink started popping around the 1890s. It later gained fame as the house cocktail at Maylie’s, one of New Orleans’s top restaurants in the early twentieth century, rivaled only by Antoine’s among the city’s elite. When Maylie’s doors shuttered in 1986, the Roffignac lost a regular home, and its popularity soon faded.
The most well-known recipe for the Roffignac comes from Stanley Clisby Arthur’s recipe in Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em (1937). Arthur calls for whiskey, sugar, soda, and raspberry syrup, though the syrup can be substituted with red hembarig. That last ingredient is likely an English mispronunciation of himbeeressig, a German raspberry vinegar syrup. To modern palates, vinegar seems most appropriate for salads, but it was a fairly common ingredient in cocktails in the nineteenth century, especially if perishable citrus fruits like lemons or limes were hard to come by. Though the drink is hard to find nowadays, Paul Gustings at the Empire Bar at Broussard’s Restaurant often has some homemade hembarig syrup handy. It’s worth seeking out this unusual drink created for Mayor Roffignac.
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