A Toast to Sam Shepard

New Orleans bartenders raise a glass to renowned actor Sam Shepard.
Sam Shepard at 21. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
Sam Shepard at 21. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The late playwright and actor Sam Shepard shied away from the spotlight for most of his life, but his work continues to reverberate today. Here, a few New Orleans-based bartenders share their memories of the writer we recently lost, and their cocktail homage.


by Abigail Gullo of Compere Lapin, New Orleans

"'Simpatico' was the first Sam Shepard play I saw in NYC. Plot points involve horses, racing, blackmail, and Sam's home state of Kentucky. I remember being mesmerized by the actress Marcia Gay Harden and the giant roses on her character's Derby dress, worn out of season, but still to this day how I feel one should dress year-round in Louisville.

This cocktail is an old fashioned variation with dry rose cordial, port-finished bourbon, rye-finished brandy, and warm spices that mirror the feeling I felt when I was lucky enough to serve Sam Shepard himself 20 years later at my bar in the French Quarter. We talked about work and Alaska and his kids. Like I knew him. But I feel like I did. After all, I read his poetry all my life. He opened his soul every time he took out his pencil. Yet he was always a man of great mystery. A mystery that now belongs to the stars above."

  • 1 oz Angel's Envy bourbon
  • 1 oz Copper & Kings Bourbon Finished brandy
  • 1/4 oz El Guapo Rose Cordial
  • 2 dashes Dale DeGroff Pimento Dram bitters

Stir and pour over a large rock in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and a cherry.

The Right Stuff

by Kent Westmoreland of the Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans

"My initiation to Sam Shepard was when I read his plays in college. I first saw him act when he portrayed Chuck Yeager in "The Right Stuff." His writing and his acting projected a cool masculinity that was based in confidence and sensitivity, not macho posturing.
I met Sam Shepard while he was staying at the hotel. He heard me talking to another guest about World War II. He then engaged me in a conversation about a World War II book he was reading and showed me his notebook. Looking at his handwritten notes was an honor.
I like to think this cocktail reflects his personal brand of masculinity."
  • 2 oz Montelobos Mezcal
  • 1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • 1/4 oz Benedictine
  • 2 dashes Rose Cordial
Stir all ingredients. Pour into chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Proper Herdsman

by Jesse Carr of Balise, New Orleans

"Sam was a rancher when he was young and wrote about it later. He was also a gentleman, a scholar, and a large fan of tequila."

  • 1.5 oz Tequila Ocho Plata
  • .75 oz Giffard Pamplemousse
  • .5 oz Bonal
  • .5 oz lemon
  • Splash of Cava

Garnish with 3 grapefruit wheels and 3 drops of orange flower water. Shake everything but Cava, and strain into a port or Cabernet glass and top with Cava. Garnish and enjoy.

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