The history of New Orleans is as vibrant and wild as a Muses parade float at Mardi Gras, and the culture of its people as rich as a slice of Bavarian Cream King Cake. New Orleans, above all else, is truly something special. The Big Easy can hardly be explained, only experienced, and then re-experienced a million times over because it never looks quite the same each time. The food, the music, the drama, the buzz in the air, and of course, the drinks all weave together to make New Orleans what we consider to be the last true North American bohemia. No doubt that NOLA is best known for its ability to facilitate your need to get weird.
We leave the Creole cooking to the experts because no matter how hard you might try, it will NEVER taste the same outside of Louisiana and that is just simple fact. However, when the hankering for our favorite city takes hold there are always cocktail options that trick us, for just a moment, into believing we’ve finally made it back to the Crescent City.
Largely credited as not only the official cocktail of New Orleans but also the first American cocktail…ever. The Sazerac was once crafted using Cognac and some mixology purist will still argue for this spirit over the evolved version using rye whiskey and absinthe. It’s up to you as to which you choose, but we opt for the way a bartender on Frenchman would pour the drink when ordered.
1 Sugar Cube (or teaspoon of sugar)
2 1/2 oz. rye whisky
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters
In an Old-Fashioned glass, muddle the sugar with a few drops of water. Add several small ice cubes and the rye whiskey, the Peychaud’s bitters, and the Angostura bitters. Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe until its inside is thoroughly coated, pour out the excess Absinthe. Squeeze the lemon peel over the top of the glass to express some of its essence and then drop into the glass for garnish. *Note: the lemon peel part is important, you don’t want lemon pulp or lemon juice in this particular cocktail.
The Vieux Carré
The cousin to the Sazerac, pronounced “VOO ka-RAY,” is another rye based cocktail named after the “Old Square”, the old French name for New Orleans’ French Quarter. It’s invention dates back to the 1930s, head bartender Walter Bergeron at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter is credited for the iconic drink. The Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone is still slinging the sweet boozy mix and should definitely be on your list of stops to make when actually visiting the city.
3/4 oz. rye whiskey
3/4 oz. Cognac
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1 barspoon Bénédictine (a good substitution would be yellow or green Chartreuse)
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Old Fashioned glass
Cherry for garnish
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well, strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass and garnish with cherry.
The relevance of The Hurricane reaches far and wide now days but there is no doubt that the drink’s history is firmly rooted in New Orleans. After Prohibition ended, Benson “Pat” O’Brien and Charlie Cantrell of Pat O’Brien’s Bar in the French Quarter reluctantly came into possession of barrels on barrels of rum in a deal they were forced to make with their liquor distributors. Needing to get rid of it quickly, the devised a cocktail that’s mostly rum and mixed with sweet passion fruit juice. The drink took off like, well…a storm. We would argue that you’ve not really been to New Orleans until you’ve sipped a Hurricane out of a souvenir plastic yard glass while roaming the French Quarter, because if you didn’t already know this…you can legally drink in the streets and pretty much everywhere in between in NOLA. What a place, huh?
2 oz light rum
2 oz dark rum
2 oz passion fruit juice (Goya has a great canned option that’s easy to find)
1 oz orange juice
Juice of half a lime
1 Tablespoon simple syrup
1 Tablespoon grenadine
Orange slice and cherry for garnish
Combine all ingredients into shaker and shake until well mixed. Strain
over fresh ice into either a Hurricane glass or pint. Garnish with
orange wedge and cherry.
There is hardly anything more quintessentially New Orleans than the daiquiri, and even more so the drive-thru daiquiri shops. You read that correctly. Rather than give a tedious explanation of this phenomenon, we’ll instead let our beloved hero Mr. Anthony Bourdain give a quick rundown of exactly what a drive-thru daiquiri shop entails.
While there is really no substitution for the real deal, MUNCHIES by Vice gives us a recipe that will get the job done well enough.
2 cups light rum
1/2 cup mint or basil
1/2 seedless watermelon
pineapple juice to top
1. Muddle a handful of fresh mint or basil in hot water, let steep until room temperature and strain. Makes an “herbal tea.”
2. Peel the cucumber and watermelon, cut into chunks. Add into blender, purée, and strain through a wire mesh strainer. This should produce 6 cups of liquid.
3. Add rum and “herb tea” to cucumber-watermelon liquid. Sweeten to taste with pineapple juice.
4. Blend with ice in small batches to reach desired slushy consistency.
Ramos Gin Fizz
It’s not always whiskey and rum in New Orleans, you’ll see some gin making an appearance on occasion. While there are now many variations of the gin fizz, once again New Orleans lays claim to the invention of the cocktail. The most iconic being the Ramos Gin Fizz, formerly known as the New Orleans Fizz, that has been served up since the 1880s. Henry C. Ramos invented the drink, legend has it that he insisted the mixture be shaken for at least 12 minutes to be properly executed. It is told that during the 1915 Mardi Gras, there were 35 Shaker Boys tasked with vigorously shaking their arms off to keep up with the patron’s demand for the cocktail.
1.5 oz gin
1.0 oz Heavy cream
0.5 oz Lemon juice
0.5 oz Lime juice
0.5 oz Simple syrup
1 Egg white
3 drops Orange Flower Water (can be found in liquor stores and some
1 oz Soda water
Combine all the ingredients, except soda water, into cocktail shaker
Add ice & shake vigorously
Strain out the ice and shake again without ice
In a chilled Collins glass add 0.5 oz Soda water
Dirty pour (not through the strainer) the cocktail in the Collins
glass over the soda, top with the remaining 0.5 oz of soda
Gently tap the glass on the bar top to allow the carbonation to crown
over the rim of the glass, garnish with orange twist.
If you haven’t noticed yet, there’s always something a little special in the recipes of New Orleans creations. Orange blossom water, specialty liqueurs, passion fruit juice, etc. You’d be hard pressed to sufficiently recreate a New Orleans dish or cocktail to the exact degree, it’s a little of this and a little of that mixed with the soul of the city that makes them so unique. We encourage you to try, but more so we beg you to experience it for yourself. There is an ethereal haze engulfing the city, and once you set foot on its streets you will understand how it can’t be explained just through words. If we’ve yet to convince you, we’ll leave you with one more sentiment from our main man, Mr. Bourdain:
“…go because it’s crazy, borderline dysfunctional, permissive, shabby, alcoholic and crazy – and because it looks like nowhere else.”
Laissez les bons temps rouler!