Mardi Gras 2014 falls on March 4th, but festivities in the Crescent City kick off weeks before the holiday. The Carnival season is a time of lighthearted celebration filled with sweet and savory indulgence before the austerity of Lent.
King cakes abound, as do boozy nights of carousing with friends. New Orleans often claims to have invented the first cocktail, and is almost as famous for its signature drinks as it is for its cuisine.
In case you can’t make it down to the Big Easy this year, we have collected eight New Orleans classic cocktail recipes so you can enjoy the season in “spirit.” Laissez les bon temps rouler!
1. Sazerac Cocktail
Considered to be the oldest American cocktail and the official cocktail of New Orleans, the Sazerac has been steeped in New Orleans history since 1869.
It was crafted by a Creole apothecary named Peychaud who invented a mixture incorporating bitters and a New Orleans brand of cognac. The Sazerac house soon realized the popularity of the drink, and bottled up Peychaud’s Bitters to become the only supplier of two original Sazerac ingredients.
Due to a blight that devastated French vineyards, Sazerac transitioned to the rye-whiskey recipe that we drink today. The original cocktail called for an absinthe rinse to impart aroma, but the liquor fell out of public favor.
As a result, another New Orleans entrepreneur developed Herbsaint as a substitute, which was subsequently snapped up by the enterprising Sazerac House.
Best Place to get a Sazerac: The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel (pictured) or The Carousel in Hotel Monteleone
- 1 cube sugar
- 1½ ounces (35ml) Sazerac Rye Whiskey
- ¼ ounce Herbsaint
- 3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- Lemon peel
- Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice.
- In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud's Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube.
- Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey to the second glass containing the Peychaud's Bitters and sugar.
- Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint.
- Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.
Buy Sazerac glasses at The Sazerac Gift Shop
2. Ramos Gin Fizz
This famous cocktail has a long and myriad history, and has been a New Orleans favorite since the 1880’s when Henry C. Ramos shook the first one up. The drink even impressed highbrow establishments in New York, where it was introduced by a Louisiana governor in 1935.
It has since been determined that the original 12 minutes of shaking may be unnecessary, so while the drink won’t require a whole battalion of bartenders these days you will need a bit of muscle to pull this one off.
Best Place to get a Ramos Gin Fizz: The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel
- 1 1/2 oz. gin
- 1 Tbsp. simple syrup (1:1)
- 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 fresh egg white (pasteurized if you like)
- 1 oz. heavy cream
- 3 drops orange flower water
- 1 oz. club soda, chilled
- Combine first seven ingredients in a shaker without ice and shake vigorously to combine.
- Add ice to the shaker and shake again for at least a couple of minutes (more if you have it in you). Strain into a glass, top with club soda and stir.
Recipe from Imbibe Magazine
The storygoes that after Prohibition, scotch and whiskey were hard to come by but there was a lot of pent-up demand. Because of the proximity of Caribbean island sugar plantations, liquor suppliers had lots of rum, which was unpopular in the United States at the time.
To relieve themselves profitably of all the rum, suppliers forced the owners of newly reopened bars to buy many cases of rum to gain access to liquors that were more in demand. One such owner who considered himself among the unlucky was Pat O’Brien, who owned a New Orleans tavern.
His solution was to cheaply dispose of the rum by mixing it into a sweet concoction and give it away to sailors in hurricane lanterns. This became a fortunate turn of fate, and the "Hurricane" became one of the most famous and sought-after drinks in the city.1
Mix up a batch your own way, or use the Pat-O’s powder mix for a quick Mardi Gras fix.
Best Place to get a Hurricane: Pat O’Brien’s
- 2 oz light rum
- 2 oz dark rum
- 2 oz passion fruit juice
- 1 oz orange juice
- ½ oz fresh lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon simple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon grenadine
- Garnish: orange slice and cherry
- Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a Hurricane glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
With Pat O' Brien's Hurricane Mix Recipe:
- Mix 4 oz. of dark rum with 4 oz. Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Mix.
- Fill 26 oz. glass with crushed ice.
- Garnish with a slice of orange and a cherry.
Buy Pat O'Brien's Hurricane Mix at www.patobriens.com.
4. Classic Daiquiri Freeze
The “drive-thru” daiquiri go-cup is an iconic symbol of the fun-loving city of New Orleans. But the excessively sweetened slushy concoction would hardly have been recognized by Hemingway as a rendition of his beloved beverage.
Luckily, the classic version does not require exotic food flavorings and industrial machinery and is perhaps more pleasing to sophisticated palates. Numerous versions abound, and various fruits and juices can also be incorporated that will still impress the foodies you may invite.
This classic freeze is a great way to beat the heat as you dance the day and night away.
Best Place for a Frozen Daiquiri: St. Lawrence Restaurant & Bar
- 2 oz white rum
- 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1 tsp sugar
- Shake with enough crushed ice to cover the liquid until shaker is frosty.
- Strain into a glass.
For the original recipe and numerous variations visit BunnyHugs.org
5. Emeril’s Bloody Mary
If you plan to celebrate Mardi Gras in true New Orleans style, you’ll want to plan for a “hair of the dog” situation. Whether a Bloody Mary has this effect is debatable, but it can never hurt to have a batch on hand. After all, if you don’t add alcohol until you need it, the mix can always be stored in freezer cubes for later occasions.
Though the origination story of the drink is hazy, Cajun chefs have spiced up their own version of this excellent midday selection for your enjoyment.
Best Place for a Bloody Mary: The Bloody Mary Bar at Cafe Atchafalaya
- 1 1/2 cups tomato juice
- 3/4 cups vodka
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Pickled green beans or okra, for garnish
- Cocktail onions, for garnish
- Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a small pitcher and stir to combine.
- Refrigerate until well chilled.
- Serve over ice with pickled green beans or okra and cocktail onions for garnish.
Recipe by Emeril Lagasse
6. Pimm’s Cup
This English specialty developed as a Londoner’s fruit cup has undergone a makeover and is enjoying a comeback among current generations these days.
Although the original version contains actual slices of fruits, the New Orleans style drink incorporates fresh-squeezed lemonade garnished with a cucumber.
Best Place for a Pimm’s Cup: Napoleon House
- 1 ¼ oz. of Pimm’s #1
- 3 oz. of Lemonade (recipe follows)
- Sprite or 7-Up
- Cucumber garnish
- Fill a 12 ounce glass 3/4 full with ice.
- Add Pimm’s and lemonade and stir.
- Top off with 7-Up.
- Garnish with cucumber slice.
7. Hilah’s Lemonade
- Juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup cold water
- Dissolve sugar in juice.
- Add water and stir.
- This makes enough for 3 Pimm’s Cup Cocktails or one glass of lemonade.
Recipe from HilahCooking.com
8. Southern Comfort Bayou Bash
Originally a liqueur blending flavors of whiskey, fruit, and spices, Southern Comfort was developed by a bartender off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It remains a popular ingredient in a number of New Orleans cocktails, including this signature drink.
Both the sweet overtones and tangy kick that define the taste of Southern Comfort are emboldened with the addition of real fruit juices and wine. You’ll not want to miss this delectable drink.
Best place for a Bayou Bash: Court of the Two Sisters (pictured)
- 1 1/4 oz. Southern Comfort
- 1 1/4 oz. sweet and sour mix
- 1 oz. orange juice
- 3/4 oz. cherry juice
- 3/4 oz. pineapple juice
- 3/4 oz. red wine
- 1/4 oz. Grenadine
- Mix all ingredients except wine with ice cubes.
- Top off with wine and garnish with a cherry and orange slice.
Serve up one or more of these New Orleans' traditional cocktails to give your Mardi Gras celebration an extra dose of authenticity.