Celebrate Mardi Gras without the Hurricanes
Happy Shrove Tuesday -- otherwise known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. Hope you get all the beads that your heart desires (and your lack of inhibition procures).
With all the excitement in New Orleans, you'd think this would be a great cocktail day, but it's usually not. Mostly, you'll get all the sickly sweet Hurricanes and slushie Bourbon Street-style "daiquiris" you can stomach. In fact, Fat Tuesday is akin to Cinco de Mayo -- a day when you can't seem to find a decent margarita to save your life.
This year, why not celebrate Mardi Gras with a few of New Orleans's actual classic cocktails? They won't be poured from Slurpee machines or served in plastic "hand grenades," but you might actually enjoy them.
Here are six ideas:
• Vieux Carre. This is my favorite New Orleans cocktail, invented at the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone -- where you measure your drinking time by how many turns you make around the revolving bar. The mix of rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, dashes of Angostura and Peychaud's bitters and a little kiss of Benedictine is the counterbalance to Bourbon Street shenanigans.
• Cocktail a la Louisiane. Another variation on the Vieux Carre and Sazerac -- in fact, you could easily set up a small bar of five bottles and two bitters to serve these first three cocktails.
• Boston Club Punch. This was the traditional drink of New Orleans's turn-of-the-20th-century Boston Club. It's an odd recipe to a modern audience, since it seems to include a very small amount of booze in relation to the white wine and sparkling wine. But one must understand that it's served in a huge punch bowl and was meant to be consumed all afternoon and into the evening. In other words, it'll catch up with you.
• Pimm's Cup. A staple of the famed Napoleon House Bar and Cafe. Such wonderful simplicity: Two ounces of Pimm's No. 1 in an ice-filled highball glass, topped with 7UP. Squeeze in a generous slice of lemon and garnish with a cucumber. Repeat as necessary.
• Cajun Lemonade. A contemporary, higher-octane variation on the Pimm's Cup for people who like spicy. It calls for the addition of cachaça as well Louisiana's own Tabasco sauce.