Today is Mardi Gras, and if you don’t live in New Orleans (or aren’t hardcore Mardi Gras enthusiasts like us), there’s a good chance you didn’t have a clue about this until now. Sure, some local bars throughout the country like to have Mardi Gras celebrations to mark the day, but there’s really nothing like being down in the French Quarter, sipping on a hurricane, and treating strings of beads like they’re currency.
Whether you’re staying home tonight, or heading out to a pub, here are some traditional New Orleans cocktails you can make or order that will give a little twist of authenticity to your “Fat Tuesday.” You may not be able to take part in the “real” Mardi Gras, but you sure can drink like you’re there.
The Vieux Carré was invented at the Carousel Bar in New Orleans back in the 1930s and it was named after the city’s French Quarter (Vieux Carré translate to “Old Square”). I’m complex, smooth, and it may just be your new favorite drink.
- In an ice-filled cocktail mixer, combine 1/2 oz. rye whiskey, 1/2 oz. Cognac, 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth, 4 dashes Bénédictine D.O.M., 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters and 2 dashes angostura bitters.
- Stir until chilled through, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Arnaud’s Special was the house cocktail at Arnaud’s Restaurant in New Orleans. In the book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, author Ted Haigh notes this drink has fallen into obscurity, but we know that the best cocktails always find their way back into the spotlight eventually. In fact, we’ll help it! Starting right…now.
- In an ice-filled cocktail mixer, combine 2 oz. Scotch (play around with your favorite brands because they can all make this drink taste totally different), 1 oz. Dubonnet Rouge, and 3 dashes orange bitters.
- Stir and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with an orange twist.
The French 75 was created in Paris, but soon found its way into the hearts and glasses of the folks in New Orleans. It’s easy to make and really refreshing, so it’s not hard to figure out why this drink is a favorite.
- In a cocktail shaker filled with cracked ice, combine 2 oz. Cognac (if you want to make the French version) or London dry gin (if you want to make the English version), 1 tsp. superfine sugar, and 1/2 oz. lemon juice.
- Shake and strain into a Collins glass half-full with cracked ice and top off with 5 oz. Brut Champagne.
No matter where you are, transport yourself to Mardi Gras with these classic New Orleans cocktails. Cheers.