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Monday, February 23, 2009

Cocktails for Mardi Gras

This week-end my wife and I attended the annual Alliance Française Mardi Gras celebration where wine, but no cocktails, was served. Mardi Gras, however, is a time for cocktails, so I’ll have to make my own. No place in the US is as associated with Mardi Gras as New Orleans, home of the Sazerac cocktail. Legend has it that the Sazerac was invented in New Orleans in the early nineteenth century by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, who also originated Peychaud’s Bitters. The drink was originally made with Cognac, but today Rye whiskey is most commonly used. Use a good Rye, since you’ll be sipping it almost straight. Peychaud’s Bitters can be hard to find, so substitute Angostura Bitters if necessary. Bourbon can make a good Sazarac too. On my last trip to DC, I had a “Sazer-Jack” at Poste in Hotel Monaco that was made with Jack Daniels® and Sazerac Rye® with gomme syrup.

I don’t know why, but when I think of Mardi Gras and New Orleans I think of Jazz and hurricanes, so I thought I would include a Hurricane recipe in this post. I love the difference amoretto makes in this drink. You can find a lot more Hurricane recipes online if this one doesn’t match your taste. This cocktail is a double, so be careful it doesn’t blow you away. Ladies, earn those beads!

If you’re wondering why Mardi Gras celebrations seem bigger in the tropics, it’s because it’s too damn cold to run around outside drunk and under-dressed in much of the northern hemisphere during February (unless you’re sprinting for the hot tub). So for my last two Mardi Gras cocktails I selected an old stand-by, the Mai Tai, and the more trendy, but never-the-less venerable, Mojito. Both are rum-based drinks you’re sure to enjoy. I first got hooked on Mai Tais years ago, sitting in a semi-private tea room at Kiyo’s Japanese Restaurant on Clark Street in Chicago. Kiyo’s served their Mai Tais in ceramic crocks filled with crushed ice that fond memory estimates at about six inches in diameter and four inches in height. The presentation was exquisite, as one would expect at a good Japanese restaurant, and garnishes included mandarin orange slices, a pineapple wedge, fresh mint leaves, thin slices of lemon and lime, and a maraschino cherry. Exquisite and powerful. I know from experience that if you ordered three in the course of an evening, the bartender would bring the third one to check out who was drinking so much.

I had my first Mojito (see photo) at a beachfront hotel in Miami. It was so long ago that I can’t remember its name (the hotel’s name, that is), but I do remember the Mojito. Fresh mint leaves are an absolute requirement for a good Mojito. Accept no substitutes. I once unsuccessfully experimented with using minute amounts of mint extract in a futile attempt to make a Mojito without ever coming up with an acceptable result. Bacardi® has a great video of making a Mojito here.

So that’s my Mardi Gras line-up for 2009. If nothing appeals to you, search online. There are plenty of good cocktail recipes out there just waiting for you to sample them. If your Mardi Gras tastes run even farther south than the Crescent City, check out Colleen’s selections at for some good Brazilian options.


2 ounces Rye whiskey (or Bourbon or Cognac)

1 tsp bar sugar or simple syrup

3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (or substitute Angostura)

½ tsp. Absinthe (or other anise-based liqueur like Pernod, Ricard, etc.)

lemon twist

Chill an old-fashioned glass in the freezer. Put the sugar or syrup in a mixing glass; add the bitters (and a couple of drops of water, if using sugar), and stir until you have a smooth liquid. Add the whiskey and some ice cubes and stir. Retrieve the chilled glass and add the Absinthe; roll the glass to coat the inside with Absinthe and dump the excess. Strain the whiskey mixture into the prepared glass; twist the piece of lemon peel over the glass, rub it once around the rim, and drop it in.


1 ½ oz light Rum

1 ½ oz Gosling’s Black Seal® dark rum

¾ oz amaretto almond liqueur

3 oz Passion Fruit juice (you may substitute Orange juice)

fresh squeezed juice of ½ Lime (½ oz )

Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker. (Feel free to cut the rums back to 1 oz each if this seems too strong.) Squeeze in the lime juice. Shake well while imagining you’re on a Mardi Gras parade float. Strain into a Hurricane Glass full of ice. If you don’t have an official Hurricane glass, serve it in a tall white wine glass or a Collins glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange (or other fruit). Serve with a straw. If you like your cocktails sweeter, add 1 tsp simple syrup or bar sugar before you shake.

Mai Tai

1 oz Gosling’s Black Seal® dark rum

1 oz light Rum

½ oz Amaretto almond liqueur

1 oz Cointreau (or Triple Sec)

2 oz Guava juice (you may substitute Orange juice)

3 oz Pineapple juice

1 lime wedge

Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker. Shake well while thinking about the dancers at the old Intercontinental hotel in Wailea, Maui. Strain into a Collins glass full of ice. Garnish with a wedge of pineapple and a maraschino cherry. Float just enough Gosling’s Black Seal® dark rum to cover the top of the glass, finish it with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, drop the lime wedge in and enjoy.


2 oz light Rum

fresh squeezed juice of ½ Lime (½ oz )

1 tsp bar sugar

6-8 mint leaves

soda water

Put the mint leaves and sugar into an Old Fashion glass. Squeeze the lime juice into the glass. Muddle well to bring out the smell and flavor of the mint. Add the rum and stir to dissolve the sugar. Fill the glass with ice, then top off with soda water and stir. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with a straw. Vary the mint to suit your taste.


  1. Jim, I am continuing to enjoy getting my liquor advice straight from Salt Lake City.

    One question: have you tried alternatives to mint in mojitos? One TV chef used, I think, basil, perhaps a minty one.

  2. John, I haven't tried basil, but I will have to. I found several Mojito recipes that use basil and some that use basil and mint. I'll be at the grocery today, and will have to pick up some fresh basil.
    Thanks for the tip,

  3. SAZERAC!, I can not seem to find the peychauds bitters. do you know of a store in Utah that carries them? thank you so much!

  4. DeeDee:
    Sazaracs are great, but I haven't been able to find Peychauds in SLC either. I ordered from Keg Works. Their shipping is pricey, so you might want to get the larger bottle and find something else to order with the Peychauds that will let you stay below the next shipping price increase to optimize your shipping dollar. I ordered some Luxardo Cherries, too (even more expensive, but oh so good), but you could get some other bitters, etc. If you do find a local source of Peychauds or other "luxury" cocktail supplies, please post it and I will post it here and on my other blog ( Thanks & good luck!

  5. This is way out of date, but Harmon's replaced the Angustura bitters with Paychauld's several months ago during the "shortage". I recommended for people to grab some. It's still around at my local Harmons.