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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cocktails for this weekend’s Mardi Gras party

A Sazerac may be served up or in a small
Old Fashioned glass.

Mardi Gras, with the possible exception of New Year’s Eve, is perhaps the premiere party justification occasion of the year.  Whether you’re in New Orleans or getting ready to party at home, everyone will understand your motivation.  The only problem with Mardi Gras is that (for some unknown reason) it’s always on a Tuesday ;-).  If you’re not in the Big Easy and you had to work Wednesday, you can still party this weekend.  Just invite some friends over, stock your bar, buy some beads, get some snacks, and you’re ready to “Laissez les bons temps rouler”.  Here is a fun selection of cocktails for your weekend party.  Find a cocktail that sounds good and find the link under “Labels” to the left.
Some are associated with New Orleans, some with Mardi Gras, and some are just great cocktails.

The Vieux Carré is a cocktail with six ingredients.  That might seem a little excessive, but since two of the ingredients are bitters, it may still pass muster.  This delicious cocktail was invented during the 1930’s in the French Quarter of New Orleans (where the physical Vieux Carré is found) at the Hotel Monteleone by bartender Walter Bergeron.  Vieux Carré recipes generally call for equal amounts of Rye, Cognac, and Vermouth, with half that of the Benedictine and a dash each of Peychaud’s® and Angostura® bitters.  If you give the Vieux Carré a try, it’s almost sure to end up on your short list of cocktails.

The Sazerac is reputed to be the original cocktail, first concocted in “partay central,” Nouveau Orleans.  Legend has it that the Sazerac was invented in New Orleans in the early nineteenth century by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, who also first developed Peychaud’s Bitters.  This brown beauty is almost straight whiskey and deserves to be treated with respect.  The drink was originally made with Cognac, but today Rye whiskey is most commonly used.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.  Bourbon can make a good Sazerac too. 

When I think of Mardi Gras and New Orleans, I think of Jazz, hurricanes, and the Hurricane.  The Hurricane is normally mixed as a double, but the rum is toned down a little in my recipe to encourage responsible drinking.  I love the difference the Amaretto makes in this drink.  If you’re out of passion fruit juice, you can substitute orange juice (I had to, that’s why the color on the photo may not look right to you).  It’s not quite as good as the real thing, but it still tastes great.  If you don’t have any Hurricane glasses, any tall drink glass will work, and you can always top it off with a little extra juice.  You can find a lot more Hurricane recipes online if this one doesn’t match your taste. 

The Sidecar is a venerable, World War I era cocktail that sounds like something your dad would order.  Everyone has heard of it, but few have tried it.  Its popularity has declined in recent times.  Its name seems to imply a good, stiff drink… exactly what you would need after bouncing down an unpaved road in France in a rickety motorcycle sidecar.  No one knows precisely where or when it was invented; it is first mentioned in print in 1922.  The Sidecar owes its longevity to simplicity and great taste.  Its winning combination of cognac (or brandy), orange liqueur, and lemon could be just what you are looking for in a cocktail. 

If you want to try a champagne cocktail, there’s always the famous French 75.  The original French recipe only calls for four ingredients, champagne included, and no mixing or shaking.  I recommend that you either shake or stir the non-champagne ingredients (Gin etc.) with ice to chill them down so they don’t warm up your champagne.  Serve it in a flute or (if you want more room for champagne) a white wine glass.  This cocktail is worth a little extra effort to get it right.  A guest once told me that this was her favorite of all the cocktails she had had chez moi.

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