We touched down at Louis Armstrong airport on a Sunday morning and headed straight for brunch. Even in early Fall, New Orleans is incredibly hot and humid. On the day we landed, it was 90 degrees. Welcome to the other half of the South, ya’ll. It’s hard to believe this was just a short while ago…
This enchanted city boasts a 300 year history of cultural immersion like no other. It’s a fun, beautiful city that has adventure around every corner. If you’ve been before, you’ve probably spent time on Bourbon Street. Maybe you’ve eaten some beignets, or dove into a plate of Cajun goodness. For me, it was all about the cocktails. There’s so much history built into the libations that are the backbone to New Orleans.
For those new to the city, or for the ones who have Mardi Gras in their hearts, here were the drinks I couldn’t miss out on during my time in the Big Easy:
The Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s – One of the more famous beverages from Bourbon Street was created during WWII when rum was plentiful but whiskey, a beverage of choice, was extremely hard to come by. The original recipe contained light and dark rum, passion fruit juice, OJ, lime juice, simple syrup, and grenadine. The lamp-shaped glass is now affectionately called a hurricane glass thanks to this recipe’s fame.
Sazerac (also at multiple locations) – Don’t miss THE classic drink that helped put New Orleans cocktails on the map. Its beginnings are a bit of legend and mystery, dating back to the mid 1800’s. Later recipes swapped the cognac for whiskey, and the drink eventually became a popular staple, as well as Louisiana’s State Cocktail.
A Vieux Career at The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone – This beautiful ruby drink has rye whiskey, cognac, vermouth, Peychaud’s bitters (a New Orleans favorite), and a touch of Benedictine make a rich cocktail. It’s smoothly blended, and the classic lounge featuring a real working carousel provided the most amusing atmosphere of any bar we encountered.
Gin Fizz (at multiple location) – Yup, it’s made with a REAL egg white. And I expected to be grossed out. But it wasn’t… it was thick like a milkshake with beautiful hints of fruit. The original Ramos Gin Fizz used to be made by hand with 12 minutes of intense shaking. Today’s version is still delicious, though I would have LOVED to have tried a drink that took 12 minutes to make!
Absinthe at Pirate’s Alley – OK I’m going to start by saying that everything you’ve heard about absinthe may not be true. Legalized in 2007, this liquor was originally extremely potent and blamed as a hallucinogen. Legalized in 2007, today’s version is lighter. A sugar cube dissolves with dripping water into the absinthe, making a cool cocktail with an iridescent green color. The drink has a sweet liquorish taste.
Besides the heat and the daily food coma, I walked away knowing that I’d found the best of everything I could find in one city. My glass, and my heart, were both more than half full. Cheers!