Let the Good Time Roll: 5 Cocktails Perfect for Mardi Gras
When it comes to epic parties, it doesn’t get much bigger than New Orleans at Mardi Gras. In recent years, more than 1 million people have descended on the Crescent City for one last big celebration before the Lenten season. While nothing quite matches the parades and revelry in the Big Easy at this time of year, you can mark Fat Tuesday wherever you are. Here are five perfect Mardi Gras cocktails that are perfect for enjoying at home.
New Orleans is known for its cocktail culture, and it all began with the Sazerac. Some think the drink, which was invented in the 1830s, may even be the world’s first cocktail. In any case, the Sazerac is a classic Big Easy tipple, and an especially welcome option if the sweet and fruity cocktails often served up at Mardi Gras celebrations aren’t to your taste. This version comes from the cocktail experts at Commander’s Palace, a New Orleans institution since 1880, via Saveur.
- ½ ounce absinthe (preferably Lucid)
- 2 ounces rye
- ¼ ounce simple syrup
- Peychaud’s bitters
- Angostura bitters
- Lemon twist
Directions: Pour absinthe into an old-fashioned glass; swirl to coat, and discard liqueur; fill glass with ice. Shake rye, simple syrup, 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters, and 1 dash Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Discard ice in glass; strain cocktail into glass. Rub the rim with a lemon twist and drop twist into cocktail.
2. Arnaud’s Special Cocktail
In 1940s and 1950s, the Arnaud’s Special was the signature drink at Arnaud’s French 75, a Creole restaurant in the French Quarter. The drink, which is a bit like a Rob Roy, is made with scotch and Dubonnet Rouge, a type of fortified wine. This version was created by Gareth Howells of Brooklyn’s Forrest Point bar and restaurant.
- 2 ounces Cutty Sark
- 1 ounce Dubonnet
- 3 dashes orange bitters
- Orange peel for garnish
Directions: Combine all ingredients with the exception of the orange peel in a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with an orange peel.
For some, Mardi Gras celebrations are synonymous with sickly sweet (and dangerously potent) Hurricanes served in plastic cups. The perennially popular drink – named after the hurricane-lamp-shaped glass it’s served in – was invented by a New Orleans bartender Pat O’Brien in the 1940s as a way to use up an excess of rum. Today, hurricanes are often made from an off-the-shelf cocktail mix or a laundry list of ingredients, including multiple kinds of rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine. For a back-to-basics approach, try this three-ingredient version from Serious Eats.
- 2 ounces dark Jamaican rum
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1 ounce passion fruit syrup
Directions: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add plenty of crushed ice. Shake well and pour, unstrained, into old fashioned glass, tiki mug, or Hurricane glass. Garnish with orange slice and a cherry.
4. French 75
In most places, a French 75 cocktail is made with gin and Champagne. Not in New Orleans, where the drink is prepared with a mix of cognac and sparkling wine. It’s the perfect thing to sip at brunch but it’s also a light and refreshing drink to serve at your Mardi Gras celebration. Recipe from Food Republic.
- 1 ounce Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac (or other cognac)
- ¼ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ ounce simple syrup
- 4 ounces Champagne
Directions: Shake cognac, lemon, and simple syrup with ice and strain into a chilled champagne flute glass. Top slowly with 3 to 4 ounces of Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.
5. Ramos Gin Fizz
You’ll get a workout if you decide to celebrate Mardi Gras by making a Ramos Gin Fizz, another drink invented in New Orleans. Vigorous shaking is required to transform the cream and egg white into the cocktail’s distinctive frothy layer. Recipe from Chowhound.
- 2 ounces gin
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 egg white
- 1 ounce heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
- ½ teaspoon orange flower water
- Club soda, chilled
Directions: Add the gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, cream, sugar, and orange flower water to a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, about 15 seconds.
Add a handful of ice to the cocktail shaker and shake again until the outside of the canister looks frosty, about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled 10-ounce highball or collins glass without ice. Top off with club soda.
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