There are a few things we really love about Mardi Gras: New Orleans, cocktails, and — when you can’t get to the Big Easy for the real deal —New Orleans-inspired cocktails. Whether it’s light and frothy or dark and strong, here are five fantastic cocktails that each honor the inimitable NOLA in their own boozy way.
THE FRENCH 75 at LE BOUDOIR
Many might argue that gin is the base spirit of a true French 75, but to do so would put you into dangerous territory in New Orleans — especially if you’re anywhere near Arnaud’s, a French Quarter institution around since 1918. Le Boudoir beverage director Franky Marshall knows better, so she opted for VS Cognac, which she combines with sparkling wine and fresh lemon juice to fill a very regal-looking coupe.
MARDI GRAS HURRICANE at ATWOOD KITCHEN & BAR ROOM
It was a taste of some flaming cocktails with friends in NOLA last summer that kept the special city front and center for Gil Bouhana. “I knew I wanted to capture the moment and recreate it in NYC, so I began playing around with a classic Hurricane recipe until I found one that complemented that memorable day,” he says. His take? Dark rum and a medley of juices (from pomegranate to pineapple and then some), served over crushed ice.
THE VIEUX CARRE at REBELLE
When Eben Klemm designed the cocktail menu for this Nolita restaurant, his play on the Vieux Carre, which translates to French Quarter, stayed true to the original. "Unlike other cocktails on the menu, there's no real change from the classic,” he says. “In focusing on French and American drinks only, cocktails of the New Orleans provenance were of obvious choices for us." As such, expect a stirred, on the rocks concoction of the essentials: rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, benedictine, Peychaud’s, and Angostura.
THE PORCHLIGHT SAZERAC at PORCHLIGHT
In case you were ever wondering about the official cocktail of New Orleans, now you know it’s this: the sazerac, a melding of absinthe, sugar, Peychaud’s, and rye or cognac. Bartender Nick Bennett chooses the latter for their house riff — Louis Royer "Force 53" VSOP Cognac, to be exact — which he pairs up with Herbsaint in the glass.
JÄGERMULE PUNCH at SWEETWATER SOCIAL
Flinn Pomeroy of Sweetwater Social puts it well: “New Orleans is a celebration — with friends, with family, with strangers you just met at the bar.” Because there’s nothing that rounds up a group faster than a punch, she did just that, with Bigelow Orange & Spice Tea, fresh lime juice, soda, and a very unlikely spirit star: Jägermeister.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Sazerac at Porchlight; Mardi Gras Hurricane at Sweetwater Social; Vieux Carre at Rebelle by Katie Burton)