Despite the popularity of the noble mint julep or the sassy Sazerac, or even the virtual resurrection of the once-banned absinthe, those are not the cocktails of choice for fun-loving visitors looking for a good time in New Orleans.
By Mark A. Newman - photography by C. Ross
No sir, throngs of tourists smacking their ruby red rips are proof that visitors clamor for one drink and one drink only: the hurricane. Devastatingly addictive, sickeningly sweet, garnished with fruit, and served in a dauntingly tall glass, this cocktail has led many a frat boy, middle-aged housewife, and out-of-town shriner astray.
Made famous by French Quarter tourist magnet Pat O’Brien’s, the hurricane was created out of necessity during World War II. Whiskey was in short supply so tavern owners had to order up to 50 cases of the overabundant rum just to get a single case of whiskey or bourbon. This potent punch concoction was created by a Pat O’s bartender with the help of an eager liquor distributor. Since a hurricane lamp glass was the biggest one the bartender could find, in went all that rum, fruit, sugar, juice, ice, and—voila!—the hurricane was born!
In a city known for its legendary libations, the hurricane has become the “must-have” drink in New Orleans for visitors and veterans alike. “New Orleans is associated with drinking and debauchery so if you're new to town, where do you go?” ponders Michael Glassberg, bartender at the Swizzle Stick Bar at Loews New Orleans hotel. “You can have a gin and tonic anywhere, but your average get-drunk-get-crazy-what-happens-in-New-Orleans-stays-in-New-Orelans (as well as the first time curious tourist) is going to get a Hurricane at Pat O’s. Heck, I did. It’s just something you do.”
And if there’s any doubt that the hurricane is uniquely a New Orleans concoction, just try ordering one somewhere other than the Crescent City! I found this out firsthand while in college and I visited Baton Rouge for the annual Alabama-LSU grudge match. When I ordered a hurricane in the hotel bar, the cocktail waitress shot back, “You gotta go to New Orleans for those, hon.” And so I did.
And seldom do you have just one, despite the generous portions. “I wouldn't say the drink is addictive, but it is sweet, easy to drink, and packs a punch,” Michael says. “I would say New Orleans is addictive and the hurricane and New Orleans go hand in hand.”
2 oz light rum
2 oz dark rum
2 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 tbsp simple syrup
1 tbsp grenadine
Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a hurricane glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice. And give someone else your car keys!
the best juleps for your two lips
Picked by Mark A. Newman
To shamefully paraphrase U2: I finally found what I'm looking for. Since my move down here almost two years ago, I quickly became addicted to the most Southern of Southern cocktails--the mint julep!
From hotel bars and tourist traps in Louisiana to upscale restaurants in Northwest Florida and across all points in between, I have ordered, sampled, and even sent back these concoctions and I have finally settled upon my favorite: the Eight75 lounge at the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi.
Fresh mint is de riguer. If there's no fresh mint leaves to be had, there is no julep to be had. Muddled but not bruised, the mint leaves hold court at the bottom of the glass as the crushed ice is packed in (you can use cubes, but it's just not the same). Next, an ounce and a half (give or take) of Woodford Reserve bourbon, a more refined elixir than say, Jack, Jim, or Evan. Maker's Mark is a good second choice. Simple syrup is the next ingredient and appears to be as rare as fresh mint in most bars. This is not just equal parts sugar and water; it has to be mixed and brought to a boil (muddled mint leaves in the simple syrup add an extra zing).
The potent potable is then stirred with a cocktail bar spoon (It's the one with the long handle that the bartender spins by rubbing his palms together). Garnished with a sprig of mint and you've been handed a frosty glass of paradise.