Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is less than a week away, ready to remind us that there's hope for an end to a long, cold winter.
Of course, Mardi Gras' religious roots are tied to the liturgical seasons - offering one last exuberant fling before the introspection of Ash Wednesday and the penitent season of Lent.
First, though, it's time to celebrate. As the natives say, laissez les bons temps rouler - let the good times roll! Few cities anywhere are better at that than New Orleans, a place that has become almost synonymous with the concept of a hearty party, especially during Mardi Gras.
Naturally, cocktails play a big role in the celebrations, especially concoctions that have their roots in that city - although, I once heard a Mardi Gras veteran confess that virtually any form of alcoholic drink will do.
Two cocktails in particular seem to symbolize New Orleans: the fruity, rum- based Hurricane and the Sazerac cocktail.
The Sazerac was developed by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a Creole apothecary who created Peychaud Bitters. The Sazerac features Peychaud's bitters, rye whiskey (not bourbon), anise liqueur and, if you like, Pernod or an absinthe substitute.
Chuck Taggart, who maintains a Web site that's called gumbopages.com, considers the Sazerac his "favorite cocktail of all time" and summarizes the difference between it and the Hurricane: "Hurricanes are for tourists. Sazeracs are for natives."
Pat O'Briens claims to be the birthplace of the Hurricane. The original proprietor had a Prohibition-era speakeasy called Mr. O'Brien's Club Tipperary, where the password was "storm's brewin' ." In 1933, once alcoholic beverages were again legal, he opened Pat O'Briens across the street from the Club Tipperary, and later moved to the present location in the French Quarter.
During World War II, when rum was plentiful but whiskey was hard to get, Pat O'Brien and a liquor salesman came up with the Hurricane, presumably a reference to the "storm brewin' " password of his speakeasy. These days, Pat O'Briens is a popular destination for visitors to New Orleans, many of whom sample the Hurricane, served in a distinctive glass reminiscent of a hurricane lamp.
Whichever cocktail is for you, sip it and let the good times roll.
Makes 1 drink
1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce light rum
1/2 ounce Galliano
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce passion fruit syrup
1 1/2 ounces orange juice
1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
dash of Angostura bitters
garnish: fresh tropical fruit
Shake all ingredients (except garnish) with ice and strain into a hurricane glass with ice. Garnish with fresh tropical fruit.
-- Dale DeGroff, www.kingcocktail.com
Per serving: 243 calories; 0 grams protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 28 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 7 milligrams sodium
Makes 1 drink
1 teaspoon simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon granulated sugar)
2 ounces rye whiskey (most New Orleans bars use Old Overholt)
3 to 4 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1/4 teaspoon Herbsaint, a New Orleans brand of anise liqueur (you may use Pernod, or some other pastis or absinthe substitute)
strip of lemon peel
Pack a 3 1/2 -ounce old-fashioned glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, blend the syrup with the whiskey and bitters. (If using a sugar cube, moisten it with just enough water to saturate it, then crush and blend with the whiskey and bitters.) Add a few cubes of ice and stir to chill.
Discard the ice from the first glass and pour in the Herbsaint. Coat the inside of the entire glass, pouring out the excess. Strain the whiskey into the Herbsaint-coated glass.
Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink, then rub the peel over the rim of the glass; do not put the twist in the drink.
-- Chuck Taggart, www.gumbopages.com
Per serving: 156 calories; 0 grams protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 6 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 1 milligram sodium