Images Courtesy of Tom Arena and Tyler Zielinski
Even if you don’t plan to spend this Mardi Gras strolling down Bourbon Street in New Orlean’s French Quarter, there are plenty of ways to celebrate at home—and by that, of course, we mean mix drinks. Mardi Gras is a state of mind, isn’t it?
The holiday is closely associated with the city of New Orleans, where it has gained a reputation for bacchanalian excess. Perhaps that’s because the drinking culture in the Crescent City is like no other in the world, with a deep history that’s yielded some of the cocktail canon’s most celebrated sips. Consider the whiskey-based Sazerac, with its absinthe-rinsed glass, which became the city’s official cocktail in 2008. Or the aromatic Vieux Carré, which mingles bourbon, Cognac, sweet vermouth and herbal Bénédictine—its name translates to the French Quarter’s original title, “old square.”
But New Orleans isn’t a city that exclusively drinks in the past. Its modern-day cocktail scene, which includes countless drinking dens of note, continues to innovate, yielding delights like a twist on St. Charles Punch spiked with Port wine or the spooky Terror from the Deep, which gets its ocean-blue hue from blue curaçao. The city also has a sprawling influence, inspiring drinks in locales far beyond its physical boundaries
Looking for cocktails to serve at your own Mardi Gras celebration? Here are some of our favorites.
Mardi Gras Drinks You Should Try
The Sazerac cocktail / Photo by Meg Baggott, styling by Dylan Garret
Likely invented in the 1830s by Antoine Amédée Peychaud, the Sazerac is a close relative of the Old Fashioned. Peychaud was a Creole apothecary from Saint-Domingue, or what is today Haiti, and sold a proprietary brand of gentian-based, anise-forward bitters—aptly named Peychaud’s Bitters—at his New Orleans shop. In the evenings, Peychaud’s pharmacy transformed into something of a bar, with the apothecary slinging a medicinal potion of his bitters, absinthe and brandy. Later, the recipe caught on at other New Orleans establishments and evolved into what we today know as the Sazerac—a boozy blend of rye whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters and simple syrup served in an absinthe-washed glass.
Get the Full Recipe Here: How to Make a Classic Sazerac
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Allegedly created during World War II amid whiskey shortages, the Hurricane cocktail is a heady blend of rum (both light and dark varieties), plus passion fruit, orange, pineapple and lime juices. A dash of grenadine gives the drink an iconic blush hue. Its stormy name might be a nod to the history of the bar where it was invented: Pat O’Brien’s Bar, founded in 1933 in New Orlean’s French Quarter, operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition. To gain entry, customers shared the password, “Storm’s brewin’.”
Get the Full Recipe Here: How to Make a Hurricane Cocktail