5 Mardi Gras Cocktails to Try
If life in Louisiana is a yearlong dinner party, Mardi Gras is its main course (OK, it comes with a side of debauched behavior, too). But you don’t have to be in New Orleans to take part in the nation’s craziest costume party. Throw on some beads and gather your friends ’round—it’s time to eat, drink and be merry with authentic drink recipes and snack ideas from the Crescent City’s most iconic bars.
Recipe courtesy Ferrel Dugas, bar chef, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans
“This sidecar happens to be gold, which is one of three Mardi Gras colors,” says Dugas. “I added a purple and green sugar rim so all of the colors were represented, purple, green and gold. When guests see this cocktail, everyone wants one.” The addition of beads, served with each cocktail at the restaurant, likely helps, and is a fun touch for home entertaining.
2 tablespoons superfine sugar, divided (1 tablespoon each purple and green sugar, available at party stores)
1 lemon wedge
2 ounces brandy
1 ounce Cointreau
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
Lemon twist, for garnish
Place the sugars in 2 shallow dishes or saucers. Wet half of the inside and outside rims of the cocktail glass with the lemon wedge and discard the wedge. Dip the rims into the sugar. Fill the glass with ice and set aside. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice, and shake vigorously. Twist the lemon peel into the prepared glass and strain the cocktail over it. Serve immediately.
The Dish: Dugas recommends a shrimp dish to match with the sidecar, since the “shrimp and tasso henican is a signature at Commander’s Palace, and one of my personal favorites.”
Recipe courtesy Colleen Vizents, lead bartender, Emeril’s Delmonico, New Orleans
New Orleans restaurateur and philanthropist Emeril Lagasse is known for adding some “bam” to his dishes—and the cocktails at his restaurant, Emeril’s Delmonico, are no exception. In this fun drink, Cajun-spiced rum adds kick.
1 ounce Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum
½ ounce Old New Orleans Crystal White Rum
½ ounce grenadine
2 ounces passion fruit juice
1 ounce lemon juice
Orange wedge and maraschino cherry, for garnish
Combine the rums, grenadine, passion fruit juice and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and shake or stir to combine. Fill a Collins glass with ice and pour over ice. Garnish with the orange wedge and cherry.
The Dish: Vizents pairs the Cajun Storm with a lamb and rum-glazed yams dish at the restaurant, both of which “hold true to New Orleans’s traditional cuisine,” says Vizents.
Recipe courtesy John Besh, chef and restaurateur, New Orleans
This bloody Mary recipe is perfect for a party. It serves six to eight and was inspired by a drink for a group on the parade route. “It’s the perfect drink to kick-start your morning,” says Besh, as most revelers get going before 8 am. “You get a serving of fruit with your vodka—what else could you ask for during the marathon that is Mardi Gras?”
For the bloody Mary:
8 cups tomato juice
2½ lemons, juiced
1½ limes, juiced
2 ounces olive brine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons horseradish
2 teaspoons celery salt
2 teaspoons Creole spice (if your favorite Creole spice contains salt, omit the salt below)
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons black pepper
Tabasco red sauce, to taste
16 ounces American Harvest Organic Vodka
For the garnishes:
16 Benton’s bacon-stuffed olives
16 pods Rick’s Picks Smokra
8 wedges lemon
8 wedges lime
Mix juices, brine, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and spices in a large pitcher. Stir until well combined. Fill a tin cup or highball glass with ice. Add 2 ounces of vodka and top off with the Bloody Mary mix. Add Tabasco sauce to taste. Squeeze the lemon and lime wedge into the drink. Stir well to mix. Place 2 bacon-stuffed olives and 2 Smokra pods on a skewer and place across the top of each glass. Serves 6–8.
The Dish: This Creole-spiced bloody mary works well with salty, meaty or pickled foods, but “your garnishes are a delicious snack to munch on,” says Besh.
Recipe courtesy Abigail Gullo, bar chef, SoBou, New Orleans
This King Cake Old Fashioned was inspired by the flavors in New Orleans’s traditional king cake recipe, which always features a plastic baby toy hidden inside, but Gullo’s version has a twist. “I kind of wanted to have a baby in the cocktail and when concerns were raised that this might become a choking hazard, I decided to freeze the plastic babies in big ice cubes,” says Gullo. “It’s such a fun surprise, many guests ask for go cups to take their ice cube home with them.” Just remember that tradition dictates that whoever finds a plastic baby has to throw the next Mardi Gras party.
2 ounces Rougaroux 13 Pennies Praline Rum
1 bar spoon cinnamon syrup
2 dashes El Guapo Chicory-Pecan Bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
Stir all the ingredients over ice in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.
The Dish: “Naturally, this drink pairs well with a slice of king cake,” says Gullo, but it’s the perfect complement to a variety of desserts, including ice cream.
Recipe courtesy Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant, New Orleans
Bar Director Billy Dollard describes this cocktail as “a riff on a classic Hurricane, replacing rum with one of New Orleans’s other favorite spirits, Bourbon.” The substitution cuts down on sweetness and pumps up the drink’s complexity, particularly with the bitters float on top. We think it makes for a smashing, parade-side sipper.
2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
¾ ounce passion fruit syrup
5 dashes of Angostura bitters
Add the Bourbon, lemon juice and passion fruit syrup into a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake for 5–7 seconds. Strain it into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass and top with 5 dashes of Angostura bitters.
The Dish: With plenty of acidity, Dollard would match this hurricane variation with anything high in fat, like Herbsaint’s duck leg confit with that signature New Orleanian dish, dirty rice.
- 2Mardi Gras Sidecar
- 3Cajun Storm
- 4The Ultimate Bloody Mary
- 5King Cake Old Fashioned
- 6Kentucky Cat-5