Feb 10, 201012:00 AM
All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans
We have, we think, given you some very good thoughts on working through this challenging season of celebration, probably unprecedented in the history of this village: championship games, then Super Bowl, now Valentine’s Day, all overlaying a thick veneer of Carnival.
Now comes The Big One. The culmination of Carnival is Mardi Gras, and as my dear friend Errol Laborde likes to note, Mardi Gras is a Tuesday; Carnival is a season. But that’s his fight, not mine.
I want to remind you that before we get to Mardi Gras, the Tuesday, we have to wade through and survive the final jumbo weekend of parades and parties. Seems like we have been dealing with such matters for a long while, but hasn’t it been fun? Gotta love living in this town!
Anyway, assuming you have done the right thing for those who deserve such treatment in the acknowledgement of Valentine’s Day, now, just two days later, you are faced again with a major dilemma: What am I going to carry and drink during Mardi Gras?
Several factors come into play, including how far you have to carry beverages to get to “your spot”; what you like to drink; how complicated you want to make it; and what supporting materials you’ll have to carry, such as ice, cups, garnish, etc.
For beer drinkers, it all becomes pretty easy. Beer is available all over the place, so you don’t have to carry any with you, unless you’re into that white Belgian ale. That will be tough to find, so don’t put yourself through it. Compromise.
Anyway, why don’t you and your buds/family/spouse do something interesting and fun that will accomplish what you want with some style?
Think batch drinks. You know, those really tasty concoctions that you can make in advance and enjoy throughout the day. Drinks that encourage you to make a lot and not worry about it again. Moving around may be a challenge if you have to haul a bucket, but if you have a single spot where you settle down or one where you can crash, then you’re good to go for making great drinks in large quantities.
Everyone loves batch drinks –– maybe a bit too much sometimes. Remember during those college years when you were mixing up whatever in garbage cans? Let’s not go down that well-trod path anymore. You’re more mature now. You know better. You do, don’t you?
Batch drinks are just perfect for Mardi Gras. They quench your thirst, are fun, can be shared and are quite tasty. What’s not to like?
Chris Hannah, the incredibly talented bartender at French 75, the cozy watering hole at Arnaud’s, is featured in my Last Call column this month in New Orleans Magazine. The recipe for his traditional Mardi Gras creation, Nui Nui Punch, is available online here. Check it out.
Or maybe you would like to concoct something more mainstream, but if you do, I want you to think about adding your own touches. It’s fun. Here are few thoughts to get you started, courtesy of the indispensable guide drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail by James Waller (Stewart, Tabori and Chang).
1 bottle (750 ml) light rum
1 bottle (750 ml) Jamaican rum
1 1/2 quarts orange juice
1 quart pineapple juice
4 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 ounces simple syrup
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
12 ounces chilled ginger ale
6 scoops pineapple and/or orange sherbet (to taste if you wish)
Combine the rum, juices, simple syrup and spices in a large container. Stir well. Refrigerate for three or four hours. When ready to serve, pour the mixture into a large punchbowl or container. Add the ginger ale. Stir gently.
Add a large block of ice to the punchbowl. Float the scoops of sherbet on top of the punch. Makes about 36 four-ounce servings.
1 quart strong tea
1 quart bourbon
1 quart dry red wine
2 cups dark rum
1 cup brandy
1 cup gin
1 pint orange juice
Sugar (to taste)
1 orange, cut into medium slices (for garnish)
1 lemon, cut into medium slices (for garnish)
Steep the tea, and allow it to cool. Combine the tea with the other liquid ingredients in a large bowl or other container. Add sugar, as needed to your taste. Chill thoroughly for at least 24 hours before serving.
Just before serving, place a block of ice in the bowl, and then pour the punch over it. Float the orange and lemon slices on top. Makes about 36 four-ounce servings.
Bicycle Built for Two
1 orange, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
6 ounces Cointreau or triple sec
1 1/2 cups brandy
1 1/2 cups ruby port
1 cup orange juice
6 ounces fresh lemon juice
Place the orange and lemon slices in a large glass pitcher. Pour in the Cointreau, and gently muddle the fruit and liqueur. Add the brandy, port and juices. Stir well. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
When you are ready to serve, rim collins or highball glasses with the lemon wedges and superfine sugar. Fill the glasses with ice, and then pour the punch. Makes about 12 servings
What you should particularly note here is that these drinks require plenty of preparation time. The settling time is very important to allow the ingredients to get comfortable with each other. So leave yourself lots of time when you make the drinks, prior to their serving.
And go easy on the drinking. Mardi Gras is a long day, and these drinks contain plenty of alcohol and sugar. They could make you sleepy long before you want to be. And then you’ll certainly miss something.
Happy Mardi Gras to all, and share the good times.