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Jul 15, 201509:30 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Respecting the Original. Almost.

Matthjis van Dijk, Getty Images, 2008.

It’s Tales of the Cocktail week, which for a community like New Orleans is akin to an annual visit from a wealthy Aunt and Uncle, or having a good friend pick up a dinner check, or receiving a prize envelope from Publisher’s Clearing House.

I have personally never experienced 2 of those 3 choices, and I leave it to your keen powers of observation to determine which one.

But Tales is a special case - a time when 25,000 of your nearest and dearest drinking buddies from all over the world descend on a town that can handle the madness, and pretty much does so every day – no biggie on that count for The Crescent City. I think our town’s motto should be: Putting College Parties to Shame Every Day.

If you listen carefully, you won’t be far out of earshot of ice being crushed, mint being muddled, shakers going about their business, glassware being filled and a din of usually discourteous slurping noises as delightful liquid refreshments reach many lips. The cacophony will go on for about a week.

What always comes out of the Tales experience is something new and something old. Each year, a suddenly-chic spirit or liqueur captures the group’s attention and then everyone has to use XXX in every cocktail, whether it truly fits or not. In reality, there is really not much totally new that comes out each year – despite the convoluted explanations and breathless entreaties of Brand Ambassadors, sent here especially to convince every attendee that their product is cutting-edge, can be used in a wide variety of applications and adds immeasurably to the consumer’s enjoyment. Sort of a liquid Swiss Army Knife. Sort of.

The more understandable direction is for this group of distillery sales professionals to re-position their product line, expanding the use of whatever it is they are extolling with real passion. And it is here where there is some validity to the pitch. The lesson is that while you usually use one spirit for a particular drink, there might be just as much enjoyment from using another. At least it’s a welcome change of pace, aromas and flavors.

You may still drink Old Faithful on most occasions, but now you have another familiar and proven choice, maybe of your creation, for those times when you are in a different mood or social location. Freedom and Variety – is this a great country, or what?

For instance, this time of year, Sangria seems like a particularly happy response to drinking seasonal – full of fresh fruit, cool and easy, a most quaffable answer to “what do I want to drink?”

And here is a pretty good Sangria recipe, which makes use of vodka:


Red Berry Sangria


·         1 bottle Moscato Wine

·         15-18 ounces Berry Juice (Naked Berry Blast or V8 Splash Berry Blend work well)

·         1 liter lemon lime soda

·         ½ cup (or more if you're feisty) Pearl Red Berry Vodka

·         1 cup sliced strawberries

·         1 cups raspberries

·         Raspberries and sliced strawberries as garnish



  • Place fruit, wine, vodka and berry juice in a pitcher and stir.
  • Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  • Right before serving, add the lemon lime soda and stir to combine.
  • Pour over ice and garnish with more fruit.


Now, let’s have a bit of fun, and with some apologies to the folks who make Pearl Red Berry Vodka and were kind enough to send me the recipe (I’ll bet they never make that mistake again).

Right off, I am not a fan of really sweet drinks, so I would delete the Moscato and insert a very dry Pinot Grigio at the same quantity, then cut the Berry juice in half and insert Tonic Water. The ½ cup of vodka is not going to make it for New Orleanians. Double the amount of vodka, delete the lemon-lime soda, or at the most use only 25% of the noted quantity, and put no sugar on the fruit.

That’s how you play around with these things. Other variables could be using only a half amount of white wine and add like quantity of inexpensive Spanish red wine. Consider another spirit, like spiced dark rum to take some of the place of the vodka.

The only way you are going to know the success of your work is if you start making the drink and then along the way, while you taste during construction, start your best impression of Morgus. – dfo crazy lab stuff. Would mint make a difference? Orange slices? Peaches? Or whatever enters your mind that you like. If you are fearful of “ruining” the batch, pour a glass of what you have made up to a point and then add small amounts of outside-the-recipe ingredients.

I am also a big fan of New Orleans’ favorite way to work through a hangover, the Brandy Milk Punch.


Brandy Milk Punch

As served at Brennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street


Serving: 1


2 ounces brandy (preferably Napoleon)

4 ounces half & half

1 ounce simple syrup (1:1, sugar:water)

1/4 ounce vanilla extract

Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg
Glassware: rocks



  • Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker.
  • Add ice and shake until chilled.
  • Strain into a rocks glass over ice.
  • Sprinkle the nutmeg onto the drink, not in it


Lately, even Brennan’s has been playing with their recipe, substituting Rye Whiskey for the Brandy. I’ve even had Tequila instead of either one. And I’m thinking that Rum or Pisco would also do very well in this drink.

Maybe a few dabs of Crème de Menthe at the end would work well. Or a bit of cinnamon.

See? Now you have the idea. The original recipe for any drink is fine. Usually a real classic, but you are not bound by somebody else’s approach. Think about what you like and what turns you on. Actually, I was speaking about the ingredients that go into a drink, but thanks for the additional information.




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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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