The national French motto: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity), is the perfect description of Carnival in New Orleans. Everyone is allowed a maximum amount of freedom of expression; everyone can celebrate equally; and we are all family. 

For at least a few days, our community is the wonderful place we know it can be. And we will leave the comment at that.

None of the festivities and the celebrations mean that the real deeper issues of our city and our population have disappeared. But we can enjoy each other and the accompanying party for a little while, fully cognizant that the time of contrition for past indiscretions is also at hand comes Wednesday.

What we usually do, in responsible fashion, more or less, is blow off a little steam in the context of a rich tradition, harming no one and assuring that everyone enjoys themselves. There are indeed boundaries as there always are in any society, but those boundaries are pushed out a little further than usual, individuals are allowed a bit more leeway, and the definition of acceptable behavior is elasticized, not, however, eliminated.

This is most assuredly the time on the calendar when no one should look down their nose at your manner of dress or what you are drinking. The Carnival anthem says it best: Do Whatcha Wanna!

In New Orleans, that directive is pretty well a way of life at most times anyway. No one in this town can castigate you for what you like to drink or what you like to eat. I think we all live near the outer boundaries of good taste. But particularly now, if you feel that 151® and Dr. Pepper® can satisfy your need, then have at it. If you are around people who make faces at your beverage selection, move on from those folks.

In other words, your choices are just that, your choices.  And as long as you enjoy the drink, and finish it, then proceed with the deed. To me, Black Jack® and Coke® are not a good combination. But if those are your go-to mixes, it’s really none of my business.

And that’s the point of Carnival Freedom. You go your way in all matters and allow me to go mine. Commenting harshly or putting a negative spin on my actions, as long as I am not hurting or affecting anyone but me, is out of bounds. Throw the yellow flag. Foul.

All of those disclaimers being said, let me jump in here and attempt to preempt some potential mistakes one can make in the excitement of the moment. I am not telling you not to experience the following combinations. I am saying that you can avoid some repercussions down the road. And I hope I am being clear, not preachy.  But actions do beget consequences and I would hate to hear that next Wednesday morning, you were not up to answer the bell.

 

Suggested pairings you would be wise to avoid:

  • Just about anything – beer, spirits, wine – and cigarettes and no food can only lead to bad places in the stomach, the heart and the head.
  • Red wine and Vodka – while vodka is an odorless, neutral spirit, it is a spirit, nonetheless. And it does not stack well with wine in the same glass. The drink is not called The Brutal Hammer because it is excellent on a construction site.
  • Sweet Drinks are not going to take you anywhere you need to go. Have one, and then move on. Loads of liqueurs are laden with sugar, and then maybe the cocktail you are craving adds more in the form of absinthe, simple syrup, rum, or the like. If you think a drink would be loved by your grandmother but that she would nurse it all day, you need to make another selection.
  • Beer and Vodka – see above with wine. You may choose to do this when you are in a safe place and don’t care how inebriated you get in how short a period of time. Nor do you care how you will feel the next day (spoiler alert: not good).
  • Beer and Tequila – Don’t take a grain liquid and mix it with the resulting liquid from a flowering succulent. That might sound romantic but romance will be the last thing on your mind come morning’s light.
  • Beer and Wine – Two low alcohol beverages have to be a good idea, right? If you stay away from the higher proof stuff, can you then dance the night away? Don’t confuse your “good sense” with chemistry. Stick with one, not both together.

 

Other than those mild warnings, your precious freedom and good time during this Carnival and Mardi Gras season are ready for show time. When you feel yourself going down, no matter what the drink or the comestible, switch to water and drink lots of it.

One of the easiest ways to come out on the short end of the stick is peer pressure. Your friends may not be as concerned about you as you imagine. They are well-intentioned, of course, and truly mean you no harm. But they have their own agendas. You have your own metabolism. Where is it written that those two are compatible?

Happy Mardi Gras Season, everyone. This festival is a marathon, not a sprint. Run steady but slow. See you on the other side.

(A big tip of the hat to Nikolay Nikolov, Lords of the Drinks, for the listings of the pairings that really don’t pair.)

 

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Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com