If you are fortunate enough to live within a 100-mile radius of Jackson Square, you, no doubt, have multiple opportunities just about every day to enjoy a cherished and delicious Carnival custom, King Cake.
The usual is still the traditional cinnamon pasty style. However, over the past several years we have seen an amazing array of variations on a theme, including fillings with cream cheese; fruits like apple, strawberry, or raspberry; pecan and pecan praline; chocolate; almond paste; and with or without icing.
Many of our modern expressions of King Cake have even taken a very high baking road and are rightfully classified as brioche, big on the egg and butter content. There is even healthy King Cake, a part of Ochsner’s Eat Fit dietary program, offering a cake that is gluten-free, grain-free, earning a low-carb rating and Keto-approved.
The expansion of the King Cake universe has only further complicated the question: what beverage do I enjoy while devouring another New Orleans gift to the culinary world?
As in all food/beverage pairing decisions, the answer depends on a variety of factors, such as time of day, who are you with, what style of King Cake are you enjoying, are you savoring the moment by eating the cake with your fingers or a fork (the answer to this question could lead you to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne or just put one teaspoon of sugar in your coffee), and, in the final analysis, what do you really want to drink? It’s your deal all the way.
I am more of another-question kind of pairings guy. Whenever someone asks me if this beverage and this food goes together, I ask, “Do YOU like it?” The ultimate test for a good pairing is in your own mouth and nose. Sometimes a comment from a knowledgeable outsider can clear the fog, but mostly, if you like it, then it works.
Here are a few suggestions of cocktails that should work with your King Cake at any time of day with any group that desires celebration. You know who they are.
RUFFINO PARADE PUNCH
- 1-part orange juice
- ½ part pink grapefruit juice
- ¼ part pomegranate juice
- 1-part Ruffino Prosecco, well chilled
- Slices of assorted citrus and pomegranate seeds, to garnish
- In a large pitcher or punch bowl with plenty of ice combine the fruit juices.
- Pour the Ruffino Prosecco over top.
- Garnish generously with sliced citrus and pomegranate seeds.
TIPS: For best flavor use freshly pressed juices as available. Ruffino Sparkling Rosé is a great choice for this recipe too.
KREWE DU CRAWFORD
- 2 parts Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
- 3-4 pieces lemon wedge
- Pinch of mint
- .75 parts simple syrup
- Mint sprig
- Muddle Mint, lemon and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker
- Add Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
- Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice
- Garnish with a mint sprig
SVEDKA MARDI MARY
- 1½ parts SVEDKA Citron
- 3 parts tomato juice
- ½ part fresh lemon juice
- Dash Worcestershire Sauce
- Dash hot sauce
- Pinch of salt
- Build in mixing glass filled with ice, and "roll" from one cup to another until cold and mixed.
- Pour into a tall glass and garnish with a lemon slice and a celery stick.
Many thanks to Carolyn Holtzman, Shadow Communications, and Constellation Imports for the recipe suggestions.
Also, if you are a home cocktail enthusiast, and not opposed to a little “mad scientist” action in your kitchen, we suggest the King Cake Syrup from Cocktail and Sons, made here in New Orleans. This particular concoction is only available until Mardi Gras. A great seasonal recipe is on the label.
Cocktail and Sons offers a whole line of cocktail additives which are top-notch in quality and provide amazing props to your creative efforts. They are available wherever fine spirits are sold.
The joy of Carnival season is that you can "do whatcha wanna," whenever. It’s time to throw the baby out the window and let the sun burn down!
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com on Wednesdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails in New Orleans, every month in New Orleans Magazine.