The Perfect Storm
How to throw the best hurricane party (when it’s safe to do so)
by Katie Block
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that “for the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, there will be 12 to 15 tropical storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, of which three to five could become major hurricanes.” With a forecast like that, what else can you do but prepare ahead?
After experiencing Tropical Storm Cindy in July, New Orleanians with any sense stocked up on emergency hurricane supplies. And in true Louisiana fashion, they might also be preparing for seven to nine potential hurricane parties. Along with non-perishable food items, the proper hurricane party reserve includes a well-stocked bar for the imminent day when meteorologists say it’s time to board up windows and call your friends and neighbors for what may be the last hurrah of life as we know it.
In the unfortunate event that The Big One does comes our way, every hurricane party fits the potential for “the last thing you do before you die” category. With such a profound classification as that, the party had better be good. This level of enormity requires us to call in the big dog – the man who “at any given time is always having more fun than anyone else in the city,” according to a friend and colleague – local writer, man about town and unofficial hurricane-party expert Ian McNulty. Here are McNulty’s thoughts on what makes a hurricane party thrive.
No. 1: “Booze,” he says with uncompromised certainty. “It’s fun to have a theme drink. I love to make sangria – it’s cheap and easy. I call mine Irish sangria because I’m Irish and it’s cheap, and most of the time you drink too much of it.” Next? “Tequila for shots, beer, white wine and your standing bar.”
McNulty says he gathers supplies ahead of time. He usually throws the party a day or so before the hurricane is forecast to hit. He says people like hurricane parties because “they’re nervous and they want to talk about it.”
For atmosphere – besides the electrically charged air – McNulty, a Mid-City resident, usually has a muted television tuned to a weather report. And just in case the electricity goes out, he makes sure some friends bring along their guitars. For edibles, he usually cooks red beans or jambalaya ahead of time in case the area loses power.
Hurricane Ivan was McNulty’s most recent party occasion. “Hurricane Ivan turned out to be good. It was apparent that day it wouldn’t hit New Orleans, and it didn’t. So I called my friends to get people together before the curfew went into effect at 2 p.m. I had everything stocked up. There were about 12 people and 15 dogs.”
Most people would assume that serving Hurricane drinks are a natural fit for a hurricane party. But not McNulty – he thinks they’re a cliché. Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to have some Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane mix on hand in case anyone asks for one. (The drink invented by Pat O’Brien’s Bar actually has nothing to do with the storm. The sweet, fruity rum beverage was invented during World War II when whiskey was in short supply. Nor did it get its name because of the way it makes you feel the next morning – like a hurricane ravaged your body – the name came about because the glass it’s served in is shaped like a hurricane lamp.)
A rookie mistake is buying cold beer. Buy hot beer but don’t ice it down all at once. (If you ice all the beer and then run out of ice, the beer will have gone from hot to cold to hot again, which ruins its flavor.) Also keep flashlights, board games, candles and non-perishable foods such as popcorn, peanuts and Chex mix on hand. Have a feast by grilling all the meat in the refrigerator that would otherwise go bad if there was no power.
Remember that if any friends have children, chances are they won’t be able to find a babysitter, so the kids will be coming along, too. It’s not a bad idea to have games for them to play. And, McNulty adds, “Remember to have nonalcoholic drinks. We give them what we call mixers [Coke without rum, for example],” he says.
On a more serious note, McNulty doesn’t trivialize the threat of a hurricane. His advice: “Get yourself and your home together first. Don’t spend all of your time planning a party. If it’s going to be a bad storm, don’t let your sangria bottles outnumber your candles.” In the event a big one really does head our way, call your friends, cancel the party and take a road trip instead. •