Welcome to the Party: Cocktail Recipes for Jazz Fest and Cinco de Mayo

Just as I was writing that headline, I realized that in our town when exactly is there a time that a celebration to kick up our heels does not apply?


And here we are about to embark on the second big weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Today, Thursday, is known as Locals' Thursday at the Fair Grounds. The festivities are not limited to residents of the area. In fact, having limitations on any aspect of good times is not within our DNA. We simply don’t do it. Ever.


For those of you just hitting town, or on your way to us, we hope you have the best time of your lives. Enjoy the party. Enjoy our culture, our cuisine and our live-and-let-live attitudes. And none of that is by way of saying to forget your good sense or your good manners. We treat our guests as adults, until they prove otherwise. Have fun. Be safe and don’t do anything here which you would not do in front of your mama. Of course, maybe our mama would be a better example because she is a New Orleanian, probably a bit more forgiving than yours. So let’s just say don’t do anything here you would not do in front of our mama. 


While you are here, there are definitely a few drinks you should try. In fact, if you go home without trying these drinks, you may as well have stayed at home. These are classic New Orleans cocktails, and any reader of this column who is from this town, knows these drinks well. These drinks define us. And I note them here as a public service, which is what I am all about. No, don’t bother to thank me now. It’s my job.


The Sazerac

This is the consummate New Orleans drink, invented in 1830 but changed along the way to accommodate challenges, both crops and laws, in other parts of the world since that time. Incidentally, New Orleans is likely the only city in the country that has an official cocktail, which is this one. We think that speaks volumes about our attitudes (see section on “mama” above).


2 ounces rye whiskey

3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

1 teaspoon simple syrup

Splash absinthe or Herbsaint

Lemon peel


Pack one Old Fashioned glass with ice. Set aside. In another Old Fashioned glass, add Bitters and simple syrup. Add rye whiskey.


Empty other glass of ice, and then rinse with absinthe or Herbsaint. Discard excess, allowing remaining to coat inside of glass. Add contents from other glass into the chilled glass with absinthe or Herbsaint. Twist lemon peel and rim glass. Place peel into glass.


Cognac, the original base-spirit, can be substituted for rye whiskey.


Ramos Gin Fizz

In the 1880s, Henry C. Ramos, a very popular bartender and ultimately bar owner in the French Quarter and Central Business District, invented the Gin Fizz that still bears his name. He is buried in St. Louis No. 1.  And here is his original recipe: “One and Only One Ramos’ Original Gin Fizz."


1 tablespoon powdered sugar

3 or 4 drops of Orange Flower Water

Juice from 1/2 lime

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1 Jigger of Old Tom Gin. (Old Gordon may be used but a sweet (London) gin is preferable).

1 egg white

1/2 glass of crushed ice

About 2 tablespoons of rich milk or cream

A little Seltzer water (about an ounce) to make it pungent.


Blend all ingredients in a Collins glass after vigorous shaking in a shaker, no ice.


No substitutions make any sense and only these ingredients can be used to correctly make this cocktail.


Vieux Carre

This cocktail was invented in the 1930s at the Monteleone Hotel by Walter Bergeron. That location, sitting at the Carousel Bar, is still the best place in town to avail yourself of this wonderful drink.


3/4 ounces rye whiskey

3/4 ounces Cognac

3/4 ounces sweet vermouth

Dash Peychaud's bitters

Dash Angostura aromatic bitters

1/2 teaspoon Benedictine liqueur

Cherry for garnish


Combine all ingredients into mixing glass with ice. Stir, don’t shake. Strain into Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with cherry.


Pimm’s Cup

Not invented here, but served with great flourish at the Napoleon House. Created in 1840, this refreshing drink and its cucumber garnish are perfect for our summer weather.


Fill a tall 12-ounce glass with ice. Add 1 1/4 ounces Pimm's #1. Add 3 ounces lemonade. Top off with 7 Up. Garnish with cucumber.

As if Jazz Fest was not enough, Cinco de Mayo falls on Sunday so more celebrating is in order. We hope you were not planning on sleeping.


For maybe a new experience, try a bit of Mezcal instead of the Tequila which has become synonymous with this celebration by our friends from Mexico. Go easy on both Tequila and Mezcal. These spirits are strong and if you are not accustomed, you may be heading for a very difficult Monday morning ride to Louis Armstrong International Airport.


Margaritas are so simple and so good, it’s a mystery to me how bars all over America, and some here in New Orleans, just mess up this wonderful experience. C’mon, bar folks, it’s only three ingredients. How far wrong can you go with only three ingredients? In my experience, pretty far.



I need to disclose up front that I am not a big salt-rim person. Salt is not a deal breaker for me, but it’s not where I like my margarita to go.


1 1/z ounce Tequila, Blanco (100 percent agave)

1-1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice, depending on your love of citrus

1/2-1 ounce Cointreau, not Triple Sec


Either place ingredients and ice in a shaker and give it a good shake, or place ice in a glass with all ingredients and stir. We are leaving that up to your creativity.


Okay, gang, Jazz Fest, Cinco de Mayo and about 150,000 of your new best friends to party with? That's what's happening in New Orleans this weekend. What more do you want?


No, that’s enough, especially for a party animal like you. Enjoy.




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