The Spotify “Rebirth Brass Band Station,” was in full swing, a “Garden District” candle from Fleurty Girl infused the room with sweet scents and three rocks glasses holding juice and local rum were lined up on the counter when my nephew Ryan called to tell me he parked and was walking up St. Charles Avenue. He and his friend Joe, both 22, made the 11-hour drive from Kentucky for a long, fun-filled Big Easy weekend. After introductions and hugs in front of my building, I lead them indoors and toward the kitchen where the Old New Orleans Rum, fresh lime juice and homemade, mint-infused simple syrup awaited ice cubes, a top off of club soda and a sprig of mint. I handed each one a cocktail and, as we clinked glasses, said, “Welcome to New Orleans!” It’s a ritual Mark and I have repeated countless times since moving to the Crescent City the week of Krewe de Vieux in 2014 and I can’t think of a better way to refresh weary travelers and set a festive tone for their stay, whether it be with us or at a local hotel.
In the beginning, we’d simply pop the cork on a bottle of inexpensive Cava we stocked up on prior to the move, but when that ran out, we started to get crafty with cocktails. There are still days when the bubbly is our go-to, but if there’s enough time in our schedules to whip up a few French 75s, mimosas or the above mentioned take on a mojito, we’ll put in a little extra effort and a garnish or two.
The “welcome reception” is your first chance to expose family and friends to local music and New Orleans’ freewheeling cocktail culture, by way of suds and spirits. For those who don’t care for liquor drinks, we’ll have Louisiana beers, such as Abita or Tin Roof chilling in the refrigerator. As always, it’s also good to have fresh lemonade or some other non-alcoholic choice on hand for anyone who doesn’t drink for any reason. Add sparkling water or soda to juices for a celebratory alternative to Champagne. For the booze lovers, offer local favorites, such as the Old New Orleans Rum I served Ryan and Joe, or vodka, gin and whiskey from Louisiana distillers, such as Atelier Vie, Donner-Peltier’s Oryza, Louisiana Lightning and Louisiana Spirits’ Bayou Rum (Click here to read about these craft distillers from a May article in Louisiana Life Magazine.)
Finally, put the most local spin of all on the festivities by pouring libations into one of the countless of cup throws you likely have leftover from Mardi Gras or popping that Abita into a koozie to walk to your next activity or just around the neighborhood for a little tour. There’s nothing that dazzles houseguests more than the moment they take to the streets with their first New Orleans to-go cup. They’ll laissez les bons temps rouler like a native in no time.