Last year’s Mardi Gras was one of the biggest parties in decades for the Big Easy. According to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau more than one million revelers celebrated in New Orleans. In 2012, Fat Tuesday falls on February 21 and the Crescent City promises to keep the good times rolling.
For those planning to hit Bourbon Street this month, they’ll find no shortage of sweet libations to keep the party going. In a town known for drive-through daiquiri shops and go-cups, partiers can stumble along the parade routes with mind-numbing beverages like the cyclone, hand grenade and jungle juice. Long before these frosty concoctions hit the streets, the drink that may have caused more carnival hangovers than any other, the Hurricane, was born.
Bright red and cloyingly sweet, a version of this tipple can be found in any watering hole in the French Quarter. While the drink’s formula has changed over the years, its history can be traced back to World War II when it was invented at Pat O’Brien’s.
For the first time visitor to New Orleans, Pat O’Brien’s deserves a place on the “to do” list. While some dismiss this well-tracked spot as “touristy”, there is something to be said about visiting the bar that the New Orleans Times-Picayune referred to as “Disneyland for serious drinkers.” Founded by Pat-O’Brien, a bootlegger, and Charlie Cantell, a wholesaler, this Louisiana institution opened its doors as Prohibition was repealed. With its charming fountain courtyard, live piano music and storied history, Pat O’Brien’s is a memorable stop in a city filled with saloons.
The invention of their signature drink came about as a practical necessity. Back in the 1940s liquors such as Scotch and Bourbon were in short supply. There was a glut of post-Prohibition rum and the dealers wanted to move it. The bar’s partners were forced by liquor wholesalers to order as many as 50 cases of rum in order to purchase a few cases of the whiskeys they wanted.
Barmen played around with a mixture of fruit juices and passion fruit until they came up with an alluring combination; a tasty and potent cocktail, containing four ounces of rum in each serving. They began selling the new creation in a Hurricane glass and the drink’s moniker was born. The Hurricane caught on and the rest, as they say, is history.
Along with Mardi Gras beads, king cakes and voodoo dolls, a hurricane glass from Pat Obrien’s is a popular souvenir. While the glass has remained a constant, today’s hurricanes have changed dramatically since their inception.
Due to the high volume of visitors, Pat O’Brien’s now makes their hurricanes from a pre-made mix. They do not give out sales figures, but according to Pat O’Brien’s spokesperson Jamie Touchton the Saturday before Mardi Gras is the busiest day of the year. “We make thousands of gallons during Mardi Gras season,” Touchton says.
If you are planning to celebrate Mardi Gras away from the Big Easy, Pat O’Brien’s sells their own brand of Hurricane rum and mix that can be ordered online. But creating your own Hurricane from scratch will result in a rewarding and delicious refresher.
The main ingredients are fairly simple: rum, grenadine, citrus and passion fruit juices. Before the Georgetown waterfront flood of 2011, the best place in DC to get a well-crafted Hurricane was at Farmers and Fishers. Hopefully head bar Chef Jon Arroyo will bring back the flagship drink when the restaurant re-opens this spring.
But for those headed south for Fat Tuesday, Touchton says there is no substitute for stopping by Pat O’Briens. “Visitors want to experience the legend. The Hurricane is the drink of New Orleans. Many try to imitate it, but none can compare to the taste, strength and the overall experience of being in Pat O’Brien’s.”
Learn more and order the mix at www.patobriens.com.
Recipe courtesy of Jon Arroyo
2 ½ oz Mount Gay Rum
1 ½ oz Goslings Black Seal Rum
1 oz fresh orange juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
2 ½ oz Passion fruit puree
½ oz grenadine (one made from pomegranate)
Set aside ½ oz of Goslings rum. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a shaker and serve over ice. Float remaining ½ oz of Goslings on the top of the drink. Garnish with an orange slice.
Ingredients to make the Hurricane may be purchased at Dixie Liquor: 3429 M St. in Georgetown.