Join us, as we take a seat on the carousel to savour the Creole cocktail crockpot that is New Orleans. Although Tales of the Cocktail is now behind us, we’re ditching our contemporary London bar scene for a liquid laissez-faire accord, that trickles down the Mississippi.
As we clock out of Aperitivo Hour and settle into New Orleans, we’re getting out the folded tables and awaiting the blogs, banners, posts and Recipe Reels that embodies ‘Big Easy’ sipping.
Expect to be transported to the Creole balconies, street-side setups and art-deco establishments found in the French Quarter’s iconic cocktail houses. We’ll savour the spirits lingering on Bourbon Street, alongside the city’s cultural celebration of flavour, art, music and drink.
Why New Orleans
One thing to know about New Orleans, is that there is a persistence and restorative impulse that drives the city. One that satisfies an appetite for cultural celebration, without neglecting ‘togetherness’. It’s an eccentric beacon for discerning drinkers with a willingness to venture out and witness a modern-day cocktail renaissance.
The 2005 Hurricane Katrina, undeniably, left a devestasting mark on New Orleans. An unpredictable disruption to a city steeped in culture, history, and hospitality. Keep in mind though, that Louisiana’s residents are resilient in community, family and neighbourhood credence. So, through destruction comes an opportunity to rediscover identity and heritage, all while preserving ‘value’ in each other and what built the city in the first place. Food, drink and music provides the chance to escape together in the search for stability and comfort.
It's in these neighbourhoods that are grounded in gatherings, laced in influence and sizzling in creole cuisine, where we find ourselves infatuated by both the destination and the journey.
We’ll look at the cocktail cornerstones of how best to enjoy Cognac and Rye in the French Quarter, exploring the recipes whose roots and origins are firmly planted in New Orleans. We hope to expose you the melting pot of Caribbean, African American, French and Southern influences that flows through the streets, spirits and snacks.
On closer inspection, we’ll show you what you need, to embody an iconic New Orleans back bar at home. If there’s one premature piece of advice we’ll let slip, is stocking up on a good quality Rye. Bourbon’s bigger, bolder sibling injects the muscular spice and strong backbone that many New Orleans classics build upon.
American Whiskey, however, is not our only motive. For those who want to delve a little deeper into the residents of the French Quarter, we’ll be exploring Cognac’s more delicate dimensions in your Big Easy concoctions. So, we can’t talk Cognac without paying homage to the ‘Big 4’. Martell, Courvoisier, Hennessy and Rémy Martin, will be on our cabinet watch-list, so stay tuned for what VS and VSOP’s we choose to stir into our evening tipple.
There’s a shared joke that ‘New Orleans is the Caribbean’s most northern city’ – so, with that being said, it’s essential that there’s some appreciation for the rum styles flowing in from Jamaica, Barbados and Haiti for example. Brands like Saint Benevolence Clairin, Smith and Cross, Hampden Estate, and Goslings has us kickstarting a list of rum recommendations for cocktails found at Pat O’Brien’s. But if you want a real taste of the Bayou, look towards Bayou Spiced Rum for some liquid Louisiana.
With our lead spirits finding fame in the spotlight of a fair few New Orleans icons, there are many luscious liqueurs whose supporting roles are just as integral to building a Big Easy cocktail cabinet. You’ll soon find that many recipes will call for the same key brands, time and time again. Bénédictine, Luxardo Maraschino, Fernet Branca, and Pierre Ferrand’s Dry Curaçao, are among the most notable, as well as the infamous ingredient of absinthe. La Fée Absinthe Parisienne and Pernod Absinthe should most definitely be on your must-have list.
What's coming up?
Throughout September and October, we’ll be rolling out a series of cocktail blogs, each rinsed with a splash of history, culture and a chance to pull up a chair and get stuck into conversation. These are the drinks that quite often have the effect of ‘turning strangers into family’, in turn embodying the beloved drinking scene of New Orleans.
Although serves like the Ramos Gin Fizz, and the Café Brûlot are ICONIC to the Big Easy, there are some cocktail challenges we can leave to the professionals. That being said, if you have the patience, performative flair and elaborate technique that these concoctions call for, go for it! But for now, we’re concentrating on the easy sipping cocktails, that you can make at home (without the requirement of a rare Brûlot bowl).
Kickstarting the journey will of course be the official cocktail of New Orleans, The Sazerac. A cherished classic, (that although hasn’t dimmed in popularity since the 1830s), it is never without debate. As an insight, it’s a close cousin to the Old Fashioned that disguises accents of liquorice and absinthe beneath a smooth pairing of Cognac and Rye. It’s designed to knock your socks off and help you put them back on again.
Next up if you’re looking to quench your thirst for the French Quarter, we’re looking at the likes of the Vieux Carré and the De La Louisiane. These are two icons that are akin in their love for Rye Whiskey and Peychaud’s Bitters, but diverse in both their lasting impressions. Our recipe guides will help you explore each part to elevate both serves to your liking.
Continuing on the Cognac carousel, we’ll look at the French 75. Although this a revered classic, there is an ongoing debate about what should be the hero spirit in the cocktail, we’re tapping into the French influence using Cognac instead of Gin. More on that later.
Others to keep your eyes peeled for are the Absinthe Frappé (where absinthe plays a more major role) and the Hurricane, the true drink of Mardi Gras and exotic concoction. Each cocktail blog will explore a brief inebriated history of the serve, as well as the bars that many of these drink call home.
As an extra treat on the side, watch this space for a New Orleans’ inspired ‘Aperitivo Hour’ – an invitation to discover the creole cuisine, bar snacks and music you need to tie the whole experience together.
So, with that in mind, strap in for a line-up of exceptional spirits and cocktails in tribute to the creative, colourful and community driven drinking style that weaves its way through the Mississippi.