Originally published in The Northern Light 

Although Carnival season is in full swing, Mardi Gras hasn’t even begun yet. Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or the day before Ash Wednesday, is the beginning of Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday marks the last day of debauchery and rich, fatty foods before practicing Catholics recognize ritual fasting for the Lenten season. This year, Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 13. Occurring annually since 1837, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is traditionally celebrated by people of French descent and Catholics, but has since been embraced by people of all cultures and creeds in the city. Celebrations consist of music, dancing, parades and lots of food and alcohol.

Want to get in on the fun? There are few celebrations here in Anchorage, but if you want an excuse to party try making these New Orleans’ born-and-bred cocktails. I included three of my favorite cocktails from my recent trip to New Orleans. You’ll be hard-pressed finding these drinks at a bar here in town, but they’re easy enough to make at home. Want more than just cocktails at your Mardi Gras party? Include some gumbo or jambalaya for an entree, and of course, king cake for dessert.

First is the Sazerac, this is the official drink of New Orleans and it has been argued that it’s America’s first cocktail, invented in the 1830s. This one might be easier to find around town, but it’s a New Orleans specialty and the official New York Times recipe calls for only the most traditional of ingredients. For our purposes, leave the hard-to-find Louisiana bitters behind and go for some basic bitters you can find in any liquor store. If you have a bitter you like to use, go ahead and use that. The recipe also calls for Sazerac brand rye whiskey. Any rye whiskey is fine, and I’ve even seen recipes using brandy. The recipe also calls for the glass to be rinsed in absinthe. We are college students in Anchorage, Alaska. Don’t feel obligated, I sure don’t. It also calls for a sugar cube. Sugar, not in cube form, is fine.

Sazerac

  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 dashes of bitters
  • 2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • Lemon peel
  1. Muddle or crush the bitters and sugar together in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add the rye and ice and stir together. Strain the drink into a new glass. Garnish by twisting the lemon peel over the drink.

The second drink is the hurricane cocktail invented in Pat O’Brien’s bar in the 1940s. From experience, it tastes a lot better than you think it will. It was one of the last cocktails I got in New Orleans because I was worried it was going to be one giant sugary fruit bomb, but it was actually quite pleasant. This would be a good cocktail to make in large quantities and serve in a punch bowl. Below is the city of New Orleans’s recipe for a Hurricane. Yes, the city of New Orleans has a cocktail cookbook on their website.

Hurricane

  • 2 ounces of light rum
  • 2 ounces of dark rum
  • 2 ounces of passion fruit juice
  • 1 ounce of orange juice
  • 1/2 ounces of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of simple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of grenadine
  • Garnish with orange slices and a cherry
  1. Pour all of the ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake well for a matter of seconds, and then strain into a tall glass and garnish.

The last cocktail is my absolute favorite, being a gin lover. The Ramos gin fizz was invented in 1888 by Henry C. Ramos. This drink is elegant and creamy. The foam that is created at the top of the cocktail tastes like gin-flavored whipped cream. One of the reasons this cocktail gained so much popularity is because of the amount of time it takes to make one. Mr. Ramos required that each gin fizz was shaken for exactly six minutes. To keep his staff from getting tired, they each took turns shaking the cocktail. Passing the shaker from one bartender to the other, Ramos was said to have hired extra bartenders just to make this event feasible. Most of the gin fizz’s I ordered in New Orleans were shaken for less than a couple minutes with nearly the same effect. Though, one bar we entered had a shaking machine, set to six minutes, in honor of Mr. Ramos. The recipe, adapted from the official city website cocktail cookbook, calls for orange flower water, but again, this is Anchorage so do what you can.

Ramos gin fizz

  • 1/2 ounce of lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce of lime juice
  • 1 and 1/4 ounces of dry gin
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 ounce of heavy cream
  1. Add all contents to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake very well, for a minute or two, or until frothy. Strain liquid into a tall glass, then remove the strainer and add foam to the top of the drink.

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