(Mixology Monday, first try!)
Landing in New Orleans in a steamy darkness, travelling with friends and intent on some sort of excess and disorderly conduct, what is there to do but go directly and without hesitation to the flaming water hedonistic garden pleasure dome of Pat O’s? It isn’t as though anyone expected refinement; the shocking red hurricanes that littered our table and stained our lips were exactly what we were looking for, and the hilarity at the bottom of those glasses suited everyone just fine.
I don’t regret any of the countless hurricanes I’ve drunk in the various flaming gardens of Pat O’s – products, completely, of their place and state of mind, I like them for what they are. In the clean, well lit and relatively sober refuge of my own home however, a shockingly crimson glass of syrup isn’t my first choice … ever. We’ve got rum to drink, though – lots of it – and hurricanes are a natural vehicle, so Mike took a stab at something a bit more refined. The idea, he says, was to take the original Hurricane recipe and “class it up” into a “proper” cocktail. And so:
Les Bontemps Roulez
1 oz White Rum
1 oz Angostura 1919 Gold Rum
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/4 oz Grenadine
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
Start by rinsing the 2 dashes of bitters around the glass. Mix all other ingredients in shaker, strain and serve.
My first sip was a shock of vanilla from the Angostura rum. The Marachino deepens the flavor, and the grenadine lends an echo of that red syrup sweetness. The bitters, Mike says, are a geographic reminder.
I think the Angostura, though good, might be a little aggressive here, and the heathen in me might have liked a touch more of the sweetness, but all told I did enjoy the rum goodness without the sticky floors.
The Sazerac, on the other hand, starts out grown up. We did drink them on that same sticky trip three summers ago, setting out on a hot trek to the Fairmont. We staggered out of the hot and slightly hung over afternoon into the cool hotel and felt a bit wilted in such clean and carpeted surroundings. Low couches in the Sazerac bar proved difficult to get out of after the consumption of not one, but two Sazeracs in all their intense glory. I’ve never been an anise fan but the Sazerac might be the tipping point in convincing me that the balance of goodness might lie (at least for drinks) on the side of the licorice. I’ve always liked tarragon in my chicken salad, though, so Mike’s revisiting of a Sazerac in a stripped down, culinary way was a huge hit:
1 oz Rye
3/4 oz Cognac (nothing fancy)
1/4 oz simple syrup (4:3)
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
Muddle one stem's worth of tarragon leaves with the simple syrup in a rocks glass. Add alcohol, bitters and ice to mixture and stir 'til frigid. Garnish with Tarragon leaf (if you're really good, candy the leaf first!)
Like the fussing with the hurricane, the idea here, per Mike, was to return to the basics of the drink, and add a modern twist. I’d love to paraphrase him, but really, I should quote:
“I find that Absinthe or Pastis lend too strong a flavor, even when rinsed around and dumped out of the glass. The tarragon brings the Anise taste without overpowering the other ingredients. The drink was originally made with Cognac, but combining it with the Rye gives the best of both worlds. Sure, it seems like a real sazerac and a mint julep got into a street fight with the herb vendor, but in the end it drinks like a sazerac.”