A bittersweet irony holds its head aloft during Tales of the Cocktail, as the city so well known for its inspiration in the development of classic cocktails, and the “meeting of the modern cocktail minds” that Tales of the Cocktail is, are so close to Bourbon Street, home to some of the worst drinks known to mankind. These drinks I have chosen to cover for Mixology Monday: New Orleans.
As a brave and thirsty traveler, of stout liver and not quite so stout mind, I set off on a quest to try these beverages and report to you, dear viewer, on these offenses to the senses.
Please note, I try my best to keep my nose out of the high-falutin’ area, and remind myself I float no higher from terra firma than last week’s bathwater, but damned if I’m not being snotty in the next few paragraphs. Snark ahoy!
Developed by Pat O’Brien sometime in the 1940s, the Hurricane was New Orleans top contribution to the rum and tropical flavor tiki drinks of the time. Initially used as a way to get rid of the rum that bar owners were forced to buy (see this video), today it’s become a bright red, flavorless concoction that comes in a souvenir glass. Nary a drop of rum to be found, the modern recipe at the bar consists of crushed ice, neutral distilled spirit, and “the red stuff” in the packet above.
Pat was recently written up in the book, In Pursuit of Pat O’Brien, which I have not yet had the opportunity to read. I did get a chance to look at the original recipe in the back (three ingredients, is it REALLY that damned hard?), and it coincides with the recipe in Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log. It’s delicious when made true to the original recipe of rum, passion fruit syrup and lemon juice. Made from the packet… there’s no discernable flavor to be found for miles, and as I learned on one horrible birthday many years ago, that red color doesn’t fade, guzzling down or gushing back up.
A sweet supple mixture of two of the best friends in the world, rum and lime, along with sugar to tone down some of the bitter, and you’ve got a world class combination. Take all of those, throw them out the window, toss some industrial alcohol, food coloring, and bottom-shelf booze into a slushee machine and you’ve got yourself a Bourbon street favorite. There are two locations of Mango Mango Daiquiri (you can’t miss the sign), but the bright neon seems to give it a bit of omnipresence in the French Quarter.
In one of these establishments, there are as many drinks available as there are slushee machines on the back counter. The drinks are $9 a pop, and each drink comes with a free shot, and some sort of discount off of a second drink. This coupon went quickly into the trash. Having to choose between roughly 15 machines, I decided to go with the interestingly named “Blue Crack“, and a shot of “Jet Fuel“. The Blue Crack was one of the few machines with labeled liquor on it, noting the presence of Tequila and Blue Curacao. I might not have chosen this had I seen it sooner, but oh well, life goes on (or I would hope after drinking this). The shot of Jet Fuel contained Peppermint Schnapps, Neutral Grain Spirit, and Blue Curacao… a straight shot down the hatch gleefully destroyed my tastebuds, preparing me quite aptly for the drink at hand. The flavor was a bit as expected, blue and artificial sour citrus, that tasted not too far from what Bourbon Street itself might taste like, were one so brave as to do so . Despite the thorough mixing, pockets of liquid seemed to have developed in the drink, giving every third sip a bit more bite… and not in a good way. Imagine giving a baby their first taste of Cynar, and that’s about the reaction I had to these little pockets of nasty. But, being brave as I could, I finished the drink and headed out for something more…
The Hand Grenade
This exceedingly potent potable is sold at Tropical Isle and Funky Pirate, two places owned by the same folks, named different because seeing 4 Tropical Isles as you went down Bourbon Street might be a few too many. You’ll see the namesake plastic container dangling from the hands of many a college student, the other hand filled with beads, and a lot of hope. Seeing how prolific these were, I had to try one, and pretty much got what I expected.
Imagine, if you will, a watermelon jolly rancher, dragged along Bourbon street, infused into some everclear, placed into a slushee machine, and the result squirted into what is surely later to be used as a bong. There’s your Hand Grenade. One melon note, with a whole lot of nasty spirit in it. Of course, as I was leaving the establishment, a fellow imbiber on the Vieux Carré explained to me “Dude, aren’t those so good? Twelve of those and you’re totally bombed!”. At $8 a pop, those $96 could go a hell of a lot further in a liquor store… oh well, perhaps he hadn’t passed Economics 101 just yet.
I’d like to point out though, that while these drinks may be bad, they sell like solid-gold pancakes and are likely one of the biggest contributors to keeping Bourbon Street afloat and the whole damned city alive. You can’t ignore that there are probably more Hand Grenades sold then French 75s or Brandy Milk Punches. Hell, I’m even half-tempted to purchase the Ceramic Hand Grenade next time I hit the French Quarter. Perhaps someday they’ll end up in a cocktail database as some lost legend preserved only in fond memory. We can only hope that day is soon.
Posted by TraderTiki on July 28th, 2008 — Posted in Site
Two quick notes before I put the finishing touches on my Mixology Monday article.
First, TraderTiki.com is now iPhone compatible! Not that it wasn’t before, but now there’s an icon and an improved interface for ease of use on mobile phones. Go ahead, put me on your home screen. I dares ya.
Second, Reynolés Galley is now listed on Critiki, with one whopper of a rating! It’s a grand reminder that all the expense and work was worth it, and that I am definitely in need of more rums to add to my collection. Mahalo Humu!
I’ve put up a few pictures from Tales of the Cocktail in my Tales 2008 Gallery. Strangely, I found myself distracted by the good food, booze, and conversation and was more apt to whip out my VISA rather than my camera.
Oh well. The memories live on! Enjoy my good times!
When in New Orleans, it’s hard to turn one way or the other without seeing a Hawaiian shirted tourist headed towards the Cafe du Monde or Pat O’ Brien’s. But the most prominent placement of the brightly colored vestments this week has been inside the Hotel Monteleone elevators, as Tiki fans and aficianados make their way through the various panels and presentations with a big emphasis on Tiki.
It seems there’s not a panel this week where Donn Beach or Trader Vic hasn’t been mentioned in some way shape or form. Hell, these guys ruled the roost for 40 years of the American restaurant and drinking scene, their influence on modern mixology should be (and really is now) well recognized. For awhile, Tiki seemed to be the illegitimate stepchild of the up and coming cocktail renaissance, until the likes of Jeff Berry and Martin Cate (The books and the bar) made the scene. The resurgence of fresh ingredients, a wide selection of rums, and an emphasis on making them as they would have been originally has brought the Tiki cocktail culture back into the spotlight, though there is still a lot of work to be done. A Pat O’Brien’s Hurricaneserved at Pat O’Brien’s today is, sadly, horrific. A Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane made according to the original recipe is a wonder of nature.
During the Jerry’s Kids panel, led by Ted Haigh, David Wondrich, and Brian Rea (a national treasure, I should mention), they couldn’t help, once rum was brought up, to discuss Trader Vic, Donn Beach, and a few of the cocktails developed by them. Rum, once upon a time a cheap commodity that bar managers had to buy in order to get their whiskey, bourbon, etc. was elevated to the status of exotic elixir once Donn Beach got his hands on the stuff (with a little lime, mint, and pastis/bitters). Here’s a short clip of the panel discussing rum and the fellas that brought it into the limelight.
In a much more related panel, Rum, Ron, Rhum, Angus Winchester, who is a dynamic public speaker if ever there was one, brought up the subject with all the due respoect and swagger. No wonder he had to bring it up right, as Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate of Forbidden Island were in the audience… as well as Wayne Curtis (Tale of the world in 10 cocktails) next to him on the panel. Here’s a short clip from Angus’ speech. Oh, and Angus, if you’re ever looking to get rid of that swizzle stick (or a drop of the 17 year old J. Wray & Nephew), I’ll gladly hold onto either, preferably both.
Of course, there was also the Tiki Dinner, with drinks by Jeff Berry and food by Chris DeBarr. I think Seamus and Rick have already said quite enough about it, but I’ve got a few pictures in the Tales of the Cocktail gallery to share. Oh what a night.
Today marks Tiki’s true time to shine at Tales. Starting this morning with the Potions of the Caribbean session, led by Jeff Berry, then moving onto Martin Cate’s Garnish panel, and ending off with the Tiki block party. I’ll be writing up a few notes once these are done with… I’m sure there will be pictures, memories, and a brutal hangover.
Colonel’s Big Opu
A champagne celebration for Teardrop’s First Anniversary. This Trader Vic original of gin, lime, and Cointreau is a dandy refresher.
Colonel Beach’s Plantation Punch
A summer cooler from Don the Beachcomber. This was served at Colonel Beach’s Plantation Beef Steak and Coffee House at the International Marketplace in Honolulu.
This mix of two rums, lime, and Falernum was developed by famed bartender Tony Ramos for the cast of the show “Hawiian Eye” in the early 60s.
A spicy sweet drink from The Luau in Beverly Hills. The Luau was owned by Steven Crane, who also owned the now defunct Kon-Tiki here in Portland.
Lei Lani Volcano
This drink hails from Disney’s Polynesian Village resort. A balanced sweet and sour combination of Guava, Lime, Coconut Rum and Pineapple juice is no Mickey Mouse cocktail.
Trader Vic’s most famous creation, and easily the most recognized tiki drink in the world. This lightly sweet combination of aged Rum, Lime, Curacao and Orgeat put Trader Vic’s on the map.
Mexican El Diablo
A Trader Vic original with Tequila, cr鑪e de Cassis and Ginger Ale. As the Trader says “Go easy on this one because it’s tough on your running board”.
Don the Beachcomber’s spicy classic, with Aged Rum, Orange and Lime juices, and Don’s Spices #2, a secret only recently unearthed by Jeff “BeachBum” Berry.
Pequod Punch Bowl
A Beachbum Berry original featuring tea and rum. A real whale-chaser of a drink, best shared with fellow adventure-seekers.
Trader Vic’s sweet and complex original, recently unearthed for Tales of the Cocktail 2008.
Don the Beachcomber’s original classic. A balanced mix of rum, lime, cointreau, and Don’s 1-2 punch of bitters and Pastis.
The most infamous of all Don the Beachcomber’s creations, any more than two and you’ll be joining the living dead with this combination of tropical juices, passion fruit, and plenty of dark and light rums.