The Worst Drinks on Bourbon Street

Posted by TraderTiki on July 28th, 2008 — Posted in Events, Places, Tales 2008

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!

The Hurricane

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.

Hurricanes on Bourbon Street, cheers!

The Daiquiri

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.

Mango Mango Daiquiri

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.

Hand Grenades

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.

Update: Many thanks to TikiMama for her Mango Mango Daiquiri photo diary.  The look on Craig’s face in one picture is… priceless.  Seriously, nobody would buy that.

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Comment by Mixology

The “Hurricane” I purchased at Pat O’Briens was the fastest cocktail in the making I ever had. Went up to the bar, ordered a Hurricane - 3 seconds later I had a big plastic mug with red liquid in my hand. “Seven dollars”, says the barman (or rather ‘liquid vendor’?).

Nice ratio in margin vs. labour + cost of ingredients. Respect for that! Utter disrespect for the non-potable “non-drinks” they serve. Note that Jay has only taken a careful little sip from his in the pic above. ;-)

Posted on July 28, 2008 at 8:53 am

Comment by Dood

What? You left out the story of trying to order a daiquiri in a bar and being told “We don’t have any frozen drinks” and then arguing with the waitress for 5 minutes on whether or not a daiquiri was frozen!!!

Posted on July 28, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Comment by Marleigh

Well this explains why I didn’t see much of you guys around town—you were all at Barely Legal chugging Hand Grenades!

Posted on July 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Comment by TraderTiki

Helmut, I totally agree on the labour&ingredients to cost ratio. I may have to snag one of those machines to put something good in (REAL Hurricanes, maybe Missionary’s Downfall)

Dood, that is a great story. I’ll have to save that for a snippet post later.

Marleigh… Barely Legal? Please… we gentlemen of such high caliber would care not to associate with such places… it was the Hustler Club, thank you.

Posted on July 28, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Pingback by Tiki Drinks & Indigo Firmaments » Blog Archive » MxMo July 2008 — New Orleans

[...] had a good number of drinks in New Orleans. From vieux carré to sazerac, from crap hurricane to french 75. Heck, I even mixed up Beachbum drinks with Rick and Blair a session. I ended up in [...]

Posted on July 28, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Comment by Chuck

You’re a brave, brave man, Trader Tiki.

Posted on July 29, 2008 at 11:34 am

Comment by laura

yeah i wish the bartenders had buried the pat o’ briens hurricane instead of the appletini. call me a cocktail idiot but i like apple pucker.

Posted on July 29, 2008 at 11:40 am

Pingback by The Cocktail Chronicles » MxMo New Orleans Wrapup: Two-fisted style

[...] Hand Grenade and the Daiquiri (French Quarter version) in a little roundup he likes to call “The Worst Drinks on Bourbon Street.” It was a dirty, nasty job, and somebody needed to take it on — better you than me, [...]

Posted on July 29, 2008 at 4:42 pm

Comment by Dr. Bamboo

A few years ago at a party I had the pleasure to meet the couple who owns & operates the Hand Grenade shops. They had the ingredients on hand and were making them by the dozen.

Needless to say, a couple hours later grown people were falling into swimming pools and stumbling around in an incoherent haze (I may or may not have been one of those people).

This was the best description of the drink I’ve seen yet. You’re doing God’s work, TT.

Posted on July 30, 2008 at 10:39 am

Comment by Johnny the Saint

Very Nice Job! As a person born and raised in New Orleans I can tell you the Hurricane you drank was not the one they used to serve. Once upon a time they made them true to a recipe. Even the frozen drink places used quality ingreedients. Now it’s all churn them and burn them. My only hope is that all the new restaurants and mixologists in town keep the faith. The bigger Tales of the Cocktails gets the more pressure it will put back on those joints to make great drinks.

Posted on July 30, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Pingback by Ti’Punch (say it loud!) | Trader Tiki's Booze Blog

[...] shaken, with ice, and uses Cuban Rum.  You also can’t get a Ti’Punch out of a slushee machine on Bourbon Street, but that’s another angle altogether.  But for the best comparison, throw a Diaquiri and a [...]

Posted on August 15, 2008 at 4:00 am

Comment by Mike S.

Ah, the Hand Grenade! Every Tulane grad has a fond place in his or her heart for these things, and I’m no exception. Seriously, anyone know how to make one for real?

Posted on August 24, 2008 at 2:06 am

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