A common conceit of high school French curriculum — along with kitschy French names, the berets, and a summer trip getting lost in a throng of Parisian monument gawkers — is the annual in-class mardi gras party where students practice the creole slang and dig into a King’s Cake for the little figure of baby Jesus.
But what students don’t get to experience of the carnival of carnality that rolls through the French Quarter is the cup-filleth-over abundance of alcohol on the street. New Orleans permits open-carry in the streets, so long as the booze isn’t in a glass container. So when sun rises on Ash Wednesday, sanitation workers fill dumpsters full of beads and plastic cups.
And those plastic cups were full of one popular Mardi Gras drink: the Hurricane.
After Hurricane Katrina threatened to destroy the whole city, the name seems ironic for the drink. But New Orleans has an attitude about it. So for a drink that is more than half booze and generally served in a 26-ounce glass, it’s a fitting joke.
The drink was first made by Pat O’Brien, a New Orlean’s speakeasy owner, during World War II. Government rations made sure the grains and sugar needed to produce spirits went to the troops during the war. But rum continued to flow up from the Caribbean into Louisiana.
Due to shortages of popular liquor like scotch and whiskey, liquor distributors forced bar owners to purchase 50 cases of cheap rum before they could buy they could get a single case of Kentucky rye.
Because of the rum stores building up in his back room, O’Brien started experimenting with recipes, using passion fruit to add some sweetness, and lemon juice to cut the alcohol. He ended up with a drink that slides easily down the hatch. Shortly thereafter, the password to get in to the bar became “Storm’s brewin’.”
Though Pat O’Brien’s bar now charges $8.50 for the drink today, the hurricane is perfect for a Mardi Gras celebration because it can be made cheaply and in large quantities.
4 ounces of Dark Rum (the cheaper the better)
2 ounces of Passion Fruit Juice (Welch’s, Torani, or Monin)
½ ounce of Lemon juice
Fill a plastic cup with ice.
If you are keeping track, this drink is mainly rum. The qualities that make the Hurricane the ambrosia of the French Quarter may make it a little vicious for newcomers to alcohol. Ice is a beautiful thing. It makes your drinks colder and is made of water, which is not alcohol. Use it liberally.
With some simple ingredients and some disposable cups, any Mardi Gras party can have the flavor of New Orleans.