Thirsty for Mardi Gras
Fat Tuesday is right around the corner: Do you know what to serve with those classic New Orleans cocktails?
Mardi Gras conjures images of drunk people lining the streets of New Orleans watching colorful, musical parades while collecting loads of beads. And when you envision New Orleans, you think of classic cocktails like the Hurricane, Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz—all created in the Big Easy.
Regardless if you’re a New Orleans-themed restaurant or bar, your guests may want to party at your place to celebrate Mardi Gras. What will you serve them? We talked to chefs across the country to get their take on how to pair these classic drinks.
Paul Fehribach, Big Jones (Chicago)
“The Vieux Carre is tough! Rye and brandy bring both wood and tannins, the rye is grassy and the brandy brings stone fruit notes, while the vermouth and Benedictine are broadly herbaceous and bring sweetness. It’s a complex drink, yet it’s also elegant, making it an excellent brunch cocktail for serving with rich egg dishes such as our eggs New Orleans (Pontchartrain blue crab cakes with poached eggs, popovers and béarnaise sauce, served with potatoes O’Brien) with its herby béarnaise sauce. I also favor it with smoky, comforting dishes like red beans and rice, gumbo and jambalaya.”
Ramos Gin Fizz
“(It’s) one of my favorite cocktails. It always reminds me of a Dreamsicle I’d buy off the ice cream truck when I was a kid, albeit with adult proclivities. Its creaminess, gentle effervescence and floral citrus notes with the herbaceous backbone of gin make it perfect for offsetting the brininess of oysters, tempering the heat of our alligator sauce piquant, or as a decadent accompaniment to our Creole duck salad, which has bitter herbs, lardons, tomme cheese, duck confit, croutons and a sunny duck egg.”
Justin Bumbalough, Drink.Well (Austin)
“The absinthe frappe has herbal anise notes with mint and lime that a slightly spicy protein would balance perfectly with, something for those refreshing notes to cool down. Lamb, mint and anise/fennel is such a great pairing, especially with a nice light salad. (I would prepare) yogurt-brined lamb seasoned with cumin, coriander, lime zest, lime juice, sumac and salt. Then sear it to order and serve it kebab style with an herb salad made from cilantro, mint, dill, fennel, lime juice, Serrano pepper and salt.”
Brandy Milk Punch
“For the brandy milk punch, I thought it would be fun to do a play on milk and cookies. You get an incredible creamy cocktail with a few cookies. I was thinking about two different types of cookies. One being a French butter cookie dipped halfway in tempered chocolate and the other being a take on a meringue-like cookie. It’s a granola cluster cookie built out of pecans, almonds, pepitas, coconut flake, rolled oats, salt, cayenne and a drizzle of tempered chocolate.”
Amie Henderson, Fine & Dandy (Jackson, Miss.)
“When I think of trips to New Orleans, the first thing that comes to mind is the frozen daiquiris on Bourbon Street. My personal favorite is a Rum Runner, a mix of banana liqueur, rum, brandy, pineapple and sometimes crème de cacao. That takes me to paradise. When I’m home in Mississippi and craving a trip to Nola, I like to make bananas foster monkey bread with frozen Rum Runner. It’s just enough to tide me over until my next trip.”
“Ask anyone about breakfast in New Orleans and you will likely hear one word: beignets. They are simple and delicious. Try kicking it up a notch, and make them with a coffee pastry cream and Bailey’s chocolate sauce. Top it with powdered sugar, fresh strawberries and serve it with an Irish coffee. You have the perfect combination.”
Stephen Barber, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch (St. Helena, Calif.)
“On our special Fat Tuesday menu, we’re pairing the Hurricane with a fried oyster salad and the Louisiana hot fried chicken. The salty, savory flavor of both dishes goes well with the fruity Hurricane flavors. The texture of the fried dishes also goes surprisingly well with the drink; the crunchy coating washed down with the smooth, cold and undiluted cocktail. Made with a touch of grenadine, the Hurricane is also a great balance for the hot and spicy chicken.”
“Even though we are more than 2,300 miles from New Orleans, we are going to transport our guests to the Big Easy for one special night. For this reason, we centered our Fat Tuesday menu around traditional Cajun and Creole dishes, like a Sazerac with oysters Rockefeller. The Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe and rye whiskey play well to cut through the richness of the Rockefeller and complement the anise flavors of the béchamel.”