Morning, noon, or night, any day of the week, crowds stroll New Orleans’ Bourbon Street with electric-red drinks in hand.
In the Big Easy, where public drinking is legal, ruby-red (or orange, depending on how much grenadine is in the mix), rum-heavy Hurricane cocktails have become synonymous with the city’s oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter. It’s there where Bourbon Street stretches, 13-blocks-long and continuously filled with a celebratory crowd.
On Mardi Gras — this year on Feb. 13 — Bourbon Street turns into a literal hurricane of spirited revelers decked out in colorful clothes and necklaces of neon beads. Hurricane cocktails, poured into 20-ounce oval flutes, keep the post-parade party alive, as people from all over gather into the wee hours of the morning.
While the sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans (and you’ll find many Mardi-Gras-goers sipping on that, too), the quick-to-creep-up-on-you Hurricane ranks high among the most popular intoxicating beverages consumed during Fat Tuesday celebrations and beyond, with a history that dates back more than 70 years.
Story has it that the Hurricane originated in the mid-1940s at Pat O’Brien’s Bar. (The spot still sells the drink to a tourist-heavy crowd.) At the time, liquors such as whiskey, bourbon, and scotch were in short supply, and distributors had more rum than they could manage to sell. In order to purchase single cases of other liquors, bar owners were forced to buy upward of 50 cases of rum. To get rid of the excess, Pat O’Brien created the Hurricane, a sweet, rum-heavy drink that sold surprisingly well to patrons, both then and now.
So what exactly is inside the bold and bright drink? We spoke with Craig Blankenship from Philly’s own New Orleans’ inspired bar, Khyber Pass Pub, to find out what makes up that mysterious and conspicuously inebriating liquid and how to make your own.
“It’s the over-proofed rum that pushes it over the top,” Blankenship said. “Mixing a cocktail with that, as opposed to a lower-proof cordial, is what makes the drink higher in alcohol than most drinks. Yet it’s fruity and delicious, so you don’t really notice the alcohol.”
The drink is surprisingly easy to recreate, so as you think about your own plans for Mardi Gras right here in the City of Brother Love, consider whipping up a batch to celebrate with friends.
Blankenship’s recipe is designed to serve a crowd, but if you’re planning on a more intimate celebration, check out the second recipe, from Khyber’s next-door neighbor, Royal Boucherie.
Bar manager Dominic Carullo fancies things up a bit with Gold Rhum Agricole and a homemade passion fruit syrup. The result: an elegant but still boozy pink drink served on the rocks with a lime wedge and a cherry.
If you prefer to skip the home-mixology, head to Khyber Pass Pub on Tuesday for $5 frozen Hurricanes, all day long, and a performance by the West Philadelphia Orchestra during happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Or check out one of these parties going down in Philadelphia.