Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

What­ever cock­tail takes your fancy, New Or­leans has just the shot

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

YOU have to love a city where ev­ery night has the at­mos­phere of a fi­esta and where Sun­day brunches al­ways kick off to a jolly start with rum milk punches and cre­ole-style bloody marys with an ex­tra charge of Tabasco.

In New Or­leans, and par­tic­u­larly its party- cen­tral French Quar­ter, a great deal of booz­ing goes on, some of it to ridicu­lous ex­cess, with young drinkers weav­ing along cob­ble­stoned streets clutch­ing plas­tic cups of al­co­hol.

One law en­force­ment of­fi­cer from the 8th Precinct tells me with a weary shrug that when the ‘‘spring-break stu­dents’’ pass out from one too many po­tent drinks with names such as voodoo daiquiri, and have to be taken to accident and emer­gency de­part­ments, the police some­times tell their wor­ried fam­i­lies ‘‘back home’’ that it must have been sun­stroke.

But if you can stand the heat and are par­tial to well-fash­ioned cock­tails and like a sense of tra­di­tion with your tip­ples, then you are in the right place.

There is even a Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can Cock­tail in this fa­mous Louisiana city. It’s part of the South­ern Food and Bev­er­age Mu­seum at River­walk Mar­ket­place and its ex­hibits cel­e­brate the evo­lu­tion of the cock­tail and ev­ery­thing to do with shak­ing and stir­ring, in­clud­ing videos of ace mixol­o­gists in ac­tion.

New Or­leans lays claim to the world’s first cock­tail, the saz­erac, in­vented in the early 1800s by phar­ma­cist Antoine Pey­chaud in an apothe­cary and named for his favourite French brandy, Saz­er­acde-Forge et fils. Although other ex­pla­na­tions ex­ist, they’ll tell you in New Or­leans the term cock­tail orig­i­nates from a (likely slurred) bas­tardi­s­a­tion of le co­quetier, French for a two-ended egg-cup.

Saz­er­acs are served all over New Or­leans (with bit­ters re­plac­ing the orig­i­nal dash of ab­sinthe) but you’ll want to try one at the or­na­mented art deco Saz­erac Bar ( 123 Baronne St) at Wal­dorf As­to­ria’s The Roo­sevelt ho­tel (pre-Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina it was The Fair­mont), with its Paul Ni­nas mu­rals and roll­call of fa­mous habitues, from Louis Arm­strong and Cab Cal­loway to Jack Benny and Bob Hope.

Ti Ade­laide Martin of New Or­leans’s Com­man­der’s Palace and Cafe Ade­laide (and a mem­ber of the city’s Bren­nan dy­nasty) has au­thored, with her cousin and fel­low restau­ra­teur Lally Bren­nan, In the Land of Cock­tails: Recipes and Ad­ven­tures from the Cock­tail Chicks, which is also the name of a hip web­site de­voted to cock­tail lore and fun recipes such as hissy fit, in­volv­ing vodka, pas­sion­fruit syrup, orange j uice and gin­ger beer. Martin says vis­i­tors to New Or­leans should try a saz­erac and a ramos fizz, which in­cludes gin, cream and egg whites.

‘‘If you have a re­ally well-made old-fash­ioned, you’ll un­der­stand why that drink has stood the test of time,’’ she adds.

There are cer­tain rites of pas­sage with cock­tail con­sump­tion, New Or­leans style. It’s near oblig­a­tory to try a hur­ri­cane (rum, pas­sion­fruit syrup and lime juice) from Pat O’Brien’s (718 St Peter St). In­vented in the 1940s, it’s as sweet as a sin­ga­pore sling and was first served to sailors in hur­ri­cane lamp-shaped glasses, hence the name. Pat O’Brien’s still uses those same curved con­tain­ers and bar­tenders gar­nish the drinks with an orange slice and maraschino cherry. O’Brien’s is now a fran­chised op­er­a­tion and also on sale are pack­aged hur­ri­cane mixes and the dis­tinc­tive glasses, so it’s all very touristy, com­plete with a flam­ing foun­tain in the rowdy bar’s court­yard.

Things are more se­date aboard the 25- seater Carousel Bar at Ho­tel Mon­teleone (214 Royal St), although you will be cir­cling, merry-go-round style. Ask the ex­pert bar­man Parker to mix you a ramos fizz and watch the world pass by, as Ernest Hem­ing­way, Tru­man Capote and Ten­nessee Williams did in their hey­day.

Napoleon House (500 Chartres St) is fa­mous for its per­fectly chilled pimms cup, as is the ter­raz­zofloored Her­mes Bar out front at the his­toric Antoine’s Restau­rant (713 St Louis St), es­pe­cially dur­ing the en­cour­ag­ingly long happy hour from 4pm to 8pm daily.

Sit­ting on wooden stools at Her­mes Bar and lean­ing on a high mar­ble-topped ta­ble, I sip a shiny scar­let Cam­pari on ice and my trav­el­ling com­pan­ion a Louisianabrewed Abita Am­ber as the af­ter­noon light fades and the French Quar­ter starts to come to life.

There is al­ways j azz playing some­where off-stage and, head­ing into the mel­low dusk, we pass a tiny cor­ner bar where we smell fresh mint (be­ing cut for juleps) and or­anges (for mi­mosas), but there’s no time to in­ves­ti­gate. We have a date for a pre-din­ner li­ba­tion at Cafe Ade­laide’s Swiz­zle Stick Bar (300 Poy­dras St), where the cock­tail du j our is the te­quila mock­ing­bird.

Yep, only in New Or­leans.

At Ho­tel Mon­teleone’s cir­cling Carousel Bar, pa­trons can sip an ex­pertly pre­pared ramos fizz

The art-deco Saz­erac Bar at The Roo­sevelt ho­tel

Dis­plays at the Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can Cock­tail

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