Keep this in mind: Hurricanes are for tourists; Sazeracs are for natives.
This is a town that knows its booze, for sure, and it has contributed a few cocktails to the pantheon. You can drink beer anywhere, so try a few indigenous cocktails. (Thanks to Chuck Taggart and Wesly Moore, who regularly report on cocktails and New Orleans at GumboPages.com, for input on this list.)
- Sazerac: This is the quintessential New Orleans cocktail, the Official State Cocktail of Louisiana (yes, really), one of the first, and perhaps the greatest ever. The combination of rye whiskey, Peychaud's Bitters, a touch of sugar, a hint of Herbsaint anise liqueur, and a breath of lemon oil create a symphony of flavor, and it plays new movements as the drink warms up.
- Ramos Gin Fizz: There was a time when there were 35 bar-back boys shaking gin fizzes behind the bar at Henry C. Ramos's Stag Saloon, and Huey P. Long took his favorite bartender to Washington with him so that he would never be deprived of his beloved gin fizz. It's a frothy delight of gin, egg whites, orange flower water, lemon and lime juice, soda water, and cream that not everyone can (or will) prepare. Make it your mission to find those who can.
- Vieux Carré Cocktail: Unjustly forgotten except for a growing number of cocktailians and the bartenders, this wonderful, potent whisky and cognac creation was created by Walter Bergeron of the Hotel Monteleone in the 1930s. And we thank him.
- Pimm's Cup: It's not a New Orleans original, but it's such a refreshing beverage on those languid N'Awlins summer days that we're pretty sure Blanche Dubois would have drunk these in better days. The signature drink of the Napoleon House, one sip will have you calling strangers dahlin'. Cucumber, gin-based Pimm's No. 1, mint, and sweetness brings out the drawl. Do try this at home.
- Hurricane: Okay, so we diss the Hurricane sometimes, but when done right, it's a fruity, deviously stealthy drink (as you can't really taste the alcohol). The powdered, premixed stuff is a far cry from what Charlie Cantrell first concocted out of rum and passion fruit back in the 1940s, but a Hurricane on the patio at Pat O'Brien's is such a quintessential New Orleans experience that it merits inclusion . . . and hey, it beats the Hand Grenade.
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