Celebrate Mardi Gras With These New Orleans (Inspired) Drinks

Categories: Bar Beat, Booze

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
King cake vodka, anyone?
El Big Bad bartender Sheridan Fay knows a lot about Mardi Gras. She grew up in New Orleans and remembers serving as royalty in one of the many parades in town, then racing across town to see a different parade. There was lots of food ("My family always brought fried chicken"), lots of revelry ("My uncle tried to see how many parades he could get to in one day") and lots of booze.

"What did you drink during your Mardi Gras celebrations?" I asked Fay.

"Um...whatever you wanted," she replied, laughing. "If you were going to drink all day, you'd start the morning with a Bloody Mary or bourbon milk punch, easy on the alcohol. Then later you'd move on to things like Cognac or a Sazerac."

Fay decided to go a little more creative for the purposes of this article, though. Here are two recipes for your Mardi Gras celebrations: A Vieux Carre, a cocktail invented at the Carousel bar in New Orleans and named after the famed French Quarter, and a King Cake Vodka Shot, which is exactly what it sounds like.

The traditional Vieux Carre packs quite the punch.
Vieux Carre

  • 3/4 ounce of rye whiskey

  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth

  • 3/4 ounce Cognac

  • barspoon of Benedictine

  • dash of Angostura bitters

  • dash of Peychaud's bitters
  • Fay says that in spite of your instincts, you should generally start making a cocktail with the non-alcoholic ingredients first in case you mess up, because then you won't be wasting the pricier product. For this drink, she started by putting a dash of Angostura, a dash of Peychaud's and a spoonful of Benedictine in a mixing glass. Then she measured out and added the whiskey, sweet vermouth and Cognac. She filled the glass with ice and stirred until the outside of the glass felt very cold. This also dilutes the drink a bit, which is good. Once the mixture is ice cold, it's served "up" -- strained into a chilled coupe glass. It is then downed during many a Mardi Gras celebration.

    A Vieux Carre is a "middle of the day to end of the day" drink. You want to start with something a little less strong, then ease your way into the high-alcohol cocktails.

    Fay says that many families will rent hotel rooms along the parade route, but not for sleeping. The hotels take out all the furniture and line the floors with plastic. Families then bring in their own folding tables and chairs, as well as food and a bar setup. That way, when you need a clean bathroom and another drink, you can just head up to your own hotel room without paying extra for a sugary Hurricane or waiting in line for a nasty bathroom.

    This story continues on the next page.

    Location Info

    El Big Bad

    419 Travis St, Houston, TX

    Category: Music

    The Cajun Stop

    2130 Jefferson St., Houston, TX

    Category: Restaurant

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    My Voice Nation Help

    Yo, I agree with Sheridan's claim that Cajun Stop is the best in town for crawfish and po-boys....but the owner's name is Carnley, not Carney.


    Ms Fay is quite the delicious drink-making dish. I've enjoyed her presence at Haven/Coven many a time and have departed somewhat happy, weak-kneed and short of breath marveling over her charms.

    KaitlinS topcommenter

    @plimpton  Yes, Lisa herself sent me quite the delicious correction today. It's been fixed! Thanks!


    @theo  I'd buy a drink for the house to see a Mardi Gras shirt-lifting version of both Ms Fay and Lisa C from Cajun Stop!  Both talented in the food/drink world and possessed of Homeric charms!

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