Besides signaling the approach of Spring, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, always holds a special place for me. It always promises a celebration, some great food, uplifting music, and more than just a little alcohol! And lets not forget the beads!
Alas, going to New Orleans isn’t on the schedule this year . . . again. But we make do with our own celebration.
This year, for cocktails, I moved away from my tried-and-true Hurricane, which I do love, especially because I’m a huge rum fan. I’m trying out the Sazerac, that classic cocktail born in New Orleans.
According to the Sazerac Company website, the Sazerac was born in 1838 in the apothecary shop of Antoine Amedie Peychaud. Yes, that’s the Peychaud of those great bitters we all reach for when in the mood for a cocktail. Mr. Peychaud concocted his brandy toddies for his friends using his secret family recipe of bitters. He also used a double-ended egg cup as a measuring cup or jigger, then known as a “coquetier”, from which we derived that awesome word cocktail!
In 1873 the brandy was switched out for American Rye Whiskey, and the cocktail glass was swirled with Absinthe. The Sazerac Company further modified their namesake cocktail by trading out Absinthe for Herb Sainte, a non-wormwood liquor. Uh, we’ll be using the real thing!
To concoct a New Orleans style Sazerac (for 1):
1 sugar cube
Fill an on-the-rocks glass with ice, to chill. Place 1 sugar cube and 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters in another on-the-rocks glass (part of the tradition). Muddle, then add 2 ounces Rye Whiskey to muddled sugar cube & bitters.
Empty the ice from the first glass, add a splash of Absinthe and swirl to coat, then discard the remaining splash of Absinthe. Pour the Rye Whiskey with sugar & bitters into the chilled Absinthe-splashed glass, garnish with lemon peel, and savor.
Especially on a Tuesday, even though it’s Fat Tuesday, I don’t want to live on drink alone. We began with a Muffaletta, a soft round bun piled high with ham, salami and provolone, smeared with spicy/briny olive salad, and drizzled with a fragrant new green olive oil.
Our main attraction was Gumbo, that traditional spicy brothy combination of shrimp, chicken and andouille pulled together with a deep brown roux of oil and flour. I actually took my time, for once, to let the roux color and flavor develop into a deep brown hue. No hurrying this process! Add the Cajun holy trinity, or mirepoix, of onion, bell pepper and celery along with Creole seasoning, fresh garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, chicken stock, diced fresh tomatoes, okra and bay leaves, then finish off with fresh chopped parsley and, of course, Louisiana Tabasco sauce. All this deliciousness is served on a bed of white rice.No dinner party is complete without some music, and Zydeco is the name of the game for Mardi Gras and New Orleans. Zydeco is a musical genre evolved in southwest Louisiana by French Creole speakers which blends Cajun music, blues and rhythm and blues. Some artists we like are Cedric Watson and Buckwheat Zydeco. So when Mardi Gras rolls around next year, mix up a Sazerac, pile up a Muffaletta, stir up a Gumbo, and dial up Zydeco on Pandora.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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