I fell in love with New Orleans 2 years ago when I visited for the first time. I just returned from the 7th Annual Tales of the Cocktail held mostly at the Hotel Monteleone and over the next few weeks want to share some of the liquors I had the fortune of tasting along with the many cultural influences, culinary innovation, and resulting cocktails that make this city so special.
The 250 plus year architecture so well preserved in the French Quarter, a huge melting pot of recipes developed over centuries, and the ever present art of storytelling all coalesce within the intense, still humidity enveloping the streets. Meal time here isn’t merely grabbing a bite to eat but a pure hedonistic act. You don’t put something in your mouth because you have to. You do it with passion because settling for anything less than a taste bud orgasm is a sin. Good food is a terrible thing to waste and the people of New Orleans instinctively know this through their ancestors and experience. The basic ingredients are simple enough…mudbugs (crawfish), beans, cornmeal, sausage, and seafood like oysters. The list could go on but it’s really the sum of all the ingredients and cultural influences that make the dishes here a jubilee of sensory elation.
Food eliciting this kind of passion just has to be paired with an equally worthy drink. Perhaps in other cities, wine immediately springs to mind. In New Orleans, mixing cocktails like the Sazerac, Hurricane, or Mint Julep is truly an art form. Only these ingredient-exacting yet ever evolving concoctions capture the spirit of this city’s deep heritage with stories of their own. In the same sip, they are time capsules providing a glimpse into what once was but also offer the promise of limitless possibilities for future taste experiences. Slight variations, new ingredients, and more elaborate stories behind them ensue. Now the cuisine has met its match!