Cocktail & Other Recipes Occasion Winter

7 Mardi Gras Cocktails to Make for Fat Tuesday

These New Orleans drinks will let the good times roll.

Brandy Crusta
Image: / Tim Nusog 

Mardi Gras is a celebration as old as, if not older than, New Orleans itself. According to the celebration’s official website, in 1875, Governor Warmoth of Louisiana signed the Mardi Gras Act, making Fat Tuesday—a day recognized predominantly by Catholics as the last day to indulge in all the food and alcohol you desire before Lent begins—a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is.

To most revelers, this celebratory festival conjures images of green, yellow and purple, exorbitant costumes and masks, and musical performances and dances. New Orleans, a city with no shortage of its own historic cocktail culture, has plenty of drinks to help fuel the revelry.

Just because you aren’t partying in New Orleans doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate Mardi Gras wherever you are. These seven cocktails, many of which originated in New Orleans, bring the festivities to you.

  • Sazerac

    Sazerac / Tim Nusog

    If there’s one classic cocktail that perfectly represents New Orleans, it’s the Sazerac. Lovers of a good Old Fashioned are sure to adore this drink, too, since it follows essentially the same basic formula—bitters, a spirit (or two), water, a sweetener and a lemon twist—plus an absinthe rinse. The base spirit can be rye whiskey or cognac, or a combination of the two for those who enjoy both rye’s spiciness and cognac’s heftier body. Two types of bitters, Peychaud’s and Angostura, are employed. And if you’re already a fan of the classic cocktail, you’ll want to try these twists on it, too. 

    Get the recipe.

  • French 75

    French 75 cocktail / Tim Nusog 

    The French 75 didn’t originate in New Orleans—the recipe actually first appeared in a New York magazine in 1927 and was included in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” in 1930—but it has become one of the city’s most popular drinks since the award-winning Arnaud’s French 75 Bar opened in 2003. The French 75 is both sophisticated and simple to make. All you need is gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and sparkling wine. Since it’s all built directly in a flute, it is fuss-free and never fails to bring festive vibes.

    Get the recipe.

  • Ramos Gin Fizz

    Ramos Gin Fizz / Tim Nusog

    In stark contrast to the French 75, the Ramos Gin Fizz is a fussy cocktail to make but rewarding when made properly. It was brought to life in 1888 by Henry Charles “Carl” Ramos at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon in New Orleans—a combination of gin, citrus, a sweetener, heavy cream, egg white and orange blossom water, topped with club soda to give its iconic soufflé-like head. The fussy aspect of this cocktail is the amount of agitation needed to aerate it effectively (i.e., you need to shake the hell out of it). Historically, Ramos had a line of bartenders behind the bar where, it’s said, they’d pass the tin around and shake each drink for at least 12 minutes. These days, that sounds a bit crazy (and unnecessary), but the cocktail still does require at least a minute’s worth of shaking, both with and without ice, to produce a drink worthy of the name. Are you up for the challenge?

    Get the recipe.

  • Hurricane

    Hurricane cocktail / Tim Nusog

    The Hurricane is a cocktail you’re probably familiar with, but it’s not one for the faint of heart. If you’ve been to New Orleans, specifically Pat O’Brien’s, where the cocktail originated in 1941, you’ll know what it’s all about: a lot of rum, a bit of citrus and other fruit juices, sweeteners, some red maraschino cherries and a cocktail umbrella, all served in a curvaceous glass named after the drink itself. This one calls for a full four ounces of rum, so we suggest doing yourself a favor and sticking to just one.

    Get the recipe.

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  • Jell-O Shot

    Jello Shots / Tim Nusog

    All right, hear us out. Jell-O Shots may remind you of younger years, but they have their role to play in festive drinking environments. They’re also relatively easy to make, and you can make them ahead of time so you don’t have to consistently prepare drinks while you’re in the midst of your celebration. Pick your spirit, make sure to buy appropriately colored Jell-O flavors (those would be yellow, purple and green for Mardi Gras), and get batching. But consume wisely and remember: Jell-O Shots are all fun and games until they’re not.

    Get the recipe.

  • Vieux Carré

    Vieux Carre / Tim Nusog

    If you’re a fan of the Sazerac, then the Vieux Carré is the next step up. It was created in New Orleans in the 1930s by Walter Bergeron, a bartender at New Orleans’ legendary Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone. It’s a high-octane cocktail traditionally made with rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine liqueur and a combination of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters. The addition of vermouth steers the tipple into the Manhattan cocktail category, but it’s served over ice with a lemon twist and brandied maraschino cherry. It’s fantastic for more low-key celebrations—elegant, delicious and perfect for sipping.

    Get the recipe.

  • Brandy Crusta

    Brandy Crusta / Tim Nusog 

    The Crusta is a cocktail that was long-forgotten by the masses until David Wondrich published his James Beard Award-winning book “Imbibe!” in 2007, which established the drink as one of the oldest recorded classic cocktails in history and brought it back into the mainstream. The Brandy Crusta was invented in the 1850s by Joseph Santini, an Italian bartender plying his trade in New Orleans. The original recipe skewed tart, so Chris Hannah of Arnaud's French 75 Bar, the first bartender to bring the drink back to its home city in 2004 (a year after the bar opened), adjusted the recipe for the palates of contemporary cocktail enthusiasts. The balance of brandy, dry curaçao, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup and Angostura bitters with a sugar rim (the key to a Crusta) and lemon twist is delectable when properly executed and provides a real taste of New Orleans history.

    Get the recipe.