We’re lucky enough to live in a city that allows us to take our libations with us on the streets. You should exercise that right by making a drink to go during Mardi Gras time. It goes without saying that if you’re planning on driving that day, then you should reserve your drinking for after you park and should acquire a safe ride home.
I discovered the benefits of the make-and-go Mardi Gras cocktail when I found the best way to enjoy Mardi Gras Day for me. I experimented with different drinks in different vessels, brought them downtown to the Marigny/Bywater, and lazily walked down Frenchmen Street and all around the French Quarter, watching revelers and side parades along the way. I often ran into friends and acquaintances, and they would lead me to a new journey, finding and shedding people along the route. Having a ready-made cocktail in hand makes the trip easier, because I’m not constantly fumbling with cash or stopping along the way, standing in line for a new beverage.
If you want to try out this trick, I’ve made a few suggestions for you based on how you want to enjoy your own Mardi Gras Day journey.
The Minimalist: You want to take things slowly on Mardi Gras Day and savor the holiday like you would Christmas morning. After all, it’s been a long few weeks of partying, and this is the day where you can relax and enjoy the festive atmosphere. You need something that’s great for sipping and that won’t get you tanked. Make a nice, tall Negroni, but be sure to pack it with a lot of slow-melting ice. All you need is equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth, garnished with an orange peel.
Fancy Lady: No ordinary cocktail will do for you this day. You’re probably the person who spent a lot of time and money on your costume, and it’s too nice to sully in the streets. If you’re headed to a nice house party, fill a pretty tumbler half-full of sweet red wine, add a cup of fruit juice and two shots of brandy, then muddle in some orange slices.
Party Animal: This punch is for the person who wants to remember almost nothing from the day and wants to be the one who passes out around 2 p.m. Use a heavy dose of grain alcohol with a bit of sports drink thrown in for sweetness and for the hydration that you’re going to desperately need. An empty milk jug will suffice for this drink.
The Traditionalist: You’re a native New Orleanian, or you’ve been here long enough to know the importance of masking during Mardi Gras. You’re the type who has at least one seersucker suit in your closest alongside five or so full costumes for a variety of occasions. You’re going to want to stick to the classics. May I suggest a large steel coffee mug filled with a Sazerac cocktail? For the unaware, that’s Herbsaint, simple syrup, a healthy dash of Peychaud’s Bitters, and a heaping dose of whiskey (preferably Sazerac Rye). Add a little zest of lemon, and you’re good to go!
Daiquiri Queen: You like your drinks sweet, approachable, and highly portable, so you don’t have to invest too much money or time in them. Find a drive-thru daiquiri place, like Daiquiris & Creams, New Orleans Original Daquiris, Fat Tuesday, or Curbside Daiquiris, and pick your favorite flavor from the whirling machines behind the counter. Simple enough. You can even add extra shots if you’re experienced with daiqs.
The Exceptionalist: No ordinary drink will do for you; you like your drinks fascinatingly created, highly inventive, and with about 50 gourmet ingredients. I think that you’d get into a chili lime Paloma. Combine freshly squeezed grapefruit juice with an equal amount of smoky mezcal and half a cup of sparkling water. Add a tablespoon of brown sugar and the juice of half of a lime, and you’ve got your base. Add a healthy dash of chili lime salt (equal parts sugar and salt, a pinch of chili powder, and lime zest) to the mix, but only when there are people around who you can impress with your amazing cocktail skills.
The Light Packer: You’re going to be covering a lot of ground today, wandering from parade to parade, from St. Ann Street to Canal Street to St. Charles Avenue. Your purple, green, and gold body suit doesn’t have any pockets, and you really can’t be bothered to lug a big bag with all your necessities; heck, you can barely spare the room for your phone. The last thing you want is to have to drag around a heavy thermos or bottle or cooler to keep your go-drinks in tow. Enter Minute Mixology Cocktail Mixers—a cocktail mixer in powder form, packaged in a tiny, single-serve packet not much larger than your finger. Available in flavors like Margarita, Moscow Mule, and Coconut Mojito, they’re compact, convenient, lightweight, and perfect for a day of meandering. Just add water and the appropriate booze, which you can pick up at any bar or convenience store along the way, and mix yourself a badass cocktail.
But if mixing your own seems too labor-intensive, try Buzzbox instead—the adult version of Capri Sun. These cocktails are pre-mixed and ready-to-drink in small, 200 ml cardboard containers, with the booze already in there and the straw attached. Choose from such flavors as Classic Cosmo, Vodka Lemonade, or, of course, Mardi Gras Hurricane. They’re smaller and lighter than even a can of beer and will fit in the teensiest of man-bags or purses. Just shake and drink.
The Non-Drinker: There’s no shame in not imbibing at all, whether you’ve had enough for the day or you never indulge in alcohol. Mocktails are making a huge impact right now, and they’re becoming so sophisticated that you can’t tell they’re alcohol-free. You can enjoy a drink without getting drunk with a mocktail that combines a fruit juice (grapefruit is great) with a soda (lemon-lime or ginger ale, for example) and maybe a twist of citrus. If you want to give it a real cocktail taste, add a dash of fancy-flavored bitters. This will add alcohol to the drink, but in a very small quantity.
No matter what you do on Mardi Gras Day, do it safely, kindly, and with a festive heart.
Photo by Mike Trummel