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Three Cocktails to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is an annual event you may think of as a lively celebration filled with colorful green, purple and yellow beads, costumes, parades, great music and great drinks. However, there’s a bit more to it than that. 

Mardi Gras has a long and storied history, originating as far back as the 17th century in Europe. “Mardi Gras” is french, with “Mardi” meaning “Tuesday” and “Gras” meaning “Fat.” This is why the day is often referred to as “Fat Tuesday”—the meaning of which is owed to Ash Wednesday. With lent taking place the following day, this is the day that many will load up on “fats” before fasting (Mardi Gras History | Mardi Gras New Orleans, n.d.). 

In the United States, the city that is famously known for their carnival celebrations is New Orleans. The carnival season begins January 6th and concludes the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, so Mardi Gras is the conclusion to the carnival season. The streets are filled with celebrations, parades, masks, colorful beads and more. And of course, lively libations are to be expected. To read more about the origins, be sure to check out the Mardi Gras New Orleans website.

There are a few cocktails in particular that are considered to be New Orleans—and Mardi Gras—favorites. We wanted to share our Mad River Distillers spin on these go-to carnival cocktails as you prepare for your own Mardi Gras celebrations.

This classic cocktail was created in New Orleans and popularized the use of Rye whiskey. A heavy pour of simple syrup balances out the spicy Rye whiskey. Absinthe and Peychauds are used to lighten up the sweet, spicy flavors with bright citrus and anise notes.

- 1/2 oz Absinthe
- 2 oz Revolution Rye Whiskey
- 3/4 oz Simple Syrup
- 5-8 Dashes Peychauds bitters

Rinse a chilled rocks glass with 1/2 oz of Absinthe, then dump it out. Add remaining ingredients to a mixing glass with lots of ice. Stir for about 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain contents into the Absinthe-rinsed glass. Express a lemon peel over the drink, then rub the lemon peel around the rim of the glass before discarding it.

The Vieux Carré is one of the most popularly requested cocktails across the country. It was created by a bartender at the Carousel Bar in New Orleans. In this recipe, we use our Revolution Rye, which adds some spice and cocoa richness to the cocktail.

-1 oz. of Revolution Rye
-¾ oz. of Cognac
-¾ oz. of  Sweet Vermouth
-¼ oz. of Benedictine
-2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
-2 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir well for about 30 seconds. Strain and serve up in a coupe glass. Add a Luxardo cherry for garnish.

The hurricane cocktail is another popular cocktail in New Orleans. It’s a sweet drink that combines rum with citrus and either passion fruit syrup or fassionola syrup. In our Mad River Distillers spin, we combine both orange and lime juice, as well as both fassionola and passionfruit syrups with our First Run Rum.

-2 oz. of First Run Rum
-1 oz. of fresh orange juice
-1 oz. of fresh lime juice
-¾ oz. of Cocktail & Sons Fassionola Syrup
-½ oz. of Liber & Co Passionfruit Syrup 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Double strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a Luxardo Cherry on top.

You don’t have to travel to New Orleans in order to celebrate Mardi Gras. While there is no competition with the carnival there, Mardi Gras celebrations do happen in other cities across the country. If you don’t have an event near you, or if you plan to celebrate low-key from home, now you can try a Mad River Distillers spin on the event’s most popular cocktails. 

Don’t forget, if you need supplies, you can find spirits, bitters and syrups right at our Burlington Tasting Room. You can also find our spirits online. Cheers!

Mardi Gras History | Mardi Gras New Orleans. (n.d.).

Written and published by Brianne Lucas on February 14, 2023.

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