Last year for my birthday my brother gave me a copy of Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ‘Em by Stanley Clisby Arthur. The history of cocktails is inextricably linked to New Orleans, and by most accounts, the very origin of the word “cocktail” comes from the city where A.A. Peychaud first started serving drinks in a double-ended egg-cup called a coquetier. Cocktails like the Sazerac, the Ramos Gin Fizz and the Vieux Carré (to name a few) were all invented in NOLA.
The book was first published in 1937, and this tiny time-machine is packed with recipes, their histories, lots of random anecdotes, and few silly poems about the merits of drinking. There are also several references to Prohibition as “the Great Mistake.”
Looking for inspiration, I stumbled upon Arthur’s recipe for a Jitters Cocktail. Recounting it will not do it justice, so here is a photo of the page:
I couldn’t help but laugh at the description of Anis del Mono since it is made just outside of Barcelona and is simply a brand name of a type of anis, much like Ojen. (Side note: Ojen was originally made in a Southern Spain town by the same name. They shut down production in the 1990s, which apparently made people in New Orleans freak out. The Sazerac Company resurrected the liquor, and it’s now made in Kentucky. More on that here).
Not sure what monkeyshines means? Me neither. I had to look it up, apparently it is “mischievous or playful activity : prank —usually used in plural.”
This cocktail was a pleasant surprise because we’re not generally fans of anis. Its typical anise/licorice flavor is less intense because of the gin and the vermouth, yet its herbal notes complement the botanicals in the gin. Nothing fancy, but super easy and quick to make. Like the Negroni and the Boulevardier, it is a three-ingredient cocktail with equal parts of everything.
We fell in love with arancini – Sicilian fried rice balls – when we lived in Naples (the ones filled with meat sauce are my favorite) and have been dying to try this New Orleans variation for some time.
Do yourself a favor, and take the following steps immediately:
Make a huge pot of gumbo – we played around with a combination of recipes (one from our friend Kathleen and one from The New Orleans Cookbook) – and invite people you like to come share it with you. This is an excellent idea for, say, a football game. Bonus points if it’s the Saints game.
The next day, make these gumbo-filled arancini, and prepare to be amazed.
One thing Americans – and New Orleanians in particular – do exceptionally well is brunch. Long, leisurely, mimosa/cocktail-fueled, this-is-my-only-plan-for-the-day brunch.
Say what you will about our excess and indulgence… in this case, I support it.
We have recently started hosting meals through EatWith – a website that allows you to share meals in people’s homes all over the world. It’s basically Airbnb for dining, and when we first moved to Barcelona, being a guest was a wonderful way to meet new people and eat delicious food. And since we pretty much already do this kind of thing on our own (two extroverts who really love food and parties), it made perfect sense for us to become EatWith hosts.
Last weekend, we hosted our first New Orleans brunch and made one of my all-time favorites: grits and grillades. I had never had grillades (or grits for that matter) until I moved to NOLA. It’s a slow-cooked meat dish – made with beef, veal or pork – in a thick, flavorful gravy, served over creamy, buttery grits. So a light, healthy breakfast.
It’s easy to make, but it does take a long time to cook, so I advise making it the day before. The flavors are even better the next day, and all you have to do is reheat it and make the grits before people come over (you’re going to want to have people over: it makes a ton). We made our own chicken and beef stock, but you can also use store-bought.