Culture

French Quarter Carnival Cocktails

Cory James Photo
Cory James Photo

In New Orleans, carnival season is like a cocktail-driven Christmas, only better because you can costume and dance in the streets and watch parades and marching bands. Family traditions run deep, from where to catch parades to what to eat and drink and where to celebrate on Mardi Gras Day. We asked three of the city’s most creative bartenders what they love about Mardi Gras.

Laura Belluci

Laura Belluci

Laura Belluci, bar manager at the Absinthe-themed Belle Époque, opening later this spring in the historic Old Absinthe House ( 240 Bourbon Street, New Orleans).


Behind the bar for 10 years, Laura has ran beverage programs at SoBou, Appoline, Victory and Booty’s. She moved to New Orleans from Boston six years ago.


What you love about Mardi Gras?


I love that Mardi Gras traditions come back around every year, which is a good feeling of continuity. I love getting to know what people do on Mardi Gras morning. Everyone is excited and sleepy, not ready to hang out but doing it anyway. My tradition is something I used to do in Boston the day after a big party, fire up cheeseburgers for breakfast on my grill. That’s perfect for MG morning, you gotta’ have that base and eat something substantial or you’re not going to make it. I take a backpack cheeseburger to help me out later.


When was your first MG?


I was 24 years old when I moved here six years ago. I remember the build-up made me really nervous and excited. The weather was terrible that year, but it was such a great time.


Favorite parade?


Krewe du Vieux because I like how cheeky it is. But this year I saw Krewe Boheme and they made me really happy.


Favorite spots during MG?


Uptown I hang around Avenue Pub. I like to walk up and down St. Charles – there’s another secret bar I can’t tell you about to keep the bathrooms clean. In the middle of Mardi Gras day, I’m always in the Quarter and go to the Erin Rose. Their Irish Coffee becomes really essential. I like to take a break at SoBou for awesome cocktails in the back courtyard to recharge and have a breather from the crowds.


What most people don’t know about Mardi Gras is…


I recently learned that for many years during Carnival people used to drink Ojen, an anisette, for good luck and the Krewe of Rex drank it before parading. It went out of production more than 30 years ago, but in 2016 Sazerac bought the brand and brought it back.


Favorite costume you’ve ever worn?


There’s my stand by and when I go all out. My stand-by is a bat onesie that’s fast to get into, so I’m costumed in five seconds. My favorite from last year was being a rainbow in the dark, from the 80s power ballad.


What are you going to be this year?


Might turn out to be the bat onesie again - I can’t control business. But I’m also working on being the Wendy’s girl and half working on a pirate prom costume.


What’s your best-selling drink during MG?


The Body House Banshee is a Tiki drink made with rum, apricot brandy and absinthe. I’d say rum is the official spirit of Mardi Gras.


RECIPE


Ojenipus Rex (Lauren’s take on Oedipus Rex)

1.75 oz Three Roll Silver Rum

.5 oz Ojen

.75oz lime juice

.25 oz spiced simple syrup (I use cinnamon, coriander and allspice)

Lime zest

2 dashes Bitter Queens Tobacco Bitters, 2 dashes Peychauds


Add ingredients to shaker, shake aggressively and double strain into Nick & Nora (or coupe) glass. Garnish with spiced sugar and lime ribbon.




Royale

Royale

Bartender at Sylvain in the French Quarter and they also are a server at the Elysian Bar. They have been bartending six years, in hospitality for eight. Royale is originally from Southern California with family roots in New Orleans and moved here six years ago. They live in Holy Cross.


What you love about Mardi Gras?


I love the costumes of course. I’m a big fan of how festive and all out people get. They are so enthusiastic about whatever niche they like to nerd out on. People let their guard down a little and are less self-conscious about letting loose in public.


When was your first MG?


My first exposure was as a kid. My dad used to mail me giant tote bags of beads. But the first time I went to parades was six years ago.


Favorite parade?


I really love Muses and the girl power floats. I’m also a big fan of the tiny floats in ‘tit Rex. I try not to miss Barkus, which I go to with my Husky mix Zea. She is in costume, of course.


Favorite spots during MG?


On MG day I really like to post up on St. Ann’s in the French Quarter and watch the Saint Anne parade at Good Friends Bar. At some point I make a big Chinese food take out from Moon Wok. I like to also take a second to step away from the parades and head over to the river. Take a to-go drink and sit over there. It’s a place for friends to meet, regroup and collect themselves. Drink some water and watch the boats go by, then go back in.


What most people don’t know about Mardi Gras is…


Most visitors don’t get that it’s not just a one week thing but an entire season with lots of customs attached to it. Also that it happens at a different time every year.


Favorite costume you’ve ever worn?


I was an all gold Adonis – that was a classic.


What are you going to be this year?


I am thinking of taking some inspiration from costumes in the film Black Panther, especially the leisure wear in the more formal scenes.


What’s your best-selling drink during MG?


If people are going for cocktails, order a classic daiquiri. You’re going to be happy, your bartender is going to be happy and they are delicious. Of course something you can pour in a cup and take to go, a low-proof beer or wine works when you’re marathoning. I’m a big believer in the church of H2O – drink some water!


RECIPE


Baby King Cake

2 oz Scotch, Jura 10 year has the perfect balance of smoke

Scant ¾ oz of Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Angostura bitters


Stir over ice and serve down on the rocks with lemon and orange twist.




Maggie Morgan


Maggie Morgan


Maggie Morgan, bar manager Jewel of the South (Ope ing March 2019, 1026 Rue St. Louis, New Orleans)


What you love about Mardi Gras?


No matter what age you are you can enjoy the magic of MG. You can be as extravagant as you want without getting strange looks - in fact, the more extravagant, the better! It's a time to celebrate your creativity and see everyone else's shine. To eat that extra piece of king cake and not feel guilty. Plus parades and throws! It never gets old.


When did you catch your first MG?


I was 18 and had just moved to New Orleans a few months before. I fell in love.


Favorite parade?


Zulu.


Best place to catch parades when you’re not working?


It depends on the parade, but I tend to stay Uptown for a lot of them. For Orpheus I'll catch it somewhere between Napoleon and Louisiana. For Zulu I always go on Jackson. I watch Muses way Uptown on the Magazine part of the route - I get super lucky when it comes to getting shoes but I make sure to dress up every year and stand right by the floats!


What most people don’t know about Mardi Gras is….


That is more than just one day. There is obviously Mardi Gras Day, but the festivities, parades, and fun starts weeks before Fat Tuesday.


Favorite costume you’ve ever worn?


Hmmm, last year for Muses they did a "Night at the Museum" theme so I went as a Roy Lichtenstein pop art comic book character. Complete with full make up, a bright blue bob, red vinyl pants, and a bright yellow faux fur jacket - I got tons of love that night and got a full grab bag (shoe included) from one of the Muses. It was amazing!


What are you going to be this year?


It's a secret! I never tell anyone - it's part of the fun of running into friends on Mardi Gras day. The best is when it takes a minute to recognize someone.


What’s your best selling drink during MG?


Jewel of the South isn’t open yet, but at Manolito's "King Cake Daiquiri" has been super popular and for good reason, it's delicious!


RECIPE


Regent Punch


A good punch is always festive and great for Mardi Gras because you can make large batches, share with your friends, and not have to put too many down for it to do its job. I absolutely love a classic Regent Punch. It's indulgent in all the right ways and can serve up to 20 people.


1 1/2 cups of superfine sugar

Peels from 4 lemons

Peels from 2 oranges

1 cup lemon juice

1 cup orange juice

1 cup pineapple juice

2 cups Cognac

1 cup Jamaican rum (Smith & Cross works great)

1/2 cup Batavia Arrack

2 green tea bags

2 cups water

(750ml) bottle brut Champagne or sparkling wine


  1. Place peels and sugar into a punch bowl and gently muddle to express oils into the sugar. Let rest up to an hour.
  2. In a medium bowl, steep tea in 2 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour tea onto sugar and peels and stir to dissolve remaining sugar.
  4. Add all ingredients into punch bowl. Stir.
  5. Add ice and a few orange slices.
  6. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
SPONSORED
From our partners