Celebrate Mardi Gras with a Classic New Orleans Cocktail
When people think of New Orleans cocktails, two drinks usually spring to mind: the Sazerac and the Hurricane. The Sazerac is the city’s official cocktail, but the Hurricane is probably more popular today in the Big Easy. In large part, that’s because it’s the signature cocktail of Pat O’Brien’s Bar, a well-known tourist hangout in the French Quarter.
Pat O’Brien may not have created the Hurricane (which probably originated at the Hurricane Bar in New York City in 1939). But O’Brien certainly put the drink on the map.
Funny thing, though: the drink that’s typically made today at O’Brien’s (and most places) isn’t the original recipe. Most bars serve a Hurricane that is a bright, fluorescent red — while the original had a more subdued, orangish hue. Sadly, today’s version isn’t as tasty as the original, either.
But no worries! The recipe for the original drink is still available. I’ll include both versions here, and let you to decide which one you prefer.
Recipe: The Hurricane Cocktail
The original Hurricane was made with dark rum, passion fruit syrup, and lemon juice (though lime juice almost immediately became a popular substitution). The syrup contained a mixture of passion fruit juice and Simple Syrup. At some point, someone probably substituted Grenadine for simple syrup, and the red color of the grenadine tinted the entire cocktail, giving it the bright hue that people often associate with the Hurricane today.
Passion fruit juice can be expensive (and sometimes is hard to obtain), so over time many bartenders dropped it from the list of ingredients and substituted tropical punch. Indeed, the Hurricanes served at O’Brien’s today are of the punch variety, and are made from a mix. The flavor of that mix resembles a product sold at every grocery store in the US: Hawaiian Punch. (So if you want to duplicate the Hurricane that is typically sold in New Orleans today, just use Hawaiian Punch — really.)
We’re going to make the original version of the Hurricane, as described in Beach Bum Berry Remixed. But in the Notes I’ll include a recipe for a Hawaiian Punch version, and also a version by Chuck Taggart at the Gumbo Pages (do click through and read the post — he offers loads of history and detail about the Hurricane that I haven’t included). If you’re wondering why some of the Hurricane Cocktails in the pictures are red, while others are orange, it’s because they’re made from different recipes — I wanted to show both “looks.”
The Hurricane has a reputation for packing a wallop, and you’ll see why when you read the recipe: There’s a lot of booze in this drink! This recipe (for the original Hurricane) takes about 5 minutes to make and is intended to serve one person. I suggest you serve two people — or cut the ingredient quantities in half for a much saner drink.
Traditionally, this drink is served in a tall glass shaped like the globe on a hurricane lamp, although you can substitute any tall glass. Be aware that if you divide the recipe into two portions, the volume of the drink might not be able to fill a tall glass more than ¾ of the way, so you might want to consider serving it in a rocks glass.
- 4 ounces dark rum (any good-quality dark rum works; I like Gosling’s Black Seal or Meyer’s)
- 2 ounces passion fruit syrup (see Notes for where to buy)
- 2 ounces fresh lemon juice (you may prefer lime juice; see Notes)
- orange slice and/or cherry for garnish (optional)
- Put all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker that is half filled with ice.
- Shake, and strain into a tall glass filled with ice cubes or crushed ice.
- Add a tall straw and optional garnish, and serve.
- Passion fruit tastes wonderful, but finding affordable passion fruit syrup isn’t easy. However, Chuck Taggart recommends a great source in Hawaii: Aunty Lilikoi. The quality of their passion fruit syrup is extremely high, prices are reasonable, and they ship promptly. BTW, I have no connection with Aunty Lilikoi — I’m just an exceptionally pleased customer.
- You may also be able to find the Monin or Torani brands of passion fruit syrup. I haven’t tried them, but from what I’ve read, they’re only so-so. Trader Vic used to market a very good passion fruit syrup, but the formula has been changed (loads of artificial ingredients are now included), so it’s not something I would recommend.
- The original Hawaiian Punch actually included passion fruit as one of its ingredients (along with apple, apricot, guava, orange, papaya, and pineapple) and was a yellowish-orange color rather than the bright red it is now.
- Lemon juice was the original citrus of choice for the Hurricane, although many people opt for lime. I prefer lemon in this drink, but try it both ways and decide which speaks to you. BTW, you always want to use freshly squeezed citrus in cocktails — they really do taste noticeably better when made that way.
- As mentioned above, Chuck Taggart has a pretty good contemporary recipe for the Hurricane: 1½ ounces each of light and dark rum; 1 ounce each of fresh OJ and lime juice (you can substitute lemon juice); 2 ounces passion fruit syrup; and a teaspoon of grenadine (you want the real stuff, made from pomegranate; for details on how to make grenadine at home, see my post on Homemade Grenadine). Taggart’s drink doesn’t taste exactly like the original Hurricane, but it’s a very pleasant cocktail.
- If you don’t want to hunt for passion fruit syrup, you can skip it entirely and make a punch-type Hurricane that’s similar to the one served at Pat O’Brien’s. You’ll need 4 ounces of dark rum, 2 ounces (or a bit more, to taste) of Hawaiian Punch, and an ounce of lemon juice. (The original drink is so much better, though, that I suggest finding a source of passion fruit syrup if you want to make a Hurricane.)
The Original is Still the Best
“I think I like the lemon version better than the lime,” Mrs. Kitchen Riffs declared after sampling her second Hurricane. “Both are pretty good, though.”
To taste-test various versions of the drink, we were taking our own advice, as suggested in Cocktail Basics: We made one each of the lemon- and lime-juice Hurricanes, then split it. And we cut the recipe in half — using only 2 ounces of rum in each drink. We didn’t want to lose our few remaining wits.
“I think you’re right,” I said, taking another sip. “I was expecting to prefer the lime one — because I usually prefer lime anything. And the lime version does have a great first taste. But the lemon version sips better.”
“Say,” asked Mrs K R, “is it true that the Hurricane actually was invented in New York?”
“It’s impossible to know for sure,” I replied, “there are always so many stories about how this or that drink originated. Some people who’ve looked into it say the Hurricane was born in New York, but there’s also a legend that attributes it to Pat O’Brien. According to this story, O’Brien was trying to buy some whiskey from his liquor wholesaler, at a time when whiskey was in short supply. There was plenty of rum, though — the Caribbean was swimming in the stuff. So the wholesaler supposedly forced O’Brien to buy rum (lots and lots of rum) in order to get some whiskey. O’Brien was looking for a way to use all the rum, and came up with the idea for the Hurricane.” I finished off the last of my drink.
“So whether O’Brien invented the Hurricane, or just knew about the drink that had already been invented in New York, is a mystery.” I said. “And I’m not sure when he dropped the passion fruit syrup from his formula, or when the drink turned the vivid shade of red that it is today. Which reminds me, I guess we should make the Hawaiian Punch version, for a taste comparison.”
“Do we have to?” asked Mrs K R. I think I saw a fleeting look of panic cross her face.
I mixed the Hawaiian Punch version and we sipped in silence. I saw Mrs K R look longingly at the bottle of passion fruit syrup.
I cleared my throat. “I used to like Hawaiian Punch when I was a kid. Guess I’m not a kid any longer.”
“Me neither,” said Mrs K R. “Why don’t we dump these and make another one using the original formula. It might wash the taste out of our mouths.”
Mrs K R is a problem solver. I like that!
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