From its humble beginnings as a mosquito-infested village surrounded by swamp, New Orleans has had the reputation as a delivery device for the pleasures of music, food, and drink.
And along the way, the mix has been “kicked up a notch”, with a few fun vices added in.
Not on the vice list, but certainly on the party list is jazz. Most music lovers know that Jazz was born in New Orleans, and they can probably name a few native sons and daughters who have gone on to world fame. And frequently, these listeners enjoy their jazz with drink in hand. Which brings me to another pleasure introduced by New Orleans … the cocktail.
In addition to being a pharmacist, Antoine Peychaud was a gracious host. In the 1830s, Masons held lodge meetings in his simple, yet centrally located drug store on Royal Street. The legend says that after the meetings adjourned, Peychaud would whip up a few libations by combining cognac, his own bitters recipe, a drop of water, and a pinch of sugar. He served his tasty concoction in small egg cups called coquetier. As frequently happens with Americans, the pronunciation was mangled, and the “cocktail” was born. Incidentally, Peychaud’s drink is called “The Sazerac”, which is available at just about any bar in the city.
via Wikimedia Commons
Actually, there’s a long list of cocktails which allegedly originated in NOLA, including The Hurricane, Ramos Gin Fizz, The Obituary Cocktail, and the Vieux Carré Cocktail. My research turned up an additional drink for the list, but I’m reluctant to include it … the Mint Julep. My Kentucky Brethren would tar and feather me if I stated definitively that this drink didn’t originate within sight of a thoroughbred horse.
And the final float in this New Orleans vice parade is gambling and the dice game craps. According to gonola.com,
“Bernard Marigny de Mandeville is usually thought of as a Creole dandy who brought the dice game Hazard (we now call it “craps”) to North America.”
As for the name, “craps”, there are a couple of stories, each involving the French word Crapaud, which means frog or toad. One story is that the hunched position required to shoot craps makes the gambler resemble a frog. Another, more humorous version blames the Americans and their gauche nickname for their French compatriots. Either way, it all started in New Orleans.
Good music, lots of booze, and gambling. They don’t call it a party town for nothing.