As former residents and frequent visitors, we have fond memories and a big ol’ soft spot in our hearts for all things New Orleans; especially when Mardi Gras rolls around. Because no matter where we are, we have our own mini-celebration on Fat Tuesday.
Most tourist cities struggle to be unique, but NOLA doesn’t have to lift a finger. Even in the 1720’s Nouvelle Orléans was a one-of-a-kind party town, and it didn’t wait until a holiday came along to let its hair down.
From its humble beginnings as a mosquito-infested village surrounded by swamp, New Orleans 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 there’s a good chance these aficionados enjoy their jazz with drink in hand. Which brings me to another pleasure introduced in 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 and centrally located drug store on Royal Street. Legend has it that after 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 in America, 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.
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. There’s another famous adult beverage that supposedly originated in The Big Easy, but I’m reluctant to include it: the Mint Julep. My Kentucky Brethren would tar and feather me if I stated definitively that this Derby favorite didn’t originate within sight of a thoroughbred race 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, less generous version blames the gauche American 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.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
James & Terri
- rikahi 2. Tulane Public Relations 6. Rick A. via Wikimedia Commons 7. Antoine Taveneaux via Wikimedia Commons
That’s the plan–thank you for this advice. It didn’t occur to me that the weather would be quite SO different from DC.
I like also when I travel to old castles. They all(or at least most of them) have such old maps. Really cool.
Might be a bit hard to do a “field research” here. have to check what’s inside them and see if we have these combinations over here (Germany)
and of course….when you say the kid “don’t do that”, what does the kid do? :)))) First thing i did was to check the “obituary” one
Ioana, it looks like you’re on the right track in your research. We lived in Berlin for a while, and I can say that my favorite drinks there were all the great beers. I’m sure that there are good German spirits, but for my money, the beer is tops.
Sounds very good! I am sure you had to have tastes some Baverian beer as well.
have you visited Heidelberg while you were here? They have a very nice map of the old city up at the castle 🙂
We did visit Heidelberg Ioana, and loved the castle. You’ll love the inspiration for our visit. When Terri was a teenager she entered Science Fairs in school, and they were always held at Heidelberg University in Ohio. So when we were in Berlin, Terri said that we HAD to go to Heidelberg. Too funny!
I haven’t been to New Orleans for years, and I still think it’s one of the top three US cities to visit.
Peggy, even though I’m a little biased (maybe a lot biased), I would agree. Even post-Katrina, New Orleans is still one of the most unique and interesting cities in America. ~James
Let the good times roll, indeed. Many moons ago, my mom was a bartender on Bourbon Street. I haven’t been back in nearly 40 years, but can’t wait to share the sights with Steve when we get there. Music, booze, gambling and don’t forget the amazing food!
I’m sure that in your Mom’s day, Bourbon Street must have been a very different place. It still has that edge, but over the years, city government has cleaned it up and made it more tourist friendly. And certainly the food is a huge part of every trip to NOLA. The restaurant scene is dynamic, so every visit presents new places to try. We really enjoy finding new places with a prix fixe lunch menu. They always have a great variety and are a good value. ~James
We were in New Orleans last weekend! Didn’t realize Mardi Gras stretched over a few weeks, so it was a nice surprise to be there for parades as well as lovely warm weather, cocktails, great food, music and history. It was a bit crazy, but in a good way. It didn’t really feel like America – more like Southern Europe.
We lived in NOLA for a couple of years and were really into the Mardi Gras scene. As locals, one thing that we had to learn quickly was to pace ourselves. As you say, it goes on for a couple of weeks, and it’s easy to get burnout. We lived Uptown, so it was easy to walk/streetcar to the parades. Everyone should experience Mardi Gras at least once, and I’m glad you had the chance. ~James
I have only been to New Orleans once and I loved it. Fascinating about the invention of the cocktail being there. I couldn’t believe the amount of alcohol in each of those cocktails! Dave was at a conference so in the afternoon I had a ‘slushy’ from the mall. Shortly thereafter a nap was called for. Wowza what a town!
Sue, people in NOLA know how to eat and definitely how to drink. We moved there from conservative Kentucky and Wowza! indeed – what an eyeopener. You may not have noticed, but in New Orleans, it’s quite legal to carry drinks around openly on the streets. However, it’s illegal to sell drinks on the street. So they devised a clever workaround for this problem in the Quarter. They have tiny, closet -size (literally) bars where you step into the closet, order and pay for your drink, and then stroll off drink in hand. Yep – party town all the way. ~James
Oh yes James I was gobsmacked by the concept when we discovered it and then yes discovered the walk in take way drink outlets. Wowza indeed!
There’s no other town like New Orleans, that’s for sure.
We can certainly agree on that Mark. FYI, it’s supposed to be 55° there today, which should make for good parade watching. Happy Mardi Gras! ~James
Another fun blog James and Terry. And I learned something new: the derivation of the word cocktail. Thanks as always for the entertainment. –Curt
Curt, I can tell that you’re a student of history. And isn’t this stuff cool. It’s sitting around the campfire, drinkin’ bourbon trivia that adds some spice to the evening. ~James
Absolutely. And I really like the vision of sitting around a campfire drinking bourbon. Many a time I’ve been there, James. –Curt
Our first time in New Orleans last October / November was just too short (and rainy) so I will have to get back there. Thanks for reminding me of what I can look forward to next time.
Thanks for the comment Richard and for dropping by the blog. I’m glad to see another name added to the love New Orleans list. Hardly a year goes by that we don’t go to NOLA at least once. We rent an apartment just off St. Charles Street, and it’s wonderful. I hope you can get back soon. ~James
Yes, loved our stay, despite the rain. Rented just off Canal Street, surprisingly quiet for it’s location.
It sounds like a fun place to visits. Pity it’s so far from me.
Will be there in October, can’t wait!
Thanks for the comment Michael and for dropping by the blog. October is the perfect time to visit NOLA. The temps are lower, the summer crowds have cleared out, and by October, the hurricanes are usually on the Atlantic rather than Gulf :). Have a great time. ~James
Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.
Thanks so much Chef Ceaser for reblogging our post on New Orleans. We love the town, and of course, the food. ~James