Austin might not go all out on the festivities the way New Orleans does on Fat Tuesday, the conclusion of Mardi Gras.
But if you’re still seeking to enjoy the night of indulgence that comes just before Lent and Ash Wednesday, you can do it without even leaving your house. New Orleans isn’t just the home of the largest Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S. — it’s also the birthplace of 12 classic cocktails, drinks like the incredibly rich Ramos Gin Fizz that many bartenders are now required to know.
And you can make them, too.
These drinks include the Sazerac and the Vieux Carré, two whiskey cocktails that will certainly provide the Fat Tuesday excess you might be looking for.
The Sazerac is the oldest cocktail invented in New Orleans, as it was created in the late 1830s by Apothecary Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a pharmacy whose owner can also take credit for the creation of Peychaud’s bitters. Peychaud’s are one of the most popular sets of bitters used today.
And, according to Justin Lavenue, co-owner of the Roosevelt Room on West Fifth Street, the Sazerac is perfect for people who love the granddaddy of all classic cocktails, the Old Fashioned.
“The Sazerac was one of the first mixed beverages to utilize the structure of a ‘cocktail’ and put a unique spin on it with the addition of an absinthe rinse,” he said. “It was also one of the first cocktails to not have the word ‘cocktail’ in its name, which back in the early-mid 1800s was quite rare. It's a personal favorite of ours for people who love Old Fashioneds but want to try something new. Or, in this case, old."
His bar, which has arguably the most extensive classic cocktail menu in town, also makes the Vieux Carré. It’s not nearly as old as the Sazerac, but it’s still beloved in part thanks to its name, a nod to the old name of New Orleans’ French Quarter.
“The Vieux Carré is one of the most forward-thinking classics of its day,” Lavenue said. “In essence, a Manhattan derivation, it utilizes two different base spirits, two different modifiers, and two different bitters. Don't let its name (‘Old Square’) fool you, as all six ingredients come together to create something truly rounded and balanced.”
Here’s how to make them, courtesy of the Roosevelt Room.
Demerara sugar cube
8 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 oz. rye whiskey (or cognac, if the pre-1873 version is desired)
Begin chilling an Old Fashioned glass with crushed ice.
In a mixing glass, muddle the sugar cube in 8 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters until you form a paste. Add the whiskey and stir well without ice so that the sugar can dissolve properly. Add ice and stir well.
Dump the ice out of the Old Fashioned glass. Rinse the glass with 3 sprays of absinthe and discard any excess absinthe.
Strain the contents in the mixing glass into the Old Fashioned glass.
The Vieux Carré
3/4 oz. Cognac
3/4 oz. rye whiskey
¾ oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Benedictine
2 dashes of Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Stir all ingredients well over a large ice cube in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
— The Roosevelt Room
Or, if you want to go out to celebrate Fat Tuesday, you can do that thanks to the inaugural Second Line Bar Crawl & Cumbo Cook-off on West Sixth Street from 7 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 13. The party block is turning into a tamer version of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street with this Fat Tuesday celebration featuring lots of live music, New Orleans-style.
At the Second Line Bar Crawl, the Tin Pan Tigers, a raucous brass band, will begin circling the block, leading party-goers through participating bars to enjoy king cake, gumbo and drink specials. Those bars include Parlor & Yard, Dogwood West 6th, Star Bar, Little Woodrow’s, Kung Fu Saloon, Dirty Bills, Green Light Social and J. Black’s.
The whole night of revelry will cost $5; get more information at west6thaustin.com.