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Stop Screwing Up The Hurricane!!

Last year, I wrote an article on the Hurricane cocktail, and in honor of Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras) I’ve decided to repost. I have a cache of articles that I come back to, now and then, to touch up and improve upon, and this week I stumbled across our current one and thought it might be a good fit. I’m always disappointed when I see a bad house version of a venerated cocktail, and there might possibly be no bigger culprit than the Hurricane. Order one somewhere, and you’ll see what I mean. At the very least, I shouldn’t be forced to drink shitty cocktails when I’m trying to escape the reality of life. So, without further ado, I present to you, the Hurricane Cocktail post:

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It’s said that 95% of all tourists in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter visit Pat O’Brien’s Bar. A staple of the local imbibing tradition, Pat O’Brien’s is a destination for boisterous tourists and obnoxious frat boys everywhere. During the 1920’s, it was a speakeasy at the intersection of Royal Street and St Peter, and required a password to enter. Called Mr. O’Brien’s Club Tipperary, it changed its name to Pat O’Brien’s Bar, and began selling legal liquor, on December 3, 1933, two days before the end of prohibition. Then, in 1942, owners “Pat” O’Brien and Charlie Cantrell moved O’Brien’s to its present location, an old, historic building at 718 St. Peter Street.

The subsequent years in the aftermath of prohibition found US drinking establishments in a sorry state. Thirteen years of illegality had caused a dearth of scotch and whiskey, once plentiful, and still long sought commodities. On the contrary, due largely to the ease of access off of US shores, rum was plentiful. In fact, by the 1940’s, liquor distributors had amassed such large stockpiles of rum, that they were, in turn, forcing case after case onto bar owners, with the stipulation that if you wanted to order anything, especially whiskey, you would have to buy cases of rum as well, sometimes as many as 50!

As a result of these unscrupulous sales tactics, Pat O’Brien found himself with a glut of rum he didn’t necessarily want, and wasn’t sure what to do with. New Orleans had always been a whiskey town, and he would have to engineer clever ways to sell this abundance of new liquor. His solution was a cocktail that mixed a staggering four ounces of dark rum, with two ounces of lemon juice, and two ounces of passion fruit syrup. Essentially, a recipe for a classic rum sour, or daiquiri, with dark rum in place of light, lemon in place of lime, and passion fruit syrup replacing simple sugar syrup, with all of the proportions doubled for good measure. Poured into a glass that resembled the shape of a hurricane lantern, and filled with crushed ice, it seemed O’Brien had hit a homerun. And so he had. But things change.

Nowadays, it might be difficult to find a Hurricane Cocktail made in this manner, and the current Pat O’Brien’s Bar, still situated at 718 St. Peter Street, may be the biggest culprit of all. A trip to New Orleans will find you at O’Brien’s drinking four ounces of well rum, added to a fully iced glass of “Hurricane Mix,” a curious mix of chemicals, artificial colors, and artificial flavors that you can even bring home with you in pre-packaged powder form, should a slow, painful death be the way you wish to go out. I don’t do pre-packaged sour mix (click here), so I sure as hell ain’t going to drink hurricane mix. Sorry, Pat.

Wait until the next major tropical cyclone threatens your hometown, and take a ride over to your nearest casual dining chain restaurant to find another manifestation of this horror. Almost definitely, I can guarantee that the recipe for their Hurricane Special will include an ounce each of light and dark rum (Bacardi and Myers if you’re lucky, well brands if you’re not), mixed with pineapple juice, orange juice, Rose’s grenadine, Rose’s lime juice, and maybe cranberry for good measure. Interestingly, this also seems to be the same recipe employed for Planter’s Punches, Mai Tais, Rum Punches, and any other random tiki cocktail that TGI Fridays wants to focus on that week. Sorry, again.

A quick look at respectable bartenders Gary “gaz” Regan and Dale DeGroff, and you’ll find some more respectable, though no more authentic, recipes; and Chuck Taggert, of blogging fame even suggests substituting lime juice for lemon. But we can all change the classics to suit our tastes, and I’m more concerned with mixing the best possible version of the original. And so, it merely comes down to ingredients.

For dark rum, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry recommends Goslings, while Matt “Rumdood” Robold prefers Coruba (apparently quite a bit.) Appleton V/X is a possibility, as well as Smith & Cross depending on how much funk your palate can adjust to. I’ve heard New Orleans Amber mentioned as a nod to the local climate. I’ve never quite understood the practice of mixing half light rum with half dark rum, other than to avoid the prominence of character in taste, so I skip that nonsense altogether.

Various tiki authorities who know more than I, including Tiare, here, recommend various passionfruit syrups that they have had success with. The overall winner seems to be Aunty Lilikoi from Hawaii, and though it’s a bit too expensive for my tastes, don’t let that stop you from experimenting. Trader Vic’s passionfruit syrup is a mess of preservatives and additives, and Monin and Torani syrups aren’t much better. When in doubt, pick yourself up four or five passionfruits when in season, and mash them up in some 1:1 simple syrup. Nothing can be better, or more natural, than making something yourself. Most flavored syrups can be made at home by using your all-purpose simple syrup and simmering some flavorings for a few minutes. (For those of you that need a hand making simple syrup in general, check out my page HERE.)

Lemon juice is the easiest of ingredients here, but again, many bars will fuck this up as well. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace a freshly juiced lemon. Not the plastic squirt bottle in the baking isle shaped like a lemon, not bottled REALemon, not the case of fresh lemon juice that Sysco sells, nothing. And for best results, squeeze your lemon directly into the drink, not the day before.

Lastly, for authenticity’s sake, pick yourself up some hurricane glasses at your local Walmart, or even better at Goodwill. Wrap a cloth towel around some ice cubes and bang the hell out of them with a wooden mallet to get crushed ice (I always lay the towel on a cutting board to avoid damaging my countertop), and load the glass up. Shake your rum, passionfruit syrup, and lemon juice up in a tin with new ice and strain over the crushed ice into the hurricane glass. Garnish with a fresh orange slice, and maybe a nice brandied cherry. Stay away from that neon red cherry that adorns the top of your ice cream sundae like a well preserved king. No easier way to ruin a great drink than to top it with a shitty garnish. And when you’re done, sit back, sip, and relax. Yeah the sky might be getting grey and the wind seems to be blowing a bit harder, but a couple of these and it ain’t gonna matter too much at all!

Hurricane Recipe:
4oz Dark Rum
2oz Passionfruit Syrup*
2oz Lemon Juice
Shake with ice and strain over crushed ice into a hurricane glass.
Garnish with orange and brandied cherry.

Passionfruit Syrup:
Add 5 mashed passionfruits to 16oz 1:1 simple syrup. Keep over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to let syrup come to a boil. Cool, and strain into squeeze bottle.

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