Mardi Gras

Three Big Easy-Inspired Cocktails to Sip This Weekend

If cocktails straight out of the Bourbon Street history books are just as important to your Mardi Gras party as crawfish and king cake, we've got you covered.

By Kirsten Dobroth February 23, 2017

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A sazerac is a classic sipper straight from Bourbon Street.

Image: Shutterstock

Mardis Gras officially kicks off in New Orleans next Tuesday (Feb 28), but we're on Mountain Standard Time here in Vail, which means that you can get your fill of parades, beads, and even satiate your crawfish craving all weekend-long in Vail Village, or from the comforts of home (on Oscars night!) with a bit of gumption and a stocked bar. If the classic New Orleans cocktail recipes below are better left to the professional, a stumble through Vail Village will procure many a capable bartender to mix them up for you.


There are few better ways to kick off a New Orleans-style party than with a sazerac, commonly known as America's First Cocktail, and the official cocktail of the state of Louisiana (yes, we were also surprised -- but not that surprised -- to learn that Louisiana has a state cocktail on the books, and also to discover that Colorado has at least one unofficial cocktail). The sazerac is the oldest and most quintessential in the legend that is New Orleans cocktail lore, and rightly so. Originally served as a cognac-based sipper in the 19th century, the sazerac has evolved over the years to be a classic rye whiskey-based drink synonymous with the Big Easy. 

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 ½ ounces rye whiskey
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Absinthe
  • Garnish: lemon peel
  • Old Fashioned glass

In an Old Fashioned glass, muddle the sugar cube with a few drops of water. Add dashes of both bitters and the rye whiskey with a few ice cubes, stir well, and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass that has been coated with a few drops of absinthe. Garnish with a lemon peel.

If you'd rather leave the mixology to the professionals, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Tasting Room on Bridge Street has a barrel-aged version that captures all the classic tasting notes of the original, with the subtle hint of oak and a splash of absinthe produced by Leopold Brothers -- another Colorado-based distiller. 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Tasting Room, 227 Bridge Street, Vail Village, 970-470-4215

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If crawfish and NOLA-themed drinks are a must for your Mardi Gras party, Vail's mountaintop celebration is the place to be.

Image: Cody Downard

Vieux Carré

Few things evoke more classic notions of NOLA than bellying up to a dark bar with a Vieux Carré, another cocktail classic that found its beginnings in the storied speakeasy scene of early 20th century New Orleans. Originally concocted by the head bartender at the luxe Monteleone Hotel in the 1930s, a classic Vieux Carré done right is balanced, complex, and the perfect old-school sipper to wow friends and families with at your next Mardis Gras-themed soiree.

  • ½ teaspoon Benedictine
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 3/4 ounce rye whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce cognac
  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: cherry
  • Old Fashioned glass

 Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir well, and strain into an Old Fashioned glass on the rocks. Garnish with a cherry.

If you find yourself out and about as opposed to playing bartender at home, Vail Village's Root & Flower mixes up a classic preparation of this quintessential New Orleans cocktail. Root & Flower, 225 Wall Street, Vail Village, 970-763-5101


Call it the Long Island Iced Tea of NOLA -- although some may shudder at the thought -- this boozy rum punch of sorts is sure to have you feeling festive no matter the venue. According to legend, the history of the Hurricane began at Pat O'Brien's, a local tavern that's still around and serving up the umbrellaed mix. Back in the day, the rum-laden drink was concocted due to whiskey shortages during World War II, although nowadays, it's not uncommon to see many a tourist wandering the streets of the French Quarter with nothing but beads and a Hurricane in hand. 

  • 2 oz light rum
  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 2 oz passion fruit juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbs simple syrup
  • 1 tbs grenadine
  • Garnish: orange slice and cherry
  • Hurricane glass

Pour all ingredients into a shaker, and squeeze a half of lime into the mix. Shake well. Strain into a Hurricane glass -- named for the original glass it was served out of at Pat O'Brien's, although any glass will do -- over ice (cubed or crushed), and garnish with an orange and cherry.

If the signature sipper is a must for your Mardi Gras celebration, you're in luck; CarniVail will be serving up the rum-soaked slurpies at its high-altitude, low country crawfish boil from noon until 2:30 p.m. on Saturday (Feb 25). CarniVail, Eagle's Nest, Vail Mountain

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