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The Original Original Hurricane

So I had a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s and it tasted like someone had mixed rum and simple syrup with a package of cherry Jello mix. Horrendous.

Here’s the problem: There’s nothing natural in this drink except for the rum. The rest of what goes into the drink come from a bad mix. The original Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane called for light rum, dark rum, passion fruit syrup, orange juice, fresh lime juice, and a bit of sugar and pomegranate grenadine. Nowadays, they make it with Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane rum (wouldn’t be cheap stuff, would it?) and a reconstituted liquid called “Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane mix.”

So what’s in the Hurricane mix?

Reading from the package: Sugar, citric acid, xanthan gum, artificial flavors, fruit and vegetable oils, tri-calcium phosphate, and food coloring.

In other words, the awful Hurricane I had was basically a glass of cheap rum and nasty chemicals. No wonder it tasted so bad.

You can actually buy a 9-oz. package of Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Cocktail Mix (“Have Fun!”), which makes about a quart, and is the same stuff they use at the bar, but why would you?

My go-to cocktail recipe book, drink’-ol-o-gy: The Art and Science of the Cocktail, actually has a pretty good recipe for the Hurricane, although it calls for half an ounce of passion fruit juice, which is actually almost impossible to buy (most such tropical juices are blends that include other fruit, like mango, pineapple, etc.), so you’d probably have to juice your own passion fruit, if you could even find passion fruit. I think the thing to do is buy passion fruit syrup; both Moni and Torani make excellent passion fruit syrups.

With that in mind, here’s how I’d go about making an original version of the original Hurricane:

The Original Original Hurricane

1 1/2 ounces good light rum

1 1/2 ounces good dark rum

1 ounce fresh orange juice

1 ounce fresh lime juice

2 ounces passion fruit syrup

1 teaspoon grenadine

Pour all ingredients into a shaker half-filled with crushed ice; strain into an ice-filled Hurricane glass. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

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A Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s

Waiters outside Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans. Photo by David Lansing.

I was flipping through a slick New Orleans magazine in my hotel room when, in a typical “What to do in New Orleans?” story, I came across this rather amazing statistic: “A Times-Picayune survey reported that 95 percent of all first-time tourist to New Orleans go to Pat O’Brien’s.”

Well, I’m a first-time tourist in New Orleans and I’d hate to drag down the 95 percentile, so I decided to search out Pat O’Brien’s which, according to the story I’d read, is the bar that invented the ‘Hurricane’ cocktail. Only problem was, I’d never heard of a Hurricane cocktail. But I was guessing that, like most drinks given strange tiki or tropical names, it had something to do with rum and sickly-sweet fruit juices. Which it did.

Pat O’Brien’s, which opened its doors on Dec. 3, 1933, just before the repeal of Prohibition, started out as a speakeasy with the password, “Storm’s brewin’.” In 1942, it moved to its present location at 718 St. Peter Street. Pat O’Brien was a bootlegger in Louisiana and Mississippi who, so the story goes, passed through New Orleans, got stuck there, and opened a small package liquor store/speakeasy. He was a retail dealer and his eventual partner, Charlie Cantrell (whose name you see on the bottom of the Pat O’Brien’s sign), was a wholesaler. They had met on Louisiana’s Bootleg Highway during Prohibition.

The way the bar tells the story, during WWII there was a real shortage of bourbon and scotch, and the whiskey companies sent “missionary men” out with regular salesmen and coerced bar owners into buying large quantities of the harder-to-unload rum in outrageous amounts. Sometimes the bar owners would have to agree to take 40 or 50 cases of rum in order to get the bourbon and scotch they wanted.

“Four ounces of the booze nobody wanted, through trial and error, made its way into a glass shaped like a hurricane lamp with lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, and crushed ice—and became the most famous drink in the most famous bar in New Orleans.”

It’s not yet noon and there’s hardly anyone at the bar. Nonetheless, what few tourists there are are all drinking Hurricanes. So I order one as well. And here’s what I can say about the drink that 95 percent of all first-time tourists drink in New Orleans: It is the worst cocktail I’ve ever had.

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