…along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,
And we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans.
Okay, it’s been more than two weeks since Tales of the Cocktail ended, and even the burliest of hangovers has now receded. But, I had one last New Orleans-related drink I wanted to share, and then I’ll shut up about it for a while.
I’ve been musing about this drink for quite a while. I first encountered it in Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies’ Companion, from 1941, and at first glance I didn’t think too much of it. From looking at the recipe, it struck me as something like the Sazerac‘s awkward cousin, so I ignored the drink for several months.
Finally, though, as things usually happen around here, I grew bored with whatever narrow circle of cocktails I’d been playing with at the time, and turned to Gaige’s book in search of relief. I mixed one of these up just to be able to check it off my life list, and was pretty pleasantly surprised.
The name, of course, refers to the events of January 8, 1814, when troops led by Andrew Jackson repulsed an attack by British troops heading for New Orleans in the final battle of the War of 1812 (isn’t Wikipedia cool sometimes?). Jackson’s soldiers were assisted by the marines, state militias, and notably a large group of Barataria pirates under the leadership of Jean Lafitte. Reminders of the battle are scattered around the French Quarter, from Jackson Square to Pirate’s Alley to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
Almost 150 years after that nasty fight in the swamp, the story was told in a song written by a high-school history teacher named Jimmy Driftwood. The little historic ditty took a Grammy for song of the year for 1959.
Well, we fired our cannon til the barrel melted down,
so we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round.
We filled his head with cannon balls and powdered his behind,
and when they tetched the powder off, the gator lost his mind.
I doubt they serve the Battle of New Orleans at the Blacksmith Shop; head west to San Francisco, however, and you may be able to pick up one at Absinthe (you should, anyway — Gaige’s recipe was revived last year in The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics, by Jeff Hollinger & Rob Schwartz.)
Battle of New Orleans
- 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
- dash of orange bitters
- dash of anisette
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- dash of simple syrup
- 2 dashes absinthe
Stir with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
If you sip one of these, hoping for a Sazerac experience, you’ll be disappointed. Just savor it on its own, for what it is, though, and you’ll find it a pretty agreeable companion.
And I know some of you are thinking, “absinthe + anisette? Isn’t that pretty redundant, flavor-wise?” The answer is, “kind of but not really.”
Absinthe has a notable anise character, true (most of ’em, anyway); but there’s a whole herbal complexity going on with absinthe, whereas anisette holds one note, true and clear (if you’re using a good one, that is). Especially if your absinthe is Lucid, with a more restrained anise aspect, you’ll need that clear anise flavor to round out the experience in this cocktail.
We fired our guns and the British kept a’comin.
But there wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
Yet another reason to seek out Lucid.
I’ve got a great book on New Orleans drinks, and there are so many containing absinthe, it just tans my hide.
I’m going to have to get my hands on some. I’m sure it would last only a short while, given the number of recipes, but oh what a short while it will be!
Isn’t absinthe hard to come by in the States? I have some in my kitchen but only because my girlfriend smuggled some back from Prague in an empty Scope bottle. Thoughts on this?
So, I wasn’t the only with an unfortunate country novelty phase in my youth. How many other Johnny Horton songs can you name? Red Sovine, anyone?
NOLA: as Blair mentions, there is one legal absinthe on the market in the US right now; it appeared in May, and it’s called Lucid. I think it’s just available in New York right now, but expanded distribution is in its future — go to Lucid’s website to find out more. Other legal absinthes are also in the offing; if you want to explore more, I suggest you head over to the Wormwood Society, where there’s plenty of info on brands and vendors. And please, please dump the Czech stuff — it’s not really absinthe, despite what it had on the label, and it tastes nothing like the decent stuff, which is what you really need to have around.
Erik: Youth? Um, yeah, of course, I outgrew that LONG ago…
Oh boy, now I’ll have this song stuck in my head all day.
And Erikâ€””Comache The Brave Horse” comes to mind…
Ooh, one of my favorite songs (at one of my new favorite blogs). I’ve got to get a bottle of Lucid, if only to see what all the absinthe fuss is about.
As this is my first comment here, btw, I’d like to thank you, Paul, for this blog. I’ve recently gotten very “into” cocktails and this site has helped a lot.
If I turn into a cocktail geek, though, I’m sending you the bill for all my future glassware and liquor purchases. 🙂
Johnny Reb, Whispering Pines, North to Alaska, Sink the Bismark, Johnny Freedom, John Paul Jones, I’m a Honky Tonk Man, One Woman Man, All for the Love of a Girl, Jim Bridger, When It’s Springtime in Alaska, The Reuben James, I Got a Hole in my Pirogue, Comanche (The Brave Horse), The Battle of New Orleans…
That’s all I got off the top of my head.
Battle of New Orleans was in 1815 not 1814. Actually fought after the war was over. 😉
I found the link DrinkUpNY.com on Lucid’s website and they are offering Free shipping. It will fly fast
[…] Paul goes all War of 1812 on us in ‘In eighteen fourteen we took a little trip…’ […]
Gah. I was going to do this for tonight’s bourbon-based MxMo. I still could, but I was going to play up all the same notes in my write-up–the song, the Gaige book, the Hollinger/Schwartz variation–that you hit here.
Might still do this drink if I can find a different angle, but there’s no sense just repeating what you’ve already done. Damn you, Clarke!
[…] I can talk about both recipes. But then I remembered that Paul Freakin’ Clarke had made this… exact… bloody… post 11 months ago. (Hey, at least I linked to YouTube. I don’t know whether Paul’s even […]
You can find a wide variety of real absinthe in Montreal. Here in Canada we are a little bit lax concerning absinthe, but especially in Quebec. The provincial liquor stores in Quebec are called SAQ, and there is a specialty SAQ in Montreal that has an amazing array of unique libations. My favourite brand is Mythe Absinthe, it is from France and has a more herbal and less anise flavour. It actually contains wormwood (often not used in even high quality absinthes), and has the characteristic bitterness that comes with it.