…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.