Seeking a taste of New Orleans cocktail culture, inspired by iconic bar, Cure, and their recipes
I’ve been an official part of an unofficial wine club for five years. It’s a small group dedicated to deep belly laughs and sipping on reds exclusively. Long before babies, job changes, and the chaos of a global pandemic, we plotted a trip to New Orleans together, scheming of cocktails, mayhem, and memories that we would make. As it goes, the trip never happened, but I wanted to tap into New Orleans culture and create a special afternoon of spirits for well-deserving friends.
There was no better starting place than delving into Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em, an informative and indulgent love letter to New Orleans cocktail culture with 100 drink recipes. Written from the perspective of Neal Bodenheimer and Emily Timberlake, the book pays homage to mainstay bar, Cure, in the Freret neighborhood credited for sparking a cocktail revolution, but also represents the unmatched culture and history of New Orleans.
Cure is not your introductory cocktail book. Much like the streets of the Big Easy, its pages are coated with a nuanced familiarity, resonant culture, and artisanal pride. With vibrant images of mixed drinks and New Orleans streetscapes, it took a few read-throughs to decide which cocktails to shake up. Knowing that gin was a unified favorite amongst the group, I chose the classic Cure martini, Ramos gin fizz, and Gunshop fizz. To round out the afternoon, I also fried a batch of blue crab beignets.
The weather was crisp, and I dusted leaves off our outdoor table, letting the acorns scuttle off the patio chairs. I strung lights, set out a candle to ward off mosquitoes, and played some soft lo-fi music to create an ambience in the waning afternoon light. Feeling proud of my efforts, I started to calculate what it might take to tackle three courses of cocktails for five people and realized I needed to give myself more of a head start.
I sped off to our local seafood market, Sea Products, and grabbed some fresh North Carolina blue crab and a couple lemons. From there, I took my crack at making the blue crab beignets. The filling combined bright lemon with salty blue crab meat, a handful of fresh chives, and creamy mascarpone. Dip tablespoons of the filling in a beer-based batter (I used a light lager), then plop into the oil. The result is ridiculously fluffy beignets that give way to a rich and creamy center. If you know me, there will always be a dipping sauce. So, I served these alongside a whipped garlic aioli with a little extra lemon thrown in. The truest test of my character was that these beignets went (fairly) untouched before company arrived.
In a true act of heroism, I committed to making five Ramos gin fizzes, despite the torment this could cause to my arm muscles. The Ramos gin fizz is known for being both beloved and despised by bartenders. Each Ramos gin fizz requires no less than three different shakes, totaling two and a half minutes. Needless to say, it was a labor of love. The result was the iconic, all-white, frothy fizz peeking over the rims of five highball glasses. While my husband might have looked on in horror as I poured heavy cream into the cocktail shaker, his mind quickly changed when he took his first light and citrusy sip.
While my biceps recovered, I had the great honor (and pressure) of making my friend’s first ever martini. The Cure martini is dry, balancing two parts London Dry gin and one part dry vermouth, stirred with a few drops of Regan’s orange bitters. I served our martinis with a lemon twist, olive, or three olives, depending on the preferences of the participant. Crisp and strong, the combination was everything we were looking for. I’ll be returning frequently for this quick and classy gin martini.
Knowing that everyone would need to drive home, I concluded the afternoon with a lower ABV cocktail, the Gunshop Fizz. The Gunshop Fizz is one of the most popular drinks at Cure in New Orleans, and is a bright red, fruit-forward cocktail similar in style to a Pimm’s cup. The fizz requires two ounces (yes, ounces) of Peychaud’s bitters paired alongside a fruity medley of strawberry, orange, grapefruit, cucumber, and lime. This is all topped with bitter and bubbly Italian Sanbitter soda (think: a non-alcoholic Campari) and garnished with a refreshing slice of cucumber.
As my friends departed, I spent the later half of my evening polishing glassware and siphoning off leftover charcuterie to my daughter. The afternoon will remain stamped in my memory as a gleaming reminder that we can always travel together, even from our own backyards.
Get these recipes and more in Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix Em’.
- by TLP Editors
- by Lena Melentijevic