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Cheers! Mardi Gras and the history of the Hurricane

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Bourbon Street in New Orleans where today's Hurricane is like a spiked slushy.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the inspiration for our drink on Cheers! If you’ve ever been on Bourbon Street late at night, you’ll see people sipping from a rum-heavy, red, sugary drink in a plastic cup called the Hurricane. It’s like someone spiked a kid’s slushy.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Tammy Coxen laughs as she struggles with her vintage ice crusher.

But the original Hurricane was different. We’ll tell you how a little farther down, but first: the struggles of making a Hurricane.

The crank was not cooperating. Tammy’s Tastings’ Tammy Coxen was using her red and chrome vintage ice crusher, but she had to use a little extra muscle to power through the cubes of ice.

On the last episode of Cheers! (hear it here), Tammy lamented the fact there were no Michigan aged rums for the drink she wanted to make. She forgot about Two James Distillery and its Dr. Bird Jamaica Rum. It’s a Michigan rum by way of Jamaica.

“It’s really hard to make a deeply funky Caribbean style rum in a state that doesn’t grow sugar cane and doesn’t have that kind of climate,” Tammy said.

So, Two James buys a variety of barrels of rum from Jamaica. The Two James crew bring it to Michigan. They blend it. They age it. And then they have their own unique spin on a Jamaican rum.

Meanwhile, through sheer grit and determination, Tammy powered through the crushed ice and started making the Hurricane as it might have been made originally.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
The two rums used in this Hurricane.

The Hurricane was invented out of necessity.

“In the 1940s, Pat O’Brien’s bar wanted to buy whiskey. The distributor wouldn’t sell any whiskey unless the bar a case of rum for each case of whiskey,” Tammy said.

The bar had to do something with all the rum, so they mixed up the Hurricane, which was a huge drink with four ounces of rum.

Over the years the recipe has changed a lot. There are mixes which include more sweetened fruit juices, grenadine, and more all topped with a cherry and an orange slice. That’s what you’ll find in those plastic cups of red slush in New Orleans. That’s not this.

“Today, I’ve made a recipe from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry who is a Tiki drink historian. This is his take on what an original Hurricane might have tasted like,” Tammy said.


Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
A version of what the original Hurricane might have been.

1 oz Dr. Bird Jamaica Rum from Two James Distilling

1 oz Freshwater Barrel Rum from New Holland Spirits

1 oz passion fruit syrup

1 oz lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in shaker with a big scoop of crushed ice.
Shake and pour into hurricane glass, tiki mug, or goblet. Top with
additional crushed ice.

Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup thawed passion fruit pulp

Heat sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Mix with passion fruit
pulp. Strain if needed, let cool before using. Store refrigerated.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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