Now, you might be wondering at this point why we’re bothering to give you a cocktail recipe as cloudy as this one. Well, one reason is that some ungodly percentage of first time visitors to New Orleans visit the birthplace of of the Hurricane Cocktail – Pat O’Brien’s, and the history of this bar, coupled with the supposed origin story of the cocktail are actually kinda compelling.
Pat O’Brien is a gentleman who ran a speakeasy in the French Quarter during Prohibition, and according to legend, the password for this elicit bar was: “Storm’s Brewin’.” Later on, when drinking was legal again, he purchased a sprawling residential building and converted it to a bar with an attractive courtyard and a dueling piano stage, which is still popular to this day. I’ve been there – and as you’d expect – it’s pretty much all tourists and bachelorette parties.
AND YET – Pat O’Brien’s is pretty much the undisputed home of the hurricane cocktail.
See, in the wake of Prohibition and during World War II, there was a glut of rum from the Caribbean because everyone was suddenly obsessed with all the stuff they couldn’t get – like whiskey and imported stuff from Europe and because the military efforts abroad had a lot of manufacturers pivoting to help the war effort.
The following statement comes directly from the Pat O’Brien’s website:
In the 1940’s many US distilleries were used to manufacture necessities for war time, and domestic liquor was scarce. However, Rum coming up the Mississippi river from the Caribbean islands was plentiful. In order to buy a case of Bourbon, for example, there was strong incentive to purchase large quantities of rum. With General manager George Oechsner Jr at the helm, the folks in the bar experimented with recipes, and eventually everyone agreed that passion fruit was a hit! A glass shaped like a hurricane lamp was the perfect vessel and the Hurricane drink became New Orleans favorite libation.
Fast forward to today, and you’ve got Pat O’Brien’s selling jugs (and powdered packets) of their Hurricane mix (as well as a bunch of hackneyed DIY recipes on the internet that involve Hawaiian fruit punch). It’s all slightly reminiscent of a frat party, especially when you consider the ingredients that frequently bastardize the formulation:
Galliano (of Harvey Wallbanger fame)
Grenadine (possibly why the cocktail at Pat O’Brien’s is red instead of orange)
And other fruit juices like pineapple orange juice
Now, one thing all these ingredients have in common is sugar – which suggests that you need something (or multiple things) to sweeten your drink and take the edge off all that booze and acidity. So keep that in mind as you’re seeking out the best hurricane cocktail recipe for you. This is the type of challenge we think today’s home bartenders are uniquely suited to tackle because the ingredients should be readily available (even the passion fruit puree or syrup), and you can really dial in the recipe to suit your personal palate, which is something you can’t always find at a bar.
Garnishing Your Hurricane Cocktail
In terms of consistency, it’s a bit ironic that the garnish for the Hurricane cocktail is the one item that seems to carry over with complete accuracy from recipe to recipe. They all call for an orange wheel or half-wheel and a maraschino cherry. In the spirit of the cocktail, this is normally a firebird red artificial cherry, but I’d highly recommend subbing in a brandied cherry if you’ve got one.
Tales of the Cocktail began in 2002 as a small, historical walking tour that featured New Orleans’ rich cocktail history and culture. Over the ensuing 17 years, it developed into a massively popular international cocktail convention with a more than 8 million dollar impact on the service industry of New Orleans. Some of the highlights of the event include: