Spirits of New Orleans? We’re Talking Cocktails!

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Forget taking a ghost tour when you go to New Orleans.  If you want to get in touch with the real spirits that inhabit New Orleans, try some of the original cocktails that were born in The Big Easy.

Guest poster, Kit Wohl offers a peek into her newest book from her Classic series called New Orleans Classic Cocktails. 




by Kit Wohl

The oldest known American cocktail is credited to an enterprising pharmacist, Antoine Amédée Peychaud, who devised Peychaud’s bitters. Not surprisingly, it became an ingredient in his 1870s concoction. The French native established a pharmacy in the Vieux Carré, serving his libations in a coquetier, a French egg cup. Localization of the word resulted in mispronunciation — cocktail. This tale could be true, perhaps not.

The word cock-tail was noted for prior to 1870 in a newspaper north of the Mason-Dixon line. Earlier it had been used in a different context, and rudely so, in London. It didn’t refer to our spirited coquetier. There, it was simply a word. Here it’s a tradition.


A coffee bar down the block from Peychaud’s pharmacy was quickly renamed The Sazerac House to toast the cocktail. On everyone’s lips, the new drink was wildly popular, creating grins and new Sazerac bars around the city.

While the Sazerac was our first, it was certainly not the last in an ever-evolving array of fancy mixed drinks and cocktails. We’re still smiling.

~ Kit Wohl



sazeracMakes one cocktail

sugar cube

dash Peychaud’s bitters

3 ounces rye whiskey

1/2 ounce absinthe

lemon curl, for garnish

Many Sazerac bars emerged when Peychaud’s bitters was introduced, with only one surviving. The fanciful bar is in residence at the restored Roosevelt Hotel. Ingredients in the original recipe included cognac, absinthe, sugar and Peychaud’s bitters. Pernod and Herbsaint replaced absinthe when it was banned in America in 1912. Absinthe is once again back on the shelf after an evil scheme that labeled it as a poisonous hallucinogen.

In a cocktail shaker, saturate the sugar cube with the bitters and crush. Add ice, the rye and absinthe and stir. Strain the shaker into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish by twisting the lemon curl over the drink to release the oil then place it over the side of the glass.



One of New Orleans’ most revered cocktails, the drink was created by barman Henry Ramos in the 1880s. As governor of Louisiana, Huey Long often traveled with his bartender so he would always have his cocktail prepared just so. It dates to the Old Absinthe House at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville where a secret room was created to harbor pirate Jean Lafitte. Pirates still hang out in the bar, usually on Friday afternoons.

The Ramos Fizz needs to be shaken like mad, sometimes five minutes or more to properly emulsify the cream, egg, and spirit, producing an exquisitely frothy drink.

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11/2 ounces gin

2 ounces half and half

2 ounces whole milk

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon simple syrup

2 drops orange flower water (available in the baking section of supermarkets)

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

 Using a shaker half filled with ice, combine all the ingredients. Shake as long as you can stand it. Pour into a chilled glass.

Photos by Kit WohlNOCC_jacket

Kit Wohl’s Cookbook Series

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Celebrate New Orleans Cuisine with Kit Wohl’s Cookbook Series
Classic New Orleans

A truly wonderful and informative cookbook series featuring classic New Orleans dishes from the finest of the city’s restaurants and chefs is authored by Kit Wohl, photographer, artist, and food writer.  In six stunning books, she celebrates the best of the best known dishes from The Big Easy. Your mouth will water when you take this insider’s tour of New Orleans’ culture of cuisine. The shimmering photography, rich narrative, and recipes are sure to inspire any home cook.

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How Wohl got the great chefs of the city to spill the secrets of their famous cuisine is a mystery.  Just in time for Mardi Gras, with these books by your side, you will be able to prepare New Orleans Brunches, Appetizers, Gumbos and Soups, Seafood, and Desserts.

Also, at the top of any party planner’s list should be Wohl’s newest release in the Classics series– New Orleans Classic Cocktails.  You’ll be craving a tipple of the “spirited recipes”  after viewing eye-popping photos of each haute couture cocktail.  The book is a mixologist’s delight and presents the history of each drink along with the recipe. These books by Wohl are required reading for Mardi Gras 101.


For more about Kit Wohl’s work and latest award winning books see:

Kit Wohl Author’s Biography   and  New Orleans Classic Series (Amazon).

For a great Mardi Gras classic recipe from her New Orleans Classic Gumbos and Soupscookbook click on OTK’s Recipes link under the Featured Columns menu.

It’s Mardi Gras! Time for Tastes and Toasts

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Are you ready for Fat Tuesday?

The great rite for “letting it all hang out” centered in New Orleans— the mecca of Mardi Gras celebrations–  is arriving February 12. The famous carnival days when the world turns topsy-turvy and the rules of social decorum go right out the window and tumble onto Bourbon Street are fast approaching. How will you celebrate?


Food is  a focal point for any festival, and a great tradition of eats dominates Mardi Gras celebrations.  At the crossroads of the Spanish, French, and  African people, the regional cuisine of New Orleans is a wonderful combination of  immigrant traditions.   Cajun and Creole worlds come together to create a spectrum of spectacular cuisine.

The Mardi Gras celebration has its roots in the worship of Dionysus, or Bacchus, an ancient religious ritual from classical culture that placed wine, women, and song at the center of intoxicated partying.  Masked revelers engaged in disorderly behavior, and an assumed alter-ego communed ecstatically with the frisky gods and goddesses. That certainly sounds a lot like what goes down in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.bourbon

Historically, during the rise of the Christian era in the third and fourth century, church leaders were wise to dovetail their religious traditions and festivals with those of the pagan world. Unruly behavior was tolerated by ecclesiastical leaders and became part of the holy days celebration leading to Easter.

Mardi Gras is a last hurrah to the life of temptation and sin. What better way to say goodbye to indulging the flesh (carne) and eating of meat on the day before Ash Wednesday than with a big party?  With the start of the Lenten period, it may be time to renounce worldly pleasures and get down to the salvation of the soul, but not before the ritual slaughter of the fatted cow and going whole hog with The Great Binge in The Big Easy.

While the Mardi Gras carnival sounds like a total free-for-all, there are plenty of traditions to make the proper party.  In New Orleans, balls, fund-raisers, social clubs, and parades are formalized ways to celebrate. Neighborhoods in the city prepare all year and re-enforce the importance of community as a result. The history of Mardi Gras is also rich in tradition and symbols. Music, costumes, and spectacle characterize each coalition of revelers as the big soiree and countless parades gets underway. In the weeks before Mardi Gras, the whole city is possessed and poised for the Bacchanalia.

Sacred clowns and feathered strummers and all the bead-gatherers along the parade routes undoubtedly will be thinking about their king cake and cocktails, red beans and rice, étouffee, jambalayas, and gumbos rich in oysters, shrimp, catfish, and andouille sausage.  There’s plenty to eat and lots of Cajun and Creole cuisine to explore.king cake

Plan to get fat on Fat Tuesday.  After all, you’ll have the rest of the year to eat in moderation.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!                 –MELorden

 What are you cooking for Mardi Gras? 

What Mardi Gras merrymaking are you planning?

(You’ll find  two terrific recipes called  Seafood Okra Gumbo Classique and Chicken and Andouille Sausage Étouffee  under  OTK’s Featured Column called Recipes.


And for a great cookbook series presenting an entire range of cuisine from New Orleans, please visit OTK’s Good Books For Cooks column to learn about Kit Wohl’s New Orleans Classics series. )


Chicken and Andouille Sausage Étouffee

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Spicy, smoked andouille sausage, the hallmark of Cajun cooking, is a star in this  recipe for an étouffee with chicken and features the best of several recipes I’ve been collecting for a while.  This stove top preparation is done all in one pot.


 I include tomatoes in this dish, but some versions do not.  It serves 4-6 people and is not difficult to make.  The hardest part is waiting for the dish to braise to perfection for 1 hour.  The perfume while it cooks will transport you directly to New Orleans.

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1 chopped shallot

3 chopped green onions and

chopped parsley for garnish

4 garlic cloves finely minced

1 chopped onion

1 chopped green pepper

3 stalks of celery

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup all purpose flour (or more if needed)

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 cups chicken stock (or low sodium broth)

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 tablespoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 dash tabasco sauce

1 8-ounce can of diced tomatoes

olive oil

5 chicken legs

3/4 pound links andouille sausage

salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon Cajun Spice mix (optional)


In a heavy bottomed, large enameled pot or Dutch oven set at medium high heat, add the oil.  Brown the sausage (thumb-sized links) a bit to get some of the fat into the pan, and turn the heat down to medium.  Remove and drain. Then add the chicken legs, generously seasoned with salt and pepper and cook till browned on both sides and drain.

Next, prepare the roux by adding the butter to the sausage and chicken fat followed by the flour.  Combine and stir constantly until a deep brown color is achieved, around 10-12  minutes. (Do not burn. Be patient.)

Add the chopped onion, pepper, celery and garlic and cook till the vegetables soften a bit.  Let the vegetables sweat. Then add the tomatoes and stir up all the good bits.  Next add in the chicken broth and season with cayenne, tabasco, and paprika ( and Cajun spice mix if desired).   Add the bay leaves.

Put the chicken back into the pot and cook covered for about 50-60 minutes until the  meat starts to fall off the bone.

Cut the sausage into thumb-sized pieces and take chicken off the bone.  Add the meats back to the pot, and let work in the pot another 10 minutes to combine flavors and reheat.

Serve in large soup bowls and garnish with the green onions and parsley.


New Orleans Classic Gumbos and Soups

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By Kit Wohl

(Photos also by Kit Wohl)

Seafood Okra Gumbo Classique

Frank Davis (New Orleans television personality and cookbook author) shared this recipe with Wohl.  


Note:  For a successful gumbo preparation, Wohl suggests that the cook assemble all the ingredients first for ‘mise en place’ ease of cooking.  Also, be sure you start with a very large pot that holds at least 10 quarts.  You’re cooking New Orleans style now!

SERVES 12-18


12 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 pound smoked sausage, diced

4 16-ounce cans sliced okra or 4 10-ounce packages of sliced frozen okra

2 gallons water or seafood stock, divided

2 sticks corn-oil margarine

6 Tablespoons all purpose flour

3 large white onions, finely chopped

3 teaspoons garlic powder

2 Tablespoons liquid crab boil seasoning

3 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

2 pounds shrimp, shelled and chopped

8 1.25 ounce packages of sun-dried shrimp, optional

1 pound fresh crab meat

12 raw gumbo crabs (small hard-shell crabs) cleaned/quartered

1 16-ounce can tomato sauce

8 whole bay leaves

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons kosher or sea salt

3 pounds shrimp, whole and raw

4 cups cooked rice

Place 6 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in the pot over high heat. Add the smoked sausage and brown well. The fat will be the base for browning the okra.  Reduce the heat to medium. Add the okra to the sausage and also brown it well.  It should cook in about 20 minutes. Pour in 1 quart of water and let the contents simmer, covered, on low heat.

In a small saucepan, begin preparing a brown roux. Place the remaining 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil, the 2 sticks of margarine and the 6 tablespoons of flour and cook until the flour turns brown. Add the onions, garlic powder, liquid crab boil seasoning and the thyme and stir briskly until the onions become tender and translucent.  Add the roux mixture to the okra in the large pot and blend together well. Add the remaining 7 quarts of water, increasing the heat level to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and allow the liquid to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Set the whole raw shrimp aside and add the chopped shrimp, sun-dried shrimp (if using), crab meat, gumbo crabs, tomato sauce, seasonings, and stir.  The gumbo liquid should be brownish with a reddish tinge, and the okra should be broken up and suspended in the liquid. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then uncover the pot and add the 3 pounds of whole shrimp. Cook on high for about 5 minutes. When the shrimp are done, take the pot off the fire and set it aside, but leave the cover on for 20 more minutes. This will allow the seasonings to blend fully.

Finally, after the gumbo has cooled slightly, toss in the steamed rice and stir it in well.  Once again, cover the pot and let the rice grains soften for at least 40 inutes to pick up the flavors.  Freeze any leftovers.

(Leftovers?  Dream on. This recipe is pure delight and fit for a Mardi Gras king and his court.  There won’t be a drop left.)

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Museums of Food History and Exhibits

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Located in New Orleans, LA on the Riverwalk.

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Take a journey around the world and through time. Stroll through an ancient market, cook a virtual meal, peek inside the dining rooms of illustrious individuals—and consider some of the most challenging issues of our time. 
Visit Their Working Kitchen:  Live programming in the exhibition kitchen—a first for the Museum!—will animate the experience of food and flavor for visitors.


Eating in New Orleans

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November is an ideal time to visit New Orleans.  It’s quiet and has less of a Disneyland vibe, but New Orleans can’t hide its colorful street life and rhythms easily.  And one of the shining stars of this visit for me was the food of the city.

I had barely arrived at the home of Kit Wohl, cookbook writer, photographer, and  foodie (New Orleans Classic series.  See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_Wohl) when a steaming bowl of Crawfish Bisque was placed before me.  Diving face first into the velvety stew and marveling at the nuttiness of the rice on which it luxuriated, I knew then that with such an auspicious introduction, this visit would be like none other.

I was not disappointed.  With Kit as the spirit guide and my sister by my side, I ate my way through five days in a city where everything shimmered more brightly, sounded clearer, and tasted better.  The following is an attempt to capture in a few photos the sights, sounds, and tastes of that wonderful adventure .  There is no denying that spectacle is at the heart of New Orleans, and even in the quiet season, the city still rocks its mojo.


First stop for an informal dinner was the landmark joint called Frankie and Johnny’swhere I shared a seafood boil with the Wohls.

Low on glamor and high on genuine and incredibly fresh NOLA fare.


The next morning we hit Magazine Street and paid a visit to Vam Foss(http://nola.vomfassusa.com) where  oils, vinegars, and spirits live in beautiful casks. You can sample them all, and the sales folks will package and hand label them for you.   I left swooning. I think my eyes had permanently rolled back in my head. They mailed me my special selections (lemon balsamic, apple cider, and fig balsamic vinegar) in a stylish set of bottles nestled in special holder.

I passed on the absinthe, however.

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Talk about a specialty shop.

Next– no visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at a local farmers market.  This was a small one, but it was big on choice, quality, and personality.









Okra was everywhere.  Gotta get it for making your gumbo.

It was a privilege to dine at Dooky Chase’s iconic restaurant, birthplace of the civil rights movement in the Treme quarter of New Orleans. It’s not a tourist stop and pretty much remains a neighborhood restaurant. The historic dining room was full.  We opted for the luncheon buffet.  The collard greens were my favorites out of all those I sampled during my visit.  Fried chicken and peach cobbler were over the moon.


 Ms. Leah and Mr. Chase were out and about


A mighty beautiful lady, Ms. Chase was tending to an okra stew in her humble kitchen. We had a nice chat.


At this point, I still had not ventured into trying a fried oyster.  I resisted until hanging out at the River Walk and ended up sharing a few with my sister.  Now I am craving them and can’t understand why I thought I would not like them.

It was hard to not to run into some local color on the streets of the city.  Best way to see it all is to walk, walk, and walk some more.


This bistro featured jerk chicken, ribs, and sauces with plenty of mojo.

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Put on your dancing shoes.


Steamship punk artisans in the French Quarter market can design goggles and leather strapping for your next dirigible flight.  These guys and gals were adorable, really friendly,  and original.  Can’t see the bloke’s vampire fangs in this shot.


I made Kit drive around the block a few times to chase this gorgeous lady down.  She  had spent the night in the emergency room of the hospital where she said they never bother homeless folks like herself.  What a wonderful spirit she had.  She pedaled around town full of optimism, soul, and the grace of God which she enthusiastically shared with me for a mere five bucks. Gotta love her.

Then it was time to do some cooking at Kit’s.  She walked me through a recipe in her kitchen.  A version of southern pepper shrimp that she called BBQ Shrimp, except no BBQ sauces or grills were involved.


Start with a pound of butter (4 sticks), lots of whole garlic cloves (was that an entire head we used?), and 4 large sprigs of rosemary…


Take a long whiff.  Soon lemons and lemon balsamic will be added. And then at least a quarter cup of ground pepper.

Don’t forget a dash or two of green tabasco (or red if you prefer).


2 pounds of shrimp with heads, a good toss, and then into a roasting pan to broil in the oven for 2- 5 minutes.  Pour a glass of beer, ladle the shrimp into a bowl, put on a plastic bib, say a voodoo prayer, and gobble.  Your lips will burn before the third bite.  Just the way they should.

More local fare near Tulane at Dat Dog.  Hands down the best weiner I ever ate– basic German hotdog ( it was roasted) with Creole mustard and Asian slaw. Snapped with each sweet and spicy and creamy bite.  Rolls were rich and held up.   Choose from many sausage and hot dog styles and build your own.

And yup– we had fries with that. They were superb in texture and seasoning.  Had a nice crunch, too.

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A visit to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in the River Walk mall building featured an homage to the famous Cake Lady, Frances Kuyper.  There were very funky exhibits about the history of southern cuisine with a Louisiana focus…


…and the famous History of the Cocktail exhibit, which has a full room of its own.  Don’t miss this!




You’ll be thirsty afterwards…

And then it was time for some serious haute cuisine at Chef  Donald Link’s

Herbsaint Restaurant on Saint Charles Ave.

It was just nice enough of an evening to eat dinner outdoors.

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Since I was in an altered state of culinary bliss, I ate most of my plates before I could take snapshots of each of them. Highlights follow below:


I suppose you might call this a deconstructed Spaghetti Carbonara, but it was an ethereal version.  The pasta was housemade, guanciale replaced the usual pancetta, and the broken egg sauce was created by me when my fork broke through a perfectly poached and then breaded and deep fried egg!  How’d they do that? It’s a secret. I assure you that there were at least 4 forks navigating through each dish.  I think I licked the plate.


Muscovy duck leg confit with dirty rice and citrus gastrique. The rice had so many special touches– bits of liver, maybe some dried fruit, something spicy, nutty… Hell, I can’t remember anything except that I couldn’t stop eating it.


More pommes frittes.  Light and crispy with a great pimento aioli.

We re-ordered these.


Braised short rib with potato rosti and salsa verde. Melt-in-your mouth and fall-off-the-bone delicious.

I didn’t even get pictures of our desserts. Some sort of buttery brulé in a luscious shortcake crust was one of them.  It vanished off the plate.

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And right on cue, this ethereal New Orleans buggy showed up.  The horse and driver were taking a breather and I popped up to get a few shots (Kit’s magic hand here.)  Sweet nag.  Looks like the whole horse and buggy are floating in air.

I know I was when we left the restaurant.