In honor of Mardi Gras, I made a Hurricane:

Combine all of the ingredients in a drink mixer tin. Fill with 12 ounces of crushed ice and 4 to 6 small “agitator” cubes. Flash blend and open pour with a gated finish into a 15 oz. hurricane glass. Garnish with a wind-ravaged cocktail umbrella speared into a lemon wedge.

And by “Mardi Gras” I mean New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, which I attended for the first and only time in 1990. It was there I was introduced to the ubiquitous “Hurricane” – a large, bright red, super-sweet strong rum drink. These days you can buy them in fish bowls and walk around with one around your neck.

While I don’t have much sequential memory of that first trip, I do remember my next visit which was in the Spring of 1991. It was the perfect time to visit New Orleans, between the madness that is Mardi Gras and the heat of the Jazz Festival. I was there ostensibly as part of a school trip to, I think it was an IEEE conference, but I don’t remember spending much time there.

After an overnight bus ride we ended up in the city mid-morning. Since we couldn’t check into our hotel at that hour, we dropped off our bags and started wandering around the Quarter. We cut down Tchoupitoulas on our way and there we passed a Bookstar book store. A notice in the window caught my eye: Harlan Ellison was in town.

I am a huge Ellison fan, and he used to do this gig where he would come to a book store and sit in the window for a day and write a short story. The “seed” of the story would come from either someone at the store or a local celebrity, and then he would spend the rest of the day writing, pasting the typewritten pages up in the window as he went. If you’ve ever tried your hand at writing you realize how ballsy this was to do.

Anyway, I got real excited but he wasn’t scheduled to be there for a couple of hours, and so to calm down I made my way to the outdoor patio of Pat O’Briens where I had a Hurricane. It wasn’t as sickly-sweet as what you could buy from a street vendor, but they did sell it as a mix where you would just add rum. I still happen to have an unopened bag of it, and as you can see it calls for 4 ounces of rum to 28 ounces of ice and mix, so the version presented here is about twice as strong (and much less sweet).

Sufficiently lubricated I made my way to the Bookstar, and there he was, the man himself. While no one who knows me would call me shy, I do tend to be somewhat circumspect when approaching celebrities. As I was standing in the store thinking of a way to approach him, he actually came to me as he needed a pencil and I was standing next to them. He was chatting with a companion who I later learned was George Alec Effinger. They were talking about the route someone would take if they were leaving New Orleans, and Harlan had his character leaving the city in a 1978 Toyota Corolla.

When there was a pause I interrupted the conversation to interject that my father had a blue 1977 Corolla, and the one thing I remember strongly about it was that the air conditioning system was crap, unable to stand up to North Carolina summers much less those of Louisiana. He loved it, and added it to the story. He then asked me for my name, which he also loved, and he asked if he could use it in a story. Of course I said “sure!” although I don’t believe he ever did (and I probably should have added a caveat that the character not be an asshole). He then introduced me to George and the three of us were now conspirators on this new short story.

His character, Ben Laborde, needed a job where he had a travel around the State. I suggested “ATM repairman” and that made the cut as well. Anyway, after lurking for a bit longer I decided to leave on a high note, but I did pick up a copy of Harlan’s latest collection, which was called Angry Candy. He autographed it for me.

The story he wrote that day, “Jane Doe #112”, can be found in his collection Slippage. My tiny contributions can be found on pages 232 and 233 of the hardback first edition.

While I have yet to talk with Ellison again, I did strike up a friendship with Effinger. I still have a number of letters we exchanged over the years and if you haven’t read his MarĂ®d Audran novels you really should. He was taken from us all too soon.

Whew. Anyway, isn’t this a blog about drinks? I strongly tie drinks and memories together, so my apologies.

The recipe for the Hurricane presented here is from the Smuggler’s Cove book and attributed to Beachbum Berry’s take on the Pat O’Brien original. I find I tend to like any drink that has its own glass (although Andrea rolls her eyes whenever I get a new set) and this was no exception. Not nearly as sweet as what you’ll find on the street in the French Quarter, but still very tasty.

Rating: 4/5 (a very strong 4)

Notes: As I’ve mentioned before, I like the fact that Smuggler’s Cove offers a choice of rums for most of their drinks. This one called for “black blended rum” which was category five on their list. The only one that was available to me in North Carolina was Goslings Black Seal. It was affordable and worked well in this cocktail.