Mardi Gras is Tuesday February 9th this year. Mardi Gras is one of the wildest parties in the United States! People from all over travel to New Orleans to see the floats, eat the famous food and enjoy the party! Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday" in French. It became a legal holiday in Louisiana in 1875 but began as a Christian holiday in ancient Rome. Mardi Gras is always on the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent as is the last hurrah before the Lenten tradition of 40 days of penance. Mardi Gras includes traditions, like throwing beads, mask wearing and coconut painting. Here are a few facts about Mardi Gras that you might not know!
During early Mardi Gras celebrations people wore masks as a way to escape class constraints. Masks allowed people to mingle with all different classes. Today, float riders are required by law to wear a mask.
Image found on Pinterest
The Flambeaux Tradition, flambeaux meaning flame-torch, was a tradition of people carrying shredded rope soaked in pitch through the streets so that the festivities could be enjoyed after dark. They were originally carried by slaves and free African Americans trying to earn money. Crowds tossed coins at the torch carriers as thanks for lighting the way for the floats. Today, flambeaux or torch bearers dance and spin their kerosene lights turning the tradition into a performance.
(Image from Detomix)
The color of the beads in the bead throwing tradition was determined by the king of the first daytime Mardi Gras in 1872. He wanted royal colors, purple for justice, gold for power and green for faith. The idea was to toss the color to the person who exhibited the color's meaning. The beads were originally made of glass and weren't the best for tossing around. The beads were not thrown until they became made of plastic.
Every year at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a king is crowned. His name is Rex, the king of the Carnival. He was first throned in 1872. Every year a new Rex is chosen by the Rex Organization. It is always a prominent person in New Orleans. He is given the symbolic Key to the City by the Mayor.
The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club is one of the oldest traditionally black krewes (parade hosts) in Mardi Gras history. They hand out Zulu coconuts, or "golden nuggets". Originally the coconuts were left in their hairy state, but years later, Zulu members started painting and decorating them. Getting a Zulu coconut is one of the most sought after traditions during Mardi Gras.
A King Cake is baked with a tiny plastic baby and is a symbol of Epiphany. You can order a King Cake here.
If your thinking of hosting a Mardi Gras party, be sure to make a playlist including some Dixieland Jazz, and stock up on masks, beads, and jester hats.
Encourage your guests to get a little roudy and celebrate the NOLA spirit with these two classic New Orleans drinks from The Craft Cocktail Party Book.
The Brandy Crusta
Superfine sugar, for rimming the glass
2 ounces Cognac (Louis Royer Force 53 VSOP is recommended)
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur (Luxardo is recommended)
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 dash Angostura bitters
Prepare the glass and garnish: With a citrus peeler in one hand and the lemon in the other, start at the top of the lemon and peel on a slight diagonal, turning the lemon, until you get to the bottom. You should have one long peel when you are finished.
Cut the lemon in half, and rub the inside of one half on the rim of a wineglass or coupe to moisten it. Put a few tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl. Roll the rim of the glass in the sugar.
Coil the peel inside the glass so that it lines the interior wall, adding ice to keep it in place.
Prepare the cocktail. With a hand juicer, juice the lemon and strain out the pulp. Add 1/2 ounce of the juice to a shaker, along with the Cognac, maraschino liqueur, Cointreau, and bitters. Shake with ice until chilled. Strain into the prepared glass.
1/4 ounce Herbsaint or absinthe
2 ounces rye whiskey (Rittenhouse is recommended)
1 teaspoon simple syrup
6 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
A lemon twists for garnish
Rinse a rocks glass with Herbsaint or absinthe by rolling the liquid around the interior of the glass so that it coats the glass's surface. Discard any excess. In a mixing glass, combine the rye, simple syrup, and both bitters. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain the rye mixture into the coated glass without ice. Squeeze the lemon twist over the cocktail to express its oils. Purists discard the twist, but some people prefer to drop it in the glass as a garnish.
Find Mardi Gras beads and masks here.