By Benjamin M. Riley


2 oz. Rye Whiskey

5 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Sugar Cube

Splash of Absinthe

Mix whiskey and bitters, coat glass with absinthe, drop sugar cube and whiskey mix into glass.

A Yankee like myself was no match for that most curious of American cities. It may have been November, but New Orleans could not have cared less. The city welcomed me with its humid, sticky, altogether unpleasant air. Strike that – far too generous. The city did not welcome me at all. Hardly prepared was I for what would greet me when I stepped off the runway in my autumn togs. New York this was not. Gone were the frigid nights, scarves required. I had been transported to another world. And it was more than just the weather. Those Victorian mansions of the Garden District, the lazy boulevards full of activity – it was nothing I could have expected. You see, New Orleans has a reputation, and not a flattering one. That is, it is widely believed up north to be a cesspool. And that may be true; indeed I would venture to say most of the city is. Swampy as the day is long, stickier than one’s hands after gorging on beignets, the Big Easy is no place for a true Yankee. 

Yet despite this – the abhorrent climate, the unavoidably seedy parts, the peculiarly unconcerned demeanors of nearly every denizen – there is something about the place. Perhaps it is the French heritage or perhaps it is any number of factors to which I am not privy. Who can say? And in the end it hardly matters. After dropping my things at my suite in the Roosevelt, I set out in search of a proper cocktail. If any city could open my eyes to something new, it was here. And as if on cue – there it was. A sunny café, right off the Avenue St. Charles, flanked by hedges unlike any I had ever seen stateside, just beckoning for my patronage. Sitting down, I caught the eye of a lady, the kind I thought no longer existed in America. She was Zelda Fitzgerald without the lunacy – a grande dame in the making. Her sundress was floral, naturally, and the color of a hydrangea known only to those who have summered in the Azores. 

She was a local, no doubt, and so I asked her what the local men of character drank. With characteristic southern flair she joked that if I were a man of character I would be from the South. Fair enough, I said. But her coquettishness was a mere act. She divulged that I would do well to have a Sazerac, a true New Orleans specialty. I had one. And then many more. I wish memories existed of the rest of that day, but alas it is a mere dark screen. Whatever happened, it must have been a time. I woke up the next morning with a note next to my pillow sealed with pale red lipstick. But like a Southern gentleman, I’ll never kiss and tell.