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How to make the perfect Mardi Gras-themed cocktails

Traditionally, the day of excess before the season of Lent begins has become one of the best excuses to throw a party. Celebrated around the world as Carnival, Fat Tuesday or Pancake Day, Mardi Gras is associated with parades, masks, colorful costumes, sweets and libations. Let the good times roll with these classic New Orleans cocktails.

In this article: Oxo Stainless Steel Single-Wall Cocktail Shaker, Peychaud’s Bitters and Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherries.

How to make a Vieux Carre

Invented in New Orleans in the 1930s, the Vieux Carre (which means "old square," a reference to the French Quarter) is an elegant, complex cocktail with a long yet worthwhile ingredient list. It's made in a mixing glass instead of a cocktail shaker to prevent the liquor from being over-diluted. 

Add 3/4 ounces each of rye whiskey, cognac and sweet vermouth, along with 1/2 ounce of Benedictine and two dashes each of Angostura aromatic and Peychaud's bitters to a mixing glass filled with ice. Mix until chilled, then strain into a glass and garnish with a cherry.

How to make a Sazerac

You can also try a Sazerac. The classic New Orleans cocktail was named the city's official cocktail in 2008.

The first step is to rinse an old-fashioned glass with absinthe, which gives the drink its essential herbal, licorice flavor. This can be done by pouring 1/2 ounce of absinthe into the glass with ice and swirling it while you work on the rest of the cocktail. Alternatively, slowly roll the absinthe around a pre-chilled glass. Either way, dump the absinthe before pouring in the rest of the cocktail.

You can also do an absinthe rinse just like the pros do, by using a small spray bottle. This lets you deposit the optimal amount of absinthe onto the glass' interior without any waste.

For the rest of a Sazerac, muddle a sugar cube with 5 dashes of Peychaud's bitters in a mixing glass. Stir in ice and 2 ounces of rye whiskey, then strain into the absinthe-rinsed glass. Express the oils from a lemon peel over the drink, then add it for garnish.

How to make a hurricane

The most well-known version of the hurricane was invented in New Orleans in 1941 as a way to use up a shipment of substandard rum. With 4 ounces of rum in the recipe, it certainly succeeded.

It's made by shaking two ounces each of light and dark rum with the juice from half a lime, ¼ ounce of grenadine and 5 ounces each of passionfruit juice and orange juice. It's served in the iconic hurricane-lamp glass and garnished with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.

How to make a French 75

One of the most popular drinks in New Orleans bars is also the most festive, thanks to the champagne flute in which it's served. In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 ounce of gin with 1/2 ounce of simple syrup or a sugar cube and 1/2 ounce of lemon juice. Shake until chilled and strain into the champagne flute, then top with 3 ounces of Champagne or another dry sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.

Best Mardi Gras glassware

OXO Stainless Steel Single-Wall Cocktail Shaker

An easy-to-use cocktail shaker is essential for many mixed drinks. This one has two silicone gaskets to ensure your drink won't leak during shaking. The cap doubles as a jigger with easy-to-read interior measurement markings.

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Riedel Mixing Glass

Not every cocktail is meant to be shaken. For those that aren't, like the Vieux Carre, this high-quality 22-ounce cut crystal lets you create delicious stirred cocktails. At 7 inches tall, it’s easy to mix in and beautiful to display. It's even dishwasher-safe.

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Barfly Basics Five-Piece Cocktail Set

This barware set includes a double-sided jigger, a bar spoon, a strainer and a pair of shaker tins. It's made from heavy-duty stainless steel and comes in five finishes, including a high-shine gold that’s just right for Mardi Gras.

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Peychaud’s Bitters

Given that they were invented in New Orleans, these bitters are essential to the city’s classic drinks. The secret recipe, created by a Creole apothecary in 1838, adds notes of fruit, botanicals and licorice to cocktails.  

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Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherries

These aren't the artificially colored cherries you grew up picking off ice cream sundaes. These rich, dark candied cherries are a favorite of bartenders and cocktail aficionados everywhere. They've been made in Italy since 1821.

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A Bar Above Wooden Muddler

Muddlers are must-haves for releasing the flavor from citrus peels and herbs. This sturdy beech hardwood model is extra tall, making it easier to use in pitchers and mixing glasses. It also has a flat surface for more effective crushing.

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A Bar Above Hawthorne Strainer

The high-density spring in this strainer is excellent for keeping bits of ice and muddled ingredients out of your drink. It's made from durable, dishwasher-safe stainless steel.

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Riedel Rocks Glasses

Serve your "on the rocks" cocktails in these beautiful, dishwasher-safe glasses. They're large enough to accommodate oversize ice cubes and can hold nearly 10 ounces of liquid.

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Viski Raye Angled Crystal Hurricane Glasses

These chic glasses give the retro hurricane a modern upgrade. The 14-ounce glasses are made from striking crystal and feature an angled rim. Use them year-round for pina coladas, Mai Tais and more.

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Riedel Nick and Nora Coupe Cocktail Glasses

Named after the martini-loving Nick and Nora of "The Thin Man," these elegant, vintage-style glasses are specially designed for enjoying drinks that are served up, such as martinis, Manhattans, Cosmopolitans and more. They can hold 4 ounces each.

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Laura Duerr writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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