When traveling there are often drinks that can only be found in certain regions, or at least had their origins there.
For instance, most people know the potent Hurricane as a signature New Orleans cocktail that’s especially popular during Mardi Gras madness, but what’s behind the lesser known Jeppson’s Malört, Pink Squirrel, or Caribou?
The Hurricane was originally created by Pat O’Brien’s, a well-known mainstay in the French Quarter since the 1930’s. The non-stop party atmosphere makes it a must-stop for tourists, who either hunker down inside or on the back patio and sip their potion while listening to some Irish tunes, or grab a large to-go glass from the takeaway window and roam up and down Bourbon Street. While there are now many knock off versions of the Hurricane available, the original mix includes 4oz of rum, half white and half dark, along with passion fruit, orange, and lemon lime juices, simple syrup, and grenadine. It’s then served in a stylish souvenir hurricane lamp-style glass garnished with an orange slice and cherries.
Jeppson’s Malört has been a Chicago area secret for nearly a century. The key ingredient of wormwood gives the liqueur its distinct – and difficult to stomach for some — bitter taste. It was originally created by Carl Jeppson to emulate Sweden’s Bäsk liqueur, a spiced spirit with a wormwood base. It’s most definitely not a drink aimed at mainstream consumers; the Malört website even calls it a “rite of passage” for Chicago-ans. Many locals use it as a digestif and some bartenders have also recently started using it in Malört-based cocktails. Jeppson’s was made in Chicago until the 1970’s, but is now currently distilled in Florida.
Word has it that Caribou originated back in the fur-trading days in Quebec during the 1800’s, and was a mixture of Caribou blood and alcohol. Today, that’s not the case but it remains a popular concoction available primarily in the Quebec City region, and especially during the annual Winter Carnaval. Much like the fur-traders who drank it for that warm tingly feeling, Carnaval revellers consume Caribou to warm the innards. Originally created at Ti-Pere in old Quebec City, the drink is a potent combination of port wine, brandy, sherry, and a spirit, usually vodka. Maple syrup and cinnamon are often added to give it a more festive flavor. During Carnaval, people often sip it from shot glasses made of ice, or pour it into plastic canes topped with “Bonhomme,” the snowman mascot of Carnaval. A variety of different versions are also available at bars and hotels, such as Le Château Frontenac, Boudoir Lounge, and Bistro l’Atelier. As well, the SAQ governing alcohol commission sells bottles for retail for anyone wanting to take home a souvenir dosage.
Another drink named after an animal is the Pink Squirrel, which is basically a spiked milkshake that’s available in parts of Wisconsin. It is created using equal parts Crème d Noyaux (which lends the drink its soft pink hue), Crème de Cacao, and heavy cream. Add ice, blend, and strain, and you’ve got dessert in a glass! There’s now also an ice cream version that has a sweet, nutty flavor. The drink was originally invented at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee, serving unique cocktails for over 75 years, using top shelf spirits and in-house made mixtures.
Although the Pink Squirrel remains a favorite with tourists, locals often opt for one of the more than 400 over cocktail offerings, such as Jack Frost, Hawaiian Eye, or Candle Light. There’s no drink menu, so it’s best to know what you want or ask the bartender for suggestions. If the Caribou used to be made of blood and booze, who knows what that original Pink Squirrel was like?