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A Commander's Palace Martini ()

New Orleans Cocktails Stir Up Memories

Dec 31, 2007 (Morning Edition)

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You can sit at the bar at Commander's Palace in New Orleans and drink history. Order a Sazerac - it's the very first cocktail, dating back to the early 1800s, when Antoine Peychaud, who owned an apothecary in the French Quarter, served customers a recipe of his own bitters and Sazerac cognac for extra zest.

Cousins Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan, who preside over Commander's Palace, say of this drink, "Cocktails would never have caught on if the original one wasn't such a perfect concoction."

Martin and Brennan are the authors of In the Land of Cocktails, a compilation of cocktail recipes and stories about drinking in New Orleans.

The Sazerac recommendation comes with a caution about having a second: "You're not nearly as attractive as you think you are after two, so do just have one."

The cousins believe a cocktail revolution is coming, especially when mixed with fresh fruit and top-shelf liquor.

And young people are excited now about being bartenders, or "bar chefs," they say.

Martin compares the atmosphere today to when she and Brennan were growing up in the kitchen with Paul Prudhomme, "when people were starting to respect our profession of cooking. That is now beginning to happen with bartenders."

Martin and Brennan are sophisticated restaurateurs today, but they do admit to "blurred memories" from their right-of-passage teenage years drinking in a venerable New Orleans bar called Nick's.

Brennan says, "We thought we were so grown up, and then we realized our parents had done the exact same thing."

Martin adds, "Same drink, same bar."

The famous drink at Nick's? A brandy and rum cocktail called Between the Sheets. In the Land of Cocktails includes recipes for Between the Sheets and Sazerac, as well as the Commander's Palace Martini, which is mixed to a rich shade of blue.

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