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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

The Hurricane

Taking a Mardi Gras favorite back to its roots.

Hurricane Cocktail
Good Hurricanes Aren't Actually Red...

I had my first Hurricane in the beautiful courtyard of Pat O'Brien's just off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Pat O'Brien's lays claim to inventing the drink in the 1940's when whisky was popular but scarce, and rum was plentiful. The Hurricane was a way to get rid of the rum the distributors forced them to buy in order to be able to buy the whisky and bourbon their customers actually wanted. The name came from being served in a glass that was shaped like a hurricane lamp.

Technically speaking, the Hurricane is not a Tiki drink. It wasn't created by any of Tiki's prominent originators or at any of the Tiki bars or restaurants that once dotted the landscape of North America. In fact, Pat O'Brien's is decidedly un-Tiki. However, all of the players are there. Citrus juice, exotic fruit, specialty glassware, and rum. So, I keep it in rotation and if there ever is a physical Bamboo Sam's, it'll definitely be on the menu. I can hear you now, "The Hurricane; really? I had a few in New Orleans and I'd put it right up there with the Hand Grenade as things I don't miss outside of New Orleans!" Yes, I know. But it turns out that another thing the Hurricane has in common with Tiki drinks is a steady downward slide from a great cocktail to syrupy swill.

If I remember that first fateful night correctly, the bar was full of wax paper cups filled with crushed ice. I ordered one and the bartender took a pitcher full of red something and another with sweet tea looking something and poured equally between the two until one of the cups was full. He then garnished by throwing an orange wheel, maraschino cherry, and straw into the cup. In his defense it was BUSY - and I might have already been quite drunk. It was good but not great. It got the job done and the ambience made up for the rest.

Just don't

After that I always tried to listen to some Allen Toussaint and have a Hurricane whenever Fat Tuesday rolled around. I could usually find a bagged version of Pat O'Brien's Hurricane mix wherever I lived and religiously followed the instructions to mix the powder with water and mix 50/50 with rum that itself was a 50/50 mix of light and dark rums. It tasted similar to my memory of the one I had in Nawlins, but mostly it tasted like Bacardi and cherry Kool-Aid. In short it was not something I ever desired outside of New Orleans or Fat Tuesday.

As I got into Tiki, I received a copy of Beachbum Berry's Grog Log which has a page dedicated to Southern cocktails and included a recipe for the Hurricane. Perusing the ingredients, I was astonished. No cherry, no grenadine, no Kool-Aid! In fact the juices were orange and passion fruit! There was no way this Hurricane could taste anything like what I thought a Hurricane was supposed to taste and I should know, I've had one from the source! But, it kinda does. I mean, it is far superior. But you can taste how the current Pat O'Brien's Hurricane evolved (degenerated) from this original recipe. Like many Tiki drink purveyors, they just took shortcuts and replaced expensive ingredients with cheaper (inferior) ingredients until the resulting drink was another thing, entirely. However, this original version was something I found myself wanting outside of New Orleans and well past Lent.

One of the original ingredients that might give you trouble is the passion fruit syrup. As with most syrups, I think the best way is to make your own. This gives you complete control over the ratio of the passion fruit's tartness to sweet and can be done by mixing simple syrup with passion fruit puree. The problem is getting your hands on the puree. You would think that the popularity of smoothies that has bags of frozen fruit as exotic as Acai berries and dragon fruit at every grocery store would make it easy but for whatever reason passion fruit is never there. The best brand is Funkin. But it only comes in large bags and will only survive refrigerated for about a week once opened. Finest Call makes a Passion Fruit Puree mix as well. It's not as good but it's inexpensive and still makes a fine Hurricane. You can buy pre-made syrups but the amount of passion fruit flavor varies widely among brands. If I'm not making my own, I prefer BG Reynolds Passion Fruit Syrup. Last but not least, you can substitute passion fruit juice in a pinch. It will dilute the drink a bit as you'll need to put in 3-4 ounces to get enough passion fruit flavor in there but it will still taste soooo much better than anything made from that abysmal Pat O'Brien's powdered mix. Speaking of which, yours won't be red either. I'm not sure how they ended up that way as none of the original ingredients are red at all. Then again, nothing in the natural world is that color red...

Pat O'brien's mix does get one thing right though. It says, "Have Fun!" right on the front of the package!


  • 2 ounces orange juice

  • 2 ounces passion fruit syrup

  • 4 ounces dark Jamaican rum*

Add crushed crushed ice and shake vigorously. Gated pour into a hurricane glass. Top with more crushed ice as needed. Garnish is a cherry attached to an orange wheel.

*Bamboo Sam's customizations: Currently, I'm partial to using Appleton Estate Reserve Blend. If that's too rum forward you can run a 2 oz. Appleton with 2 oz. J Wray Jamaican Gold blend. Another option is Myers Dark Jamaican rum. It's molasses tendencies add a bit of body. Better yet, invite two friends over and make all three versions!

"But Sam, it says dark Jamaican rum, why aren't you calling for some of those great funky Jamaicans you're always talking about?" I know, I really do need to get out more. While I really like Jamaican pot still rums this drink is just too simple to support such complexity in its rum base IMHO.

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