Thirteen years of Prohibition in the United States meant that, even after repeal, there wasn’t much domestic liquor to be had in the 30s and 40s. And while everyone in the US wanted Scotch, the sudden increase in demand meant prices were sky-high. There was plenty of inexpensive rum around since the sugar islands were not under the thumb of prohibition; and, since rum’s main market had been out of the picture for 13 years, the rum available had for the most part spent an above-average time in barrels. But rum didn’t have the cultural caché whisky had, and people just didn’t buy it. Liquor distributors, tired of maintaining waiting lists for Scotch while their warehouses brimmed with rum bottles, started requiring the purchase of multiple cases of rum for every case of whisky. So that left many bars looking for creative ways to sell rum.
One New Orleans bar, Pat O’Brien’s, came up with a cocktail that became an institution in that town—and that has defined the “Umbrella Drink” for generations since. Here’s what you need to know:
4 oz dark Jamaican rum
2 oz lemon juice
2 oz passion fruit syrup
Shake. Strain over crushed ice in a 20-oz Hurricane glass. Garnish with an orange wedge and a cherry and a straw. You can put an umbrella on if you really want to, I guess.
Notice the ingredients; specifically, that there is no red ingredient in the drink. A Hurricane by this recipe (which, according to Jeff Berry, is the original recipe) will not be red. It will be brownish-yellow, like most sours made with aged spirit. Apparently Pat O’Brien’s decided at some point to make their Hurricanes with a pre-packaged Hurricane Mix, and it became the artificial cherry-flavored monstrosity they serve on Bourbon Street to this day.
But that original Hurricane is a beautiful drink, one that is built around the rum and doesn’t get in the way of the rum. It’s the kind of drink that reminds you how wonderful it is to be alive (and drinking rum). It’s also the kind of drink that gets you drunk—four ounces of liquor will do that. But, lucky for non-alcoholics everywhere, many Hurricane glasses are available in 12-oz sizes, so you can just cut the recipe in half. Then you can drink twice as many!
And while you’re lounging on your lawn chair with your huge drink with a tiny umbrella in it, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on all the things you may normally take for granted. Nina, as usual, says it best: