“Candy is Dandy / But Liquor is Quicker.”
These lines were penned by Ogden Nash, a popular poet of light verse in the 1950s. I remember reciting them on poetry day in the second grade. My teacher, Mrs. Parrish, was not impressed. These lines, in addition to bringing back memories of childhood, also summon memories of life as a young bride in Louisiana.
Let me begin by saying that in Louisiana, buying spirits is quite different from purchasing liquor in North Carolina. Unlike government-owned NC-ABC establishments, liquor stores in Louisiana are privately owned and uniquely distinctive. They range from the drive-thru Daiquiris Express and Beer Barn to the more traditional liquor stores with frozen margarita dispensers for to-go cocktails.
You might wonder about the legality of drive-through liquor stores. The fact is that in Louisiana, as long as the vendor places a lid on the cup and doesn’t insert a straw in the lid, it is considered a “closed” container.
Only in Louisiana . . . where they like their food spicy and their politicians colorful. Only in Louisiana, the third most corrupt state in the union . . . where a suburban New Orleans mayor is currently being investigated for receiving gift cards, a hunting bow, and gun cabinet bought with donations for a Toys-to-Tots Christmas fund. Laissez bon temps roulez! (Let the good times roll!)
As a young inexperienced hostess, when I planned a holiday party, my first stop would be at Thrifty Liquor on King’s Highway in Shreveport. Sales folk were available for consultations, graciously offering snacks to sample and pamphlets with recipes. They knew exactly how many bottles you would need and were knowledgeable about food and wine pairings. You could also purchase napkins, plates, and bar paraphernalia. One-stop shopping and a daiquiri to go. Only in Louisiana. . . .
Recipe: Watermelon Mojito
At this time of year, my favorite cocktail is the watermelon mojito (pronounced moh-HEE-toe), a traditional Cuban highball made with rum, sugar, lime, and mint. It can be traced back to Francis Drake when he and his pirate buddies unsuccessfully attempted to invade Havana in 1586. The name has African roots; mojo means to “cast a little spell.”
During the Yancey House years, the star ingredient was Suzanne Byrd’s ripe Crimson Sweet watermelon. Place several chunks (excluding seeds) in a food processor. Puree for 30 seconds and then strain into a pitcher.
In a martini shaker, muddle 5 leaves of mint (I grow Kentucky Colonel mint—great for juleps) with 1 oz. sugar water and 1 oz. fresh lime juice.
Side bar: Muddling is the gentle way of bruising mint in the bottom of the glass in order to release the mint’s essential oils. You can also do it in a mortar and pestle. The key is to slowly but firmly press; you don’t want the mint to turn into mush. To make sugar water, heat 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate.
Add 3 oz. watermelon juice and 1 1/2 oz. of Bacardi Light Rum. Add ice and shake well. Strain into old-fashioned glasses over ice. For a non-alcoholic version, skip the rum. Garnish with lime or watermelon wedge.