Stormin' the Sazerac !
The weekend is nearly here and a most unusual event is on tap for Friday afternoon. Set to take place at the historic Roosevelt Hotel (recently reopened and restored in name and splendor from the opulent Fairmont Hotel of pre-Katrina days), "Stormin' the Sazerac" may seem like an event hardly worthy of mention. But, as Ann Tuennerman of the Tales of the Cocktail points out, the admission of women to the fabled Sazerac Bar on September 26, 1949 was a turning point for New Orleans feminism. It was the first time women were allowed to enter what had previously been a strictly male domain on any day other than Mardi Gras. When I refer to Mardi Gras, I specifically mean Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, rather than the weeks-long Carnival celebration that has taken on that appellation in more recent decades. Because nearly everyone masked on that day, it was virtually impossible to police who was admitted to the Roosevelt's most famous watering hole. On any other day prior to that date, women entering the bar were politely, but firmly refused service. Saturday is the 60th anniversary of the day when the powers that be threw in the towel and allowed women to take their rightful places belly up to the bar. It's all part of the branding of the Roosevelt Hotel, recently renovated to the tune of $145 million as the newest addition to the Waldorf Astoria luxury chain of Hilton Hotels. The Sazerac Bar, replete with an impressive room-length wooden bar and decorated with vintage artwork by muralist Paul Ninas, is a true throwback to an earlier time of luxury and impeccable service. The signature drinks served there – their namesake Sazerac cocktail and the Ramos Gin Fizz – are veritable stars of the mixological firmament. The Ramos Gin Fizz actually takes nearly three minutes to prepare, much of that spent in shaking the concoction of gin, egg white, powdered sugar, orange flower water and club soda. The Sazerac is reputed to be the oldest cocktail by many authorities and is the official New Orleans cocktail, as designated by an act of the Louisiana Legislature a year ago. It is my favorite drink and one that the legendary Huey Long was also quite fond of as well. Apparently, a new drink made with 18-year-old Sazerac Rye whiskey is to be unveiled in honor of the 2:30-5:00 p.m. event. It is to be called the "Miss Sazerac." How appropriate that a drink with a feminine name will commemorate the eve of the date when six decades before women achieved true equality. So, to all the ladies, I lift up my glass and salute all those who took part in the original Stormin' the Sazerac. I look forward to seeing those who will arrive adorned in vintage 40's and 50's era clothing to make the event even more memorable. Salut, cheers and bottoms up!