“Fat Tuesday” Drinks & History for Your Mardi Gras Celebration
If you’ve never heard of Fat Tuesday, it does, at first, seem like an odd holiday name. However, there is actually some fun history surrounding this holiday, and it gives you the perfect reason to crack out your cocktail shaker for some delicious mixed drinks. Let’s answer a common question, what is Fat Tuesday, and jump right into some history and Fat Tuesday drinks!
What Is Fat Tuesday?
You guessed it – Fat Tuesday is technically Mardi Gras!
Did you know that Fat Tuesday is the literal translation of “Mardi Gras” from French? It’s also the day before Lent begins, making it the perfect time to indulge and prepare oneself for a period of fasting. Honestly, it might seem a bit strange that Mardi Gras has roots in Christianity since we’ve all come to know Mardi Gras as one elaborate party.
When Is Fat Tuesday?
Fat Tuesday is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (the start of Lent). In 2023, Fat Tuesday is February 21st. Fat Tuesday is never the same day from year to year – due to how Easter moves around. Here are the next several dates for Fat Tuesday:
- 2024 – Tuesday, February 13th
- 2025 – Tuesday, March 4th
- 2026 – Tuesday, February 17th
- 2027 – Tuesday, February 9th
What’s the History Behind Fat Tuesday?
Fat Tuesday, previously Shrove Tuesday, has roots in Catholicism, where people would celebrate the birth of Christ for a whole month and end the celebration with a huge day of indulgence before fasting through till Easter.
Another fun fact about this holiday and the season surrounding it is that “carnival” loosely translates to “goodbye, meat.” This makes sense because people celebrating Lent will give up and take a break from meat and other fatty foods until Easter.
However, the tradition goes back even further to pagan parties that celebrated fertility and the spring season. Saturnalia and Lupercalia, Roman festivals, were likely the inspirations behind today’s Mardi Gras. These Roman traditions were assimilated into the Catholic faith as Christianity arrived in Rome; after all, there would be less pushback if the traditions weren’t completely abolished. So, Catholicism brought a much needed period of fasting to the end of this season of indulgence!
Facts about Fat Tuesday & Mardi Gras
As we mentioned above, Fat Tuesday is the end of the traditional Mardi Gras celebration. However, modern changes to this celebration have diluted the original meaning (even though they’re incredibly fun dilutions). Let’s learn a little bit more about this holiday.
Where Is Mardi Gras Celebrated?
The contemporary celebration of Mardi Gras is celebrated mainly in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. There’s also another celebration, called Carnival, that gets celebrated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Both of these celebrations are over-the-top parties that attract thousands or hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
The Colors of Mardi Gras
If you want to celebrate a little bit with color, you’ll be reaching for purple, gold, and green. These colors represent justice, power, and faith – respectively. You’ll often see parade floats, colorful bead necklaces, balloons, headdresses, and other attire in these bold, beautiful colors.
Where Did the First Mardi Gras Begin?
The very first true Mardi Gras celebration that we know of today was in Mobile, Alabama. This holiday and carnival dates all the way back to 1703! Allegedly, a group of French soldiers decided to have an unplanned party in Mobile. A year later, Nicholas Langlois decided to set up a Carnival group, Societe de Saint Louis, that initiated the poster child “masked ball.”
Some locals claim that the first Mardi Gras wasn’t in Mobile, but actually in New Orleans itself – in 1699. Still started by French explorers, this Mardi Gras had no organized parades, parties, or masked balls – this all came around 1718. There’s a lot of argument for both sides, and we’ll never know anything other than Mardi Gras’ beloved place in American history for the past three centuries.
How Long Is Mardi Gras?
Technically speaking, the festivities for Mardi Gras extend from the beginning of January until Fat Tuesday itself – and sometimes, Fat Tuesday is later in the year (since it’s always exactly 46 days before Easter). This is more than a month of celebration! For tourists coming into Louisiana for Mardi Gras, the end of the celebration is the best, busiest time.
Interestingly enough, if you’re out on the French Quarter’s streets past midnight as Ash Wednesday begins, you’ll be asked to clear the street!
Mardi Gras & Fat Tuesday Drinks to Enjoy
Since Mardi Gras is kicked off by Fat Tuesday, why not celebrate with some classic Mardi Gras spirit-based cocktails? This is certainly not an exhaustive list – enjoy whatever you’d like to enjoy, responsibly, of course. Here are a few ideas for Mardi Gras drinks and Fat Tuesday drinks for your holiday celebration:
The Brandy Crusta
This perfectly balanced cocktail has some popping, complex flavors. There’s a delicate balance of lemon, sweetness from the sugar and brandy, and a bitter finish.
Sake the following in a mixer for 10 seconds and then pour into a sugar-rimmed glass: ¾ oz lemon juice, 1 ½ oz aged brandy, ½ oz simple syrup, ½ oz Cointreau, ¼ oz maraschino liqueur, 2 dashes of aromatic bitters. Garnish with an orange peel twist.
The Ramos Gin Fizz
For a creamier, thicker beverage, the Ramos Gin Fizz might be right up your alley. This recipe uses raw egg white to get a fluffy, creamy foam on the top.
Put the following into a mixer without ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds: 2 oz gin, ¾ oz simple syrup, ½ oz heavy cream, ½ oz lemon juice, ½ oz lime juice, 3 dashes orange flower water, and one egg white. Add ice, then shake for another 15 seconds. Strain into a tall glass, pour club soda into the shaker’s top to rinse out the remaining cream and egg, then top the drink.
The Bourbon Milk Punch
This cocktail is a showstopper if you love milkshakes – that’s right, this is a deliciously boozy milkshake. Just be careful – the drink is so delicious that the booze will sneak up on you.
First, rim two glasses with caramel and cinnamon sugar. Next, combine the following ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy: ¼ of a 1.5 qt of vanilla ice cream, ¼ cup bourbon, ¼ tsp vanilla, ¼ tsp honey, ¼ tsp cinnamon. Pour the milkshake into glasses and top with whipped cream.
The Hurricane Cocktail
This is one of the most popular drinks for tourists and visitors in the French Quarter – and you’ll soon see why! This drink has a maraschino cherry and a nice slice of orange in it!
Shake all of the following ingredients in your mixer with ice and strain into a glass filled with ice: 2 oz light rum, 2 oz dark rum, 2 oz passion fruit juice, 1 oz orange juice, ½ oz lime juice, 1 tbsp simple syrup, 1 tbsp grenadine. Garnish with your cherry and orange slice.
The Vieux Carré
Do you love a good Old Fashioned or Manhattan? If so, the Vieux Carré is right up your alley. You’ll love the sweet, spicy notes with a citrus, herbal, and smokey aroma.
Into a mixing glass, pour the following ingredients and ice, then stir well: ¾ oz rye whiskey, ¾ oz cognac, ¾ oz sweet vermouth, 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters, 1-2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters, ½ oz Benedictine liqueur. Pour into an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Garnish with a cherry or lemon twist.
The French 75 Cocktail
If you love champagne, you’re going to love the French 75 – it has that puckering citrus feel from lemon, and the bubbles are sublime.
Into a cocktail shaker with ice, pour the following ingredients and shake well: 1-2 oz gin or cognac, 1 tsp simple syrup, ½ oz lemon juice. Then, strain your shaken mixture into a chilled Champagne flute half filled with ice. Slowly fill the remaining space in the glass with Champagne. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.
The Sazerac Cocktail
You definitely have to try this one – it’s the official drink of New Orleans! It’s a classic whiskey and bitters cocktail and is incredibly flavorful and aromatic.
First, mash the following ingredients well in your cocktail mixer: 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and a sugar cube. Then, add ice and 2 oz rye whiskey to your mixer – stir well. Strain into a chilled glass with ice and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
You can also make this into a “Cherry Sazerac” by adding maraschino juice!
You can make all kinds of jello shots – the sky is the limit. But if you want to stick to traditional Mardi Gras shots, go for colors like purple, green, and golden yellow!
Grape Jello, Lemon Jello, and lime Jello will work well for the colors you’re going for. To make Jello shots, start your Jello out like you usually would – dissolving the packet into one cup of boiling hot water. Then, instead of mixing in a cup of cold water, mix in a 50/50 mixture of vodka and water. Finally, pour the mixture into small cups and refrigerate to set!
Local Ingredients for Your Fat Tuesday Drinks
Are you looking for local spirits to pour into your Fat Tuesday concoctions? Here at Distillery nearby, we love helping locals find new distilleries to try! Check out our “by state” page to find out what distilleries are near you. You might even find a brand new flavored vodka to use in your Jell-o shots!