Our London speakeasy party at the beginning of March falls on the weekend before Mardi Gras. In this country we celebrate this by perhaps making some pancakes, but in New Orleans it is a very different ballgame.
New Orleans was one of the most vibrant cities of the Jazz Age. Famous as the birthplace of jazz music, it was always a town that knew how to party, inventing a host of famous cocktails (the Sazerac, the Hurricane, the Ramos Gin Fizz and the Vieux Carré, for example) and making itself the home of absinthe in the US. When Prohibition came they didn't let it put much of a dent in their entrenched drinking culture—Federal agent Izzy Einstein used to assess the task ahead of him by timing how long it took to get a drink whenever he arrived to police a new city: in Chicago it had taken 21 minutes, in New York 14 minutes. In New Orleans it took just 37 seconds.
Prostitute in Storyville, New Orleans, in 1921. Clearly Prohibition wasn’t having much of an impact
A melting pot of Creole, Catholic, African and Caribbean culture, New Orleans takes Mardi Gras seriously, with a festival of masks, costumes, music and revelry, beginning as early as Twelfth Night and reaching its peak on the weekend of our party, just before Mardi Gras itself (5th March). For over 150 years they have held parades—various clubs or "Krewes" spend all year planning and building elaborate floats with fantastical themes, on which they process through the streets, tossing purple, green and gold beads, coins and trinkets into the crowd—a tradition that certainly never stopped for Prohibition. They also throw formal Mardi Gras balls where, in the 1920s, debutantes were introduced into society.
As a salute to this great city we’ll be celebrating Mardi Gras with menus of classic New Orleans cocktails and traditional Louisiana cuisine, plus live New Orleans jazz from the Candid Jug Orange Band, vintage DJing from the Bee's Knees and cabaret from our own King of the Carnival Champagne Charlie. Channelling the spirit of the famous Voodoo Kings and Queens will be our seers Lucius and Foxglove, on hand to tell your fortune.