Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Strongest Drink in New Orleans

Recently I had a chance to visit New Orleans as my wife was attending a conference there. This afforded me the opportunity to a bit of exploring on my own while the conference was in session. I wandered the French Quarter and ate beignets with chicory coffee each morning at Cafe du Monde. The French Quarter has this great feeling about it from 7 in the morning to about 9. Most people haven't recovered from the night before but the streets are busy with people pressure washing puke off the sidewalks. Other than that it's very quiet.

Despite these cleaning activities I did enjoy looking at the old houses; the fences and gates in particular. So many of them had interesting defenses. Broken bits of glass embedded into cement on the top of them prevented you from scaling the walls or climbing over the gate to get into the courtyards and for good reason.

Even though these dwellings may have great historic value they are also Bourbon Street adjacent. Regardless of the historical and culinary significance of the area the existence of a year round spring break party necessitates a certain level of home defense. It's natural that such an environment would attract the heavy drinking college students of the United States. From what I gathered the party starts at about 10am with some beer drinking and really gets going at about two in the afternoon, it goes down hill from there as far as I'm concerned.

Considering all of this it's not surprising amongst the various lewd advertisements that I came across several posters claiming one drink in particular as "New Orleans Strongest".

It is my theory that the Hand Grenade was born of a need to get people drunk with a drink that is easy to make (only 5 ingredients of equal measure) , doesn't taste like anything else you've tried and is impossibly strong. I would imagine that this drink is mixed with very low end ingredients as if you are ordering one of these then you are probably beyond the point that you care.

It was a little sad to see this drink so popular in a time where properly made cocktails are on the comeback and correctly made drinks with balance ans style are appreciated once again. I do however recognize the need for such novelty drinks. Did I mention that this is served in a tall plastic cup with a hand grenade shape on the bottom?

As a point of reference this drink contains two to three times the amount of alcohol that is in the legendarily powerful Long Island Iced Tea depending on who is making the drinks. In doing a little research on the Hand Grenade I noted that the recipe gets consistently high marks. I attribute this to my theory that the people that are making these at home are trying to get so drunk that they can't remember what they had to drink.

At this point I must say that I did not try the Hand Grenade but rather I am making assumptions based on the recipe and the aftermath that it leaves in its wake (which I did see). Rumor has it that you can also order this drink with "the pin pulled" which adds some extra 151 proof rum which can be flaming so long as it's not served in a plastic cup.

I think that it is worth noting that lighting a drink on fire in a plastic cup is a really bad idea. I only did this once and it resulted in a melted plastic cup and it freaked out my cousin. Only light drinks on fire if you have read up on the subject and are using flame proof drinkware. Flaming drinks are best early in the night to avoid accidents.

Below is one of the recipes that I found for this drink, some recipes noted that you can add water and sugar to taste. Personally I'm not sure that there is enough sugar and water to make this drink palatable.

The Hand Grenade
1.25 oz Gin
1.25 oz Rum
1.25 oz Vodka
1.25 oz Melon Liqueur
1.25 oz Grain Alcohol
Shake with ice

As you can see there are no mixers, unless you count grain alcohol as a mixer. The amazing thing is that I saw people walking around carrying two of these. I assume that one was from a friend that had passed out but still. My advice is that unless you are a fan of the Screaming Purple Jesus (which is also highly ranked oddly enough which further backs up my above theory) you might want to leave this one alone.

In order to maintain a little bit of balance I'd also like to make mention of the Sazerac. This drink has a deep and rich history, it was born in New Orleans and still served to this day. It's from as era long before plastic cups full of booze roamed freely in the area and is a drink that is not to be forgot any time soon. Hopefully the Hand Grenade will not be so well known in 138 years time.

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Coming Soon: Vending Machine Love


  1. It's weird that I came across this post of yours. I took my vacation to New Orleans the day after you posted this article.

    Anyway, I did try the Hand Grenade while I was down there, and I think you got it wrong. First off, when I ordered mine, it was dispensed from a fountain drink dispenser, not mixed, so it's not meant to be a drink that can be easily mixed. Second, the drink is quite tasty.

    And I need to stop here and preface this a little: I am not a huge drinker nor am I a huge party goer. But I do enjoy a drink and pretty often I might add.

    So, like I said, the drink was very tasty. I definitely tasted some melon in it, but for the most part, it tastes very unique. But I didn't find the drink to be very strong. I had two Hand Grenades after having a beer or two (side note, I really enjoyed Abita while I was down there. Excellent beer), and it barely escalated my buzz. It felt like a few shots of SoCo and Lime would have done more for me. Lastly, it's expensive. 8$ a piece if I remember correctly. Like I said, I purchased a second, but only because I enjoyed the drink. I probably won't buy it again when I make my next visit.

    Just wanted to throw in my thoughts of the Hand Grenade. In short, it tastes very good, helps you enjoy your bourbon street experience, but is not as strong as they claim and is very expensive compared to the other drinks available.

  2. Please keep in mind that the hand grenade served in weeknights is very different from the hand grenade served on weekends. The weekend drink is far weaker. I'm unsure why they have differing mixtures but during the week 2 is more than enough to get you bombed. Weekend, not so much, on the weeken I would go for a traditional mixed drink instead.