Pat O’Brien’s brews up the interesting history of their signature drink, the Hurricane.
Pat O’Brien’s, one of the country’s most iconic nightclubs, celebrates its 85th anniversary. The historic nightclub is also known for inventing the famous Hurricane cocktail, that carries an interesting history.
The Hurricane was created at Pat O’Brien’s in the 1940’s during World War II.
During that time, there was a huge surplus of rum coming from the Caribbean islands, while domestic liquor was scarce. Bar owners had to purchase several cases of rum for every case of bourbon or Scotch.
Vice president of operations Charlie Bateman said the idea for the Hurricane was born from creativity to capitalize on the surplus. Original business partners Pat O’Brien and Charlie Cantrell, along with the general manager George Oechsner, Jr. experimented with folks at the bar and the liquor salesman to develop the recipe — red passion fruit, lemon juice and rum.
After developing the drink, they chose to serve it in a glass shaped like a hurricane lamp.
“They put it in a highball glass, but it didn’t have that appeal,” Bateman said. “Everything happens by accident in any business, and they made some good decisions and they promoted it well.”
Bateman said the Hurricane became one of the first specialty drinks created, and the drink has always played a big role in the bar’s business.
“As time went on, we added more specialty drinks to our menu; we have the cyclone, the mint julep,” Bateman said.
Prior to the present Pat O’Brien’s location at 718 St. Peter Street, the original location was operated as a speakeasy.
Pat O’Brien ran a speakeasy, known as Mr. O’Brien’s Club Tipperary, at the intersection of Royal Street and St. Peter Street in the French Quarter until the repeal of Prohibition.
“Basically you would knock on the door. You had to have the code; the code was ‘storm’s brewin,'” Bateman said.
On Dec. 3, 1933, the speakeasy was officially reborn as Pat O’Brien’s.
After all these years, the historic New Orleans bar on St. Peter Street still knows how to throw a party. In fact, the bar threw itself a big bash on Dec. 2 to celebrate 85 years.
“Pat O’Brien’s has been here for 85 years and has become the heart of the French Quarter, as far as signature drinks,” Bateman said. “We’re all about having fun.”
Along with the Hurricane, the bar is also known for its “dueling pianos” and the flaming fountain in the courtyard.
George Oechsner, Jr. and his son Sonny Oechsner purchased Pat O’Brien’s Bar in 1978. Sonny’s daughter Shelley Oechsner Waguespack is now president of the company.
Pat O’Brien’s has franchised locations in San Antonio and Orlando, Florida.
For more information about Pat O’Brien’s, visit the website.