Drinking On Mardi Gras: How To Do It Right

Last week, we pondered the question of what to drink with king cake. Today, we offer some advice on how to get your Fat Tuesday drink on without collapsing in the gutter.

It won’t do you much good for Carnival 2012 (since it passed two days ago), but the same general rules apply to most all-day events, including St. Patrick’s Day, the Fourth of July, and in New Orleans, Jazz Fest and Southern Decadence.

* * * * *

Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras) is different from most other days of Carnival in that it starts early with a slew of events across the entire city, from open-house parties to piecemeal walking parades to the big “official” krewe parades like Zulu and Rex. To do Fat Tuesday properly, you need to be up and out the door — in costume, of course — by 8am.

And you need to walk out that door with a drink in your hand. (Leave the car keys at home, please.)

Here’s where it gets tricky: Fat Tuesday is an all-day thing. If you’re on a parade route like St. Charles Avenue, you’ll probably be there until sundown waiting for the last truck floats to pass. And if you’re in the Quarter, you may be out even longer.

More importantly, Fat Tuesday is a social event. You wanna go out and get staggering drunk? Fine. You and your liver enjoy that on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night. But on Tuesday, you need to be able to make conversation with only a sliver of slurring.

Here are a few options to keep you in check:

Beer: Beer may not seem like the most festive, celebratory drink, but on Fat Tuesday, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Beer has just enough punch to keep you pleasantly giddy, but not so much that you’re likely to regurgitate that six-pack in a stranger’s alleyway. (Your odds improve if you take care to eat a few calories during the day.) Pick something light — maybe a pilsner — to keep things on an up note. And for jeebus’ sake, get that beer in a can or put it in a go-cup: the last thing we need on Fat Tuesday is more broken glass in the street.

Champagne: The great thing about champagne and sparkling wines — as anyone who’s ever thrown a dinner party can tell you — is that they go with everything. They’re also the perfect drink for celebrations like Carnival: smart, sassy, and a wee bit debauched. Some people find that champagne gives them a headache; if you’re in that number, try mixing it with orange juice (to make a mimosa) or cranberry juice (which, sadly, doesn’t have a name of its own). Doing so will allow you to scale back on the headache and dial up the nutrients, which you’ll appreciate later in the day.

Wine: Though you might not think of swilling wine on a parade route, it’s actually a perfect choice — especially red wine. After all, it’s one of the few beverages that’s meant to be consumed at room temperature. Plus, it comes in a huge variety of flavors and textures, meaning that you can find at least one to please your palate. If the weather’s warm — as it sometimes is on Fat Tuesday — pick one of the lighter varieties, like chianti, beaujolais, valpolicella, or cotes du rhone. And if you’re hosting a party in your home or on the neutral ground, pick up a couple of big, cheap bottles — box-o-wine is fine — and make a nice sangria. Red sangria is more traditional, but white sangria is a great choice, too — especially with a little champagne or ginger ale thrown in to keep it nice and crisp.

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