Some History of the Hurricane Cocktail
The Hurricane cocktail, today, is usually made with a bottled or powdered premixed concoction, and served in a hurricane glass at beach resorts, so named because it is supposed to look like a hurricane lamp. It is a fixture at Madi Gras. The drink is claimed to have been invented by New Orleans bartender Pat O’Brien in the 1930’s. Whether he invented it or not, he certainly popularized it, and he marketed it a Hurricane powder mix that is still available today. Although it is thought of as a tiki cocktail, and certainly resembles similar beach drinks, it did not originate at a tiki bar. It was, however, one of the first rum cocktails that brought in the rum cocktail craze of the 1940’s and 50’s. This was at a time when rum was plentiful, just after prohibition, but other liquors, like whiskey, were scarce.
According to Dale DeGroff in The Craft of the Cocktail, Brian Rhea indicates that the modern rum and juice combination seems to have been first served at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, at the Hurricane Bar. However, in the early twentieth century, an earlier version contained an unlikely combination of Cognac, absinthe, and Polish vodka. Rhea also says that no version of the drink appeared in Stanley Clisby Arthur’s book, Famous Drinks of New Orleans and How to Mix Them.
It does seem unlikely that the drink was invented in New Orleans, but based on similar research for countless other “first appearances,” I am always a bit suspicious of World’s Fair connections, which seems to be a bit like ancient aliens…when in doubt, evoke the World’s Fair. Another claim has the drink being invented in the woods of Wisconsin at a resort called the Webb Lake Hotel, where there was a bar called the Hurricane Bar. Pat O’Brien is said to have visited the hotel and then copied the drink back in New Orleans.
Most scratch recipes for the Hurricane list white and dark rum, passionfruit (nectar or syrup) or grenadine, sour mix or lime juice, simple syrup or superfine sugar, and sometimes orange juice. Some recipes are even simpler, but you are not likely to find any consensus on the drink. I’ve even seen cranberry juice added. Rum and passion fruit, and some type of sour ingredient are about the only standards, and the passion fruit is sometimes replaced with grenadine, which is actually made with pomegranate.
In the video below, Robert Hess makes a simple version with only a few ingredients, that he takes from Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log, by Jeff Barry, who claims this is the original recipe from Pat Obrien’s, although they now use a powder mix. It has so few ingredients, it is beyond me why they would need a powder mix. Hess cuts down the rum from four ounces to two ounces, except for during Madi Gras when crowds are in an awful hurry and probably don’t know the difference, anyhow.
The version below, from DeGroff, is more complicated, and more interesting and nuanced tasting. It uses Galliano, which is a famous Italian anise and liquorice liqueur with a vanilla top note, and other flavors, including ginger, citrus, flowers, and spices. It used in such drinks as the Harvey Wallbanger, which helped make it a fixture in bars. You could use Sambuca or Pernod, but they will not have the same flavor. Well stocked liquor stores carry Galliano, though. Leave it out in a pinch.
Homemade Hurricane Cocktail from Scratch Recipe
1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce light rum
1/2 ounce Galliano Italian liqueur
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz passion fruit nectar, or syrup
2 oz orange juice
2 oz pineapple juice
1 oz simple syrup
dash of Angostura bitters
tropical fruit to garnish
Fill a shaker 2/3’s full with ice. Add all ingredients and shake well. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice, or a hurricane glass. Garnish with tropical fruit, if desired.
Note: DeGroff also recommends muddling a piece of orange, lime, and pineapple, with the lime juice and Galliano, then add the rest of the ingredients and shake.