“I was working at Tivoli & Lee recently and we were doing live music for our brunches, and Josh Paxton was there, and in between sets he’d play Booker. One of the things Booker was famous for doing was taking classical pieces like Chopin and Bach and inserting jazz themes, going from a baroque theme to modern jazz standards and New Orleans funk.
Booker was a flamboyant, fantastic person. So I took a classic New Orleans drink, the Brandy Crusta—grandparent of the sidecar—and basically added to it. This is kind of like a tiki drink, with a crazy garnish, Booker’s eye patch. I wanted to make this a classic, but a little more sweet and punchy. Adding rum to it makes it a bit more modern too.
I’m from North Carolina originally. I’ve been here for about 12 years now. Going to the Maple Leaf—that was my first music spot coming to New Orleans; I came down to study at Tulane, double-majoring in mechanical and electrical engineering and hating it, which is why I later dropped out—going to see Rebirth, I learned that James Booker had played there.
Booker’s medleys get me. All those live recordings that he did, Leipzig and the last one they did at the Maple Leaf. Fantastic!
We’ve got such a great drinking history in this city. It’s hard not to fall in love with the profession—and as it turns out, I have a little talent. Finding something that you’re good at that you enjoy doing, that’s nice.
My dad’s a chef so I grew up in a restaurant, gained some comfort. When I came down here I immediately got a job doing banquet bartending; I lied about my age. I got behind the bar next to a guy who’d been bartending in the city for 40 years and I had no idea what I was doing. ‘Just help me out here!’ He kind of showed me the ropes.
Working as a bartender, you pretty much end up being a concierge. ‘What should I do? Where should I go?’ You can’t give different people the same recommendations. You have to find out who people really are first.”
1 ounce Armagnac
3/4 ounce aged rum
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce Combier or triple sec
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 ounce lemon juice
Shake everything but the Riesling with ice; strain into glass. Fill with crushed ice; top off with Riesling. Serve with fresh mint and an eye patch cut from orange peel.