Where were you on August 29, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coastal region of Louisiana? The levees didn’t hold and huge swaths of the Big Easy flooded; rescuers could not nearly manage to reach all of the hundreds who would need them. And sadly, over 1,500 people died as a direct result of Katrina.
The month of August will therefore be sacred here in New Orleans, as the city commemorates with a variety of events, charitable and entertaining, heartfelt and sad. Yet, the city will also do what many in the Northern states suspect it does much of the year: toast its resilience, its strength, its absolute magnificence. Laissez les bons temps rouler, and get thee to Windsor Court Hotel for one of the special cocktails concocted to honor Katrina victims and survivors.
The hotel is donating half of the proceeds from the sale of this $12 cocktail sold throughout August to the St. Bernard Project, a charity that sprung from the recovery effort in NOLA and has now expanded to take care of people suffering from other disasters, such as the tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Superstorm Sandy up in the Northeast.
Called “Elysian Fields Forever,” named after the storied boulevard in the city that cuts through an area heavily flooded 10 years ago, the drink melds strawberries, blueberries, lime, gin and soda water into one fine summer anecdote to what ails you. It will be sold at all three liquor-selling locales of the hotel, including the pool, the Polo Club Lounge, and the Cocktail Bar. But it is from this latter, the Cocktail Bar, where Elysian Fields originates.
Head Mixologist Kent Westmoreland, who was not working at Windsor Court during Katrina but whose home suffered five feet of flooding then, tells Examiner why he created this special cocktail. Even though blackberries “look better” it was the taste he was after, and blueberries really paired better with strawberries. More importantly, he was going for a tie-in with what this anniversary is all about.
“I wanted to start out with fruits grown here in the state, so I had a couple choices. I knew obviously strawberries are always a great Louisiana fruit, as are blackberries and blueberries,” he shares. He also uses a book, as he suspects all mixologists and chefs do, when trying to figure out which foods and liquor pairs best. Further: “Those [fruits] also paired best with lime as far as citrus rather than, say, lemon. Essentially, I took the flavors that went together the best, counteracted their acidity with sugar, chose gin because it’s my favorite spirit and added soda water, just to make it more refreshing, because it’s really hot here in the summertime!”
The first step is to muddle the strawberries and blueberries together to bring out the flavor, them pour in lime juice, simple syrup, and gin and then pour into a Collins glass and top with soda water to make it “refreshing.”
Elysian Fields Cocktail Recipe:
– Ingredients: 1.5 oz. gin, .5 oz. lime juice, .5 simple syrup, 5 blueberries, 1 strawberry, soda water
– Preparation: Muddle blueberries and strawberries in mixing glass. Add gin, lime, simple syrup, and ice to mixing glass and shake enthusiastically. Pour into ice-filled Collins glass and top with soda water. Garnish with blueberry skewer and strawberry.
Westmoreland enthuses that, “It’s a beautiful drink because it takes a pink tint. The soda water makes it look like a sunset.”
To sip a beautiful drink and donate to an extremely worthy cause, one which is seeing homes built and fixed for the thousands of displaced residents of the city, come have an Elysian Fields Forever cocktail.
St. Bernard Project’s development manager, Elizabeth Eglé, who also spoke to the Examiner today, says funds they receive from drink sales will be used to help more people “return home.” While some may just imagine that the city is already back in business, Eglé says Katrina created a “patchwork” of damage throughout the city. Areas such as Gentilly and the Lower Ninth Ward have not nearly recovered fully.
So toast to NOLA, and enjoy an Elysian Fields, whose name was also chosen because in Greek mythology, it’s “the final resting place for the heroic and the virtuous,” says Westmoreland.
Learn more about St. Bernard Project. Feel free to donate directly on their site; and learn more about their upcoming 48-Hour Build, partnering with Entergy, to build four homes in just two days. Book your stay at Windsor Court Hotel, and don’t forget to stop and smell their beautiful pink roses in the lobby.