It’s a rite of passage for first-timers to New Orleans to have a hurricane at Pat O’Brien's.
The bright red potent punch, served in a glass that resembles a hurricane lantern, has been served at the bar since the mid-1940s when in order to purchase one case of bourbon or scotch, bar owners had to purchase as many as 50 cases of rum. Pat O’Brien concocted the fruity recipe, topped with orange and cherry, and had a hit. O’Brien’s bar, though, predates the drink, to Dec. 3, 1933, two days before Prohibition was lifted. O’Brien, reportedly a former bootlegger, opened a bar in the 600 block of St. Peter Street.
The site, a former theater dating to 1791, had been a speakeasy during Prohibition, with the password, “storm’s brewing.” O’Brien partnered with Charlie Cantrell, and the two bought the building at 718 St. Peter St., which after $75,000 in renovation, opened on Dec. 24, 1942. Even before hurricanes were served, people were drawn to the bar for the piano playing, with headliner “Mercedes” who was a celebrity of sorts in the French Quarter. Later, the concept of dueling pianos brought in even more patrons to the bar. Today, the bar also features a 4,000-square-foot courtyard with a flaming fountain.