When most Americans think about Mardi Gras, they think of the epic Bacchanal that takes place in New Orleans every year. Since most places in the U.S. are not New Orleans, many folks let Mardi Gras flash by without much thought, but it doesn’t have to be this way. After all, Mardi Gras is an excellent excuse to party, and it would be a shame to let a perfectly good drinking opportunity slip by.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to enjoy Mardi Gras from wherever. For help, we’ve enlisted Laurie Haspel, president and owner of, the legendary men’s clothier based in the Big Easy.
The history and traditions behind Mardi Gras are utterly fascinating and absolutely worth learning about. Plus, spouting a few fun facts is a great way to break the ice at Mardi-Gras-related events. The modern celebrations of Carnival and Mardi Gras are believed to stem from ancient Roman festivals like Lupercalia and Saturnalia. Then, just as now, revelers engaged in all sorts of merry debauchery.
Although these celebrations were originally pagan, many believe they were co-opted by Catholicism and became an excuse for otherwise tight-laced folks to go absolutely nuts before giving up their vices for Lent. Technically, Mardi Gras is at the tail end of the Carnival celebration, which begins on the day of Epiphany (January 6). You can learn more about Carnival and
Mardi Gras is an excellent excuse to wear a dapper and/or crazy outfit in public. Think of
Oh, by the way, Haspel invented the modern seersucker suit in 1909.
Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to go with a costume, too. Haspel tells an excellent Mardi Gras story involving a costume:
One year I decided to dress in full camouflage. During one of the Mardi Gras day parades, the theme of one particular float was camouflage. As soon as they spotted me sitting on top of this ladder, they BOMBARDED me with beads as their way of “thanking” me for wearing camo. I received hundreds of beads — and a few bruises along the way!
If you ask us for advice of any kind, we’ll probably recommend that you have a drink. That said, Mardi Gras is an especially appropriate excuse to get your drink on — and on a weeknight, no less. If you happen to be in New Orleans for the festivities, Haspel recommends as follows: “Grab a frozen daiquiri in the French Quarter on your way to watch a downtown parade, or perhaps a hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s. Everyone comes prepared with a ‘roadie’ (AKA ‘one for the road’).”
If you aren’t in New Orleans, you can always order a sweet, cold drink at your favorite bar. Or, you could throw a Mardi-Gras-themed get-together and serve your own festive drinks. Here’s a tasty spin on milk punch — a N’Orleans favorite — compliments of mixologist Cameron Dale from Cafe El Presidente in New York City.
Benito Juarez Recipe
- 1.5 oz. rum
- 0.5 oz. sherry
- 2 oz. horchata
- 0.5 oz. rum cream
- Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
- Shake and pour over ice.
- Top with cinnamon.
Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” so you know food has to be involved somehow. Here’s what Haspel has to say about
For dessert, consider getting a traditional king cake for yourself and your fellow revelers. These bad boys are typically dry and doughnut-esque, with swirls of cinnamon inside and multi-colored sugar on top. A king cake usually has a bean or plastic baby figure baked into it to symbolize baby Jesus (we’re not making this up). Whoever gets the slice with the bean or baby is the big winner. What do they win? Maybe the privilege of buying the next round of drinks, or perhaps they get to bring a king cake for the next party. You decide! Most stores in New Orleans carry pre-made king cakes this time of year.
Many men attend Mardi Gras celebrations expecting to see nudity. However, nowhere is it written that folks must expose themselves at
The point is, you should try your best to remain respectful during your revelry. If you happen to give beads to a young lady, don’t expect to see her bosom, and for the love of Bacchus, don’t solicit any flashings. If a lady flashes you without being prompted, well, then that’s just a Mardi Gras miracle. Tip your cap, surrender a few beads, and carry on.
No matter where you are, you’re bound to find some kind of Mardi Gras celebration. If somehow there aren’t any organized
- A brief history of Mardi Gras – find out how this tradition with beads started
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