When it comes to the most classic way to finish off a fine meal in New Orleans, there is nothing more iconic that the theatrical and storied brandy and coffee drink, Café Brûlot. Reportedly, it was either created (or made popular) by pirate Jean Lafitte, who made the drink during his swashbuckling days here in New Orleans as his pals pickpocketed an enrapt audience. Add in legendary fashion, voodoo queen Marie Laveau was said to have suggested the addition of cloves, that when glowing acted as "the eyes to the spirit world."
While the cocktail is available at several of the Quarter's most famous grande dames, the presentation at Arnaud's has long been a classic. Here now, Archie Casbarian, co-proprietor of Arnaud's, discusses the iconic Cafe Brulot (and also his love of Doberge Cake). And make sure to scroll through the gallery, to see the (albeit abbreviated) story of Cafe Brulot from Arnaud's maître d'hôtel, James Homrighausen.
When does Café Brûlot really date back to?
I'll say this, the origin is in dispute. Other places lay claim. It's one of those wonderful recipes, that there's no explanation where they came from. Regardless, they're still good and we still serve them today.
Who came up with your recipe?
The actual recipe itself has been served here in its present form since 1978 when my father took over. The basic ingredients are the same, and you can take some liberties with the citrus or whatever amount of spices, depending on your taste. I think the recipe itself probably goes back... I'll say this... coffee has been enjoyed by mankind for a long time, and as long as there's been coffee, there's been people who thought it was a good idea to put alcohol in coffee as well. In one form or another, and certainly with the spice trade in the islands and Caribbean and into the colonies and New Orleans pre-dating all that, I think it was just sort of a natural convergence of these various tastes, sort of like our food and cuisine down here.
Why do you think it's still popular?
There's a lot of drinks that are booze and coffee, so it's got to be a little bit more than that. Partially, it's delicious... and there's no better way to end a meal. I'd say of all the coffee drinks, just the whole grand show of it all, is a great thing to witness. Just don't get too close to the fire.
What is another of your favorite classic dishes in New Orleans?
Doberge Cake is my favorite New Orleans treat. In its current form, it's a New Orleans-ism, but I think it's a take on another style of cake done here. I don't know of people enjoying Doberge in other places. Whenever we have a birthday (with my family) my uncle always gets one, our chef does a variation. I like straight up classic with the chocolate. People do lemon and different flavors, actually there's an outfit Debbie Does Doberge. Grocery stores do 'em. Gambino's did 'em. Everybody's got a version. Just as anything else in New Orleans, everybody's got the one that they like. I find that I'm pretty agreeable to any version.