Mardi Gras is just around the corner and in the spirit of all things festive, I was given an assignment: Go drink. Then write about it. What? Finally, something I can do! Don’t argue with the boss, right? I took the task eagerly and set my sights on the perfect carnival drink. But, with day-long parades, block parties, and bouncing from one group to the next, this concoction had to be portable, sustainable and stay cold.
Enter the frozen daiquiri. This delightful drink came out of necessity. When other forms of alcohol were rationed during WWII, rum was readily available, thanks to trade agreements with Latin American. Rum-based, early daiquiris were poured over ice and became quite fashionable in the 1940s.
Probably the most popular drink among revelers on Bourbon Street is the famous New Orleans Hurricane. But, since the Crescent City is over there and I’m over here, I set off on a serious journey to find the frozen Lake City equivalent.
FUNKY MONKEY DAIQUIRIS
My first stop was Funky Monkey Daiquiris on Prien Lake Road. I’ve heard about their signature drink, “The Category 5 Hurricane” and in the mood for a bit of monkey business, I thought I should try it.
Owner Nate Arnold met me at the counter and claims his Cat 5 to be the strongest daiquiri in town. Feeling adventurous, I ordered the large! The drink was inspired after a trip to New Orleans with his wife who wanted to bring the classic Hurricane back to the Lake Area, but with a twist.
“We use five different types of rum in our Cat 5, from light to dark” said Arnold. Yes, that’s right. A Category 1 has one shot of rum, a Category 3, three shots and so on. In a cup the size of a bowling pin, bartender Alyssa Broussard gave me all five, grinning cheek to cheek. With this massive serving of frozen goodness before me, chuckles filled the room. “I’ll check on you in about 20 minutes” said Arnold.
While sipping my drink at the tropical depression stage, a good friend of mine, Stratton Doyle tells me a story of how he once out-drank an Englishman in Europe: “Ah, you’re a Yank? You Yanks can’t drink worth a (expletive),” said the Englishman. “I’m from Louisiana, man. We’re the most drinkingest state in the country,” Doyle replied.
The bet was on. Loser pays the tab. “Thanks for the free drinks, mate” said the Englishman, sure of himself for the win. Pint for pint, shot for shot, Doyle and the Englishman went on until the Brit was on the floor and the boy from the bayou state, barely holding on to his chair, proclaimed his victory “See, I told you we could drink, you (expletive)!” Doyle said proudly.
Since this was “research,” I drew lines down my cup from Cat 1 to Cat 5 and monitored my progress, or decline, so to speak. Let’s just say the drink made landfall in my brain just after Cat 3. Bartender Hannah Breaux, creator of another Funky Monkey original, “The Jumper,” coined the term “Instant Amnesia” for my Cat 5. Good thing I took notes. Enjoying every last drop, I somehow made it to the bottom of my cup. Arnold did come back to check on me, so I was told. The Category 5 combines a classic Hurricane mix with five different types of rum.
You know there’s some serious booze in there, but the sweetness of the mix helps to offer a smooth finish to this amazingly delightful drink. If you want a lot of bang for your buck try a Category 5 Hurricane. With something for everyone the Monkey offers 40 different daiquiris to choose from.
One cannot do proper analysis without visiting the first frozen drink establishment in Lake Charles, the Taj Mahal of daiquiris, The Frosty Factory. Owner Dorothy Branch or “Miss Dot” as everyone calls her, opened her business back in 1983 on Prien Lake Road. The Frosty later moved to Ryan Street in 1987 and in 2002, settled across from the McNeese Football stadium on Common Street where it stands today.
It was karaoke night, the place was packed and I made my way to the bar. “What can I get you?” Bartender Morgan German said with a smile. “I have no idea. What’s popular?” I replied. That’s all it took as German proceeded to serve me sample after sample from more than 25 different varieties. “This is called a Popsicle,” she said, bringing over a favorite among the regulars. But, so was the Monkey Shine, which tasted like bananas, and the Jungle Juice, and Ruff Stuff and the Bayou Rum, with spiced rum straight from the Lacassine distillery.
Then German gave me something called the Banana Split, which was a combination of the Monkey Shine and their Pina Colada. Great taste without all the guilt! Sample after sample kept coming and I kept tasting. I was amazed at just how much she knew about every frozen drink along the bar. Eventually, I settled on the Kajun Kooler, which had rum and brandy and came highly recommended by Miss Dot. This was a great drink and after a long day, it helped to take the edge off.
With plenty of pool tables, shuffle board, karaoke and dozens of drinks to choose from, there’s lots to do at The Frosty. You’ll also find a knowledgeable staff, plenty of room and friendly patrons. I will definitely be back.
My final stop in the quest for the perfect daiquiri led me to Coolers Icehouse on Ryan Street. A smoke-free establishment, Coolers is a great place to bring a date who doesn’t want smoke in her hair. But, if you need a cigarette there’s plenty of space on the front deck outside to mix and mingle. Once inside, there were folks everywhere. A solo guitarist provided live music at a good volume allowing people to chat away about their day.
At the bar, I met the husband and wife team of Colby and Crystal LaVergne. These two worked well together slanging dranks for the crowd and keeping everyone hydrated and happy.
Some of their popular frozen drinks like the Cajun Storm, Walk Me Home, Liquid Marijuana, and the Cooler’s Greenade came highly recommended, but Colby insisted on one in particular. “You gotta try the Swamp Thing.” This was awesome. Hints of raspberry, margarita, and hurricane along with melon to top it off were all working in perfect harmony in my cup. The color was tomato red, the taste was amazing and it was a joy to drink. But I’ll have to come back for that Greenade and perhaps the Cajun Storm.
Nestled along Ryan Street Midtown, Coolers is also a great place to catch the Merchants’ Parade, Children’s Parade or come Fat Tuesday, the Krewe of Krewes’ Parade.
If variety is the spice of life, then frozen daiquiris are the fuel that funnels the soul. Try them all, I say. Whether it’s Funky Monkey Daiquiris, The Frosty Factory or Coolers Icehouse you’ll surely find your drink of choice this Mardi Gras season and maybe you too can out-drink an Englishman. Cheers!
By Ron Muniz