James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

The Best Damn Gumbo I Have Ever Had

The Best Damn Gumbo I Have Ever Had

This week, illustrator Daisy Dee is sharing dispatches from a week spent drinking in New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail.

Frozen Irish Coffee at the Erin Rose, 5 pm

It’s time for the Tales of the Cocktail tradition: Frozen Irish coffee at the Erin Rose, the unofficial cocktail of the convention. It’s a sweet, milky slush with a brandy base that lives in the industrial-strength daiquiri machines at the back of the bar. It’s garnished with coffee grounds, which are hands-down my favorite part of the drink. I slurp those up first and then hope they aren’t stuck in my teeth when I smile.

Sitting in the back room of the Erin Rose brings me back to a late night, two years prior, on a Tuesday around the same time of year. I am sitting with some friends after returning from an excellent show at the Maple Leaf. We’re drinking frozen Irish coffees, debating whether to walk to Verti Marte for po’boys or go to bed hungry. I’m barely drunk, but desperately hungry, almost too hungry to walk. But then, like a human room of requirement…

“NEVER FEAR, GUMBO MAN IS HERE,” a booming voice calls as a stranger bursts into the back room.

Brand Partner

Roads & Kingdoms
+
Trivago

Hotel Picks

Hotel Mazarin

As close as you’d want to be to the action, but the Mazarin keeps it quaint with a languid courtyard and conveniences like free breakfast and wi-fi.

Le Pavillon Hotel

Close to everything, but with enough of that old world charm—high ceilings! crown molding!—to allow you to retro-relax in style when you’re done exploring.


My eyes light up, and he catches my excitement and walks over to me. There is no gumbo in his hands, only a phone on which he shows me photos from his Instagram account, which is filled with pretty women kissing his cheeks. “Happy, satisfied customers,” he says.

“How much is it?” I ask. Eight dollars for chicken and andouille, ten for seafood, which includes chicken, andouille, shrimp, and blue crab.

I hear the words “shrimp and blue crab” and want it desperately, but I’m still hesitant. I haven’t seen any product, but I’m stupid with hunger so I ask the bartender, who is quietly watching the whole scene play out, “Can I trust this man?”

He nods dismissively.

Looking back on it, I might have done the same if I were him just to see how things would unfold.

But I am convinced. I fish a $10 bill out of my bag and hand it to my new friend. He walks out of the bar and my friends all stare at me blankly, shocked that I could be such a sucker. Only a few minutes pass, but it feels like forever.

I question my life choices.

My gumbo hero returns with the spoils. A steaming styrofoam cup filled with gumbo, generously chunky with all the promised ingredients. Spiced and a little earthy, rich and dark and so satisfying. I want to kiss his cheeks like the girls in his photos, but he has disappeared as abruptly as he’d arrived.

I don’t know if it’s the story surrounding the experience or just the fact that I was ravenous. But it was the best damn gumbo I have ever had.

Up Next

In Drinking, as in Life, End With Bad Wordplay

Featured City Guides