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  • Brian Maxwell

Day 32: Cu Defio


"We won't back down, down on the ground. Oh how I love to hear him call Indian Red"

It's the 32nd day of quarantine, so I just wanted to thank you for once again joining me on this wild ride. Things sure have been different for the past month. People are out of work, people are sick and dying, but it's absolutely inspiring to see the spirit to help each other alive and well. I thought it would be good to include a cocktail today which makes me think of carrying on through tough times and celebrating at all costs.


Visitors to New Orleans may notice groups of brightly-colored and flamboyant costumes resembling Native American attire worn during Carnival. These are the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans. Not actual indigenous tribes, these groups carry on a tradition with roots dating back to the 1700s. During the dark days of our nation, when slavery was still a very common part of southern life, runaway slaves were taken in, protected, and hidden by the indigenous people of the continent in the Louisiana area. Though slavery became abolished, the people of Louisiana never forgot the kindness which was shown to them.


When African Americans were unfairly banned from mainstream Mardi Gras Krewes, they created their own celebration in their own neighborhoods. They donned elaborate costumes as a tribute to the people who once showed kindness to them, at a time when few in the area would. Each tribe has positions among its members such as Big Chief, Big Queen, Spy Boy and Flag Boy. Each position holds an individual responsibility in the tribe, at one time, warning the rest of the tribe of danger. Spending the entire year sewing their costumes, Mardi Gras Indians go to now end to create the most over the top costumes, trying to make their tribe the prettiest of them all.


With such a rich history behind them, I always enjoyed making cocktails in tribute to the Indians, and the flamboyance and swagger they know so well. At the beginning and end of gatherings, it's tradition for them to sing, or chat, the song "Indian Red." It begins with the phrase "Madi cu defio, en dans dey, en dans dey." This phrase comes from the old Creole song "M'alle couri dans deser" which roughly means "I am going out into the wilderness." A great drink for someone wearing a heavy suit in the Louisiana sun needs to be refreshing, yet not too potent, otherwise we might end up with some passed out Indians on Mardi Gras Day. Just for extra measure, the cocktail itself needed to end with fire of course!




Cu Defio

1oz Espadin Mezcal

1oz Muscadet Wine

.5oz Falernum

1oz Cucumber Syrup

.5oz Passion Fruit Syrup

.5oz Lemon Juice

.5oz Lime Juice

3 dashes Absinthe

(Overproof Jamaican Rum)

(Peychaud's Bitters)


Large Snifter crusted in Tajin Spice

Whip shake and pour unstrained.

Top with crushed ice.

Top with Peychaud's Bitters (because New Orleans duh!)

Garnish with mint sprigs and orange rosette.

Finish with Overproof Jamaican Rum in a spray bottle ignited for a high ester caramelized aroma.

Throw this one in a go-cup and take it for a stroll when the world reopens. There's nothing quite like a walking cocktail to make you feel like everything is going to be fine. Well I suppose that's enough babbling for me today. Enjoy your Cu Defio, I'll see you tomorrow, and keep shaking!

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