By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 07, 2011 at 5:05 AM Photography: Andy Tarnoff

The carnival season is upon us and while Mardi Gras fun won't be difficult to find in area bars, Distil, 722 N. Milwaukee St., will celebrate its first Fat Tuesday with some hand-crafted cocktails, says manager Mike Edler.

"We'll do some fun things, run some specials," says Edler, who did a long stint at Hi-Hat before joining the team that opened Distil last year. But, he says, in keeping with the lounge's vibe, the party will be low-key.

But don't expect the drinks to be.

Edler recently showed me how he makes three New Orleans classics: the Hurrcane, the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz. All three are satisfying quaffs dressed in bright colors (even if in the latter case that color is white).

The Hurricane is believed to have been invented in the eponymous New York bar in 1939, but Edler says the rum-based bevvy became popular in New Orleans thanks to a barkeep's surplus of rum.

"It was made popular at Pat O'Brien's," he says, squeezing the juice from a lime to complete the simple concoction.

"Back in the day whiskeys and scotches were really hard to get but rum was being imported through New Orleans, so basically you had to buy copious amounts of rum in order to be able to purchase the scotches they allocated. so he wanted to figure out a way to find that (rum) along."

The Hurricane
1.5 ounces each of light and dark rum
1 ounce passion fruit syrup
.75 ounce of lime juice
Combine, shake and serve

The Sazerac, meanwhile is a new world take on an old world creation. Originally cognac based, rye whiskey was substituted when phylloxera devasted Europe's grapevines. It became so popular in New Orleans that it was proclaimed the city's official drink three years ago.

The Sazerac
2 ounces Sazerac
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of Angostura
6 dashes of Peychaud's
Muddle together and stir
Strain into a rock glass that has been rinsed with absinthe
Twist a lemon peel over the top and rim the edge of the glass with it

My personal favorite was the Ramos Gin Fizz, a frothy white concoction that incorporates heavy cream and an egg white and looks like a glass of milk.

"The call it a breakfast drink," says Edler.

But looks can be deceiving. While it looks like milk, it's not as viscous as it appears and the taste is crisper and more refreshing than a milkshake would be.

Ramos Gin Fizz
2 ounces Small's gin
1 ounce simply syrup
.5 ounce lemon juice
.5 ounce lime juice
2 ounces heavy cream
1 egg white
1 dash of orange flower water
Mix and dry shake. Reshake with ice and a splash of seltzer. Strain into a hi-ball, top off with selzer and garnish with an orange rind.

These work-intensive drinks will run you around $11-$12, but will likely be on special next week for Mardi Gras, says Edler.

But don't feel like you have to make the bartenders work hard. If you prefer a beer or a glass of wine, you can getthose, too, at Distil.

"That's the one thing I wanted to make sure of," says Edler, "that we weren't gonna exclude anybody. Some people have this holier than thou attitude. If they want to experience something new, let's do that. We're only here to give you what you want."


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.