Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Mother's Cocktail Dress

My parents, Duffy and Doris, enjoying cocktails sometime in the 50's, somewhere in New Orleans.

As promised, I reached into the back of my closet and pulled out two of my mother's cocktail dresses that I inherited. Both are beautiful LBD's, slim-fitting black crepe with black chiffon beaded necklines. They are the type of dress you can step into, zip up, slip into heels, dab on perfume and you're elegant and ready for a cocktail soiree. Best of all, the dresses fit me perfectly. My mother died when I was eight, so wearing something of hers has great meaning for me and helps me feel close to her.

Trying on one of my mother's cocktail dresses. 

Another of my mother's cocktail dresses, with a beaded
and chiffon bodice. 

Since my family is from New Orleans, you can imagine that cocktails have always been a highlight of fun gatherings. And being such an old traditional city, when I was of age (which can be younger in New Orleans than most cities) I went to the same nightclubs and bars as my grandparents and parents. We've been having cocktails at the Napoleon House for four generations!

My grandmother, Bootsie, and three of her sisters, Myrt, Sis and Dot, made an event of dressing up and going to lunch at the best New Orleans restaurants. They had a ritual of tailgating in the restaurant parking lot before going in. They'd find a shady spot to park, pull out a little ice chest and make Old-Fashioneds. In their thrifty French point-of-view, making their own drinks was a lot cheaper and better than what they got in a restaurant. As a little kid, I loved to be in the car with them, hearing their stories and  laughter. But after the second cocktail Myrt, the matriarch, would say "Ok girls, that's enough, you want to enjoy your lunch." And off we would go to enjoy a fabulous Trout Meuniere, fried soft-shell crab, or some other rich New Orleans specialty. 

Bootsie's Old-Fashioned
Add ice to fill rocks glass halfway, add 1 1/2 ounces bourbon, 1/2 ounce of Bootsie's simple syrup (homemade simple syrup with thin slices of orange peel added to marinate), 1 to 2 orange peel slices and a couple dashes Peychaud bitters and maybe a little water. Take a few sips and begin to tell stories about growing up on the bayou. 

For more stories about enjoying a cocktail or two in New Orleans, "In the Land of Cocktails" is a fun read with great drink recipes. It's written by Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan, proprietors of one of my favorite restaurants, Commander's Palace (where they serve 25 cent martinis at lunch!). Concerning the Sazerac, Ti gives this savvy advice "Do have just one, as you won't be nearly as attractive as you think you are after two." 


  1. What charming names your family all had! Love you in the LBD!

  2. Here's to two cocktails, of course! Can't wait to make your Aunties' Old Fashions. Such a fun post!

  3. Great post, great advice. Looking forward to the thought of a pre-DOT tailgate party next month!

  4. Your posts get better all the time, Lesa. You look fabulous in your mom's dress; it brought a tear to my eye thinking about you wearing that dress. On the other end of the emotion spectrum, I got a laugh out of picturing the aunties and Bootsie tailgating in the parking lot of one of the elegant N.O. eateries.