Close your eyes when you order the Black Widow Martini at Toups' Meatery: nothing on the nose, and a quiet fruity palate. In fact - eyes still closed - you're beachside and the drink in your hand is a Cape Cod, spiked with raspberries.
The reality? You're sharing a New Orleans sidewalk with a skeleton priest and the sonic reverb from Voodoo Fest. Open your eyes; your cocktail is black as night, black as coal.
For another week only, Larry Nguyen is pouring the Black Widow Martini at Toups', which is gearing up for its first Voodoo crowd (at lunch on Friday, it's metal kids with fried hair, and strolling locals).
Larry wrote the recipe, which pairs vodka with a delicate, not too sweet, raspberry liqueur, and white cranberry juice (milder and less tart than the red variety, he explains).
It's over lunch that Larry tells me about his Halloween specialty. Of course I want to try it right away.
The thing is, the Black Widow Martini is meant to showcase Blavod vodka, made ghoulish by black catechu, a Burmese tree extract that naturally dyes the vodka but leaves no added flavors.
And the truck bearing the Blavod has just broken down in the French Quarter.
What to do? Larry quick-drops food coloring into Absolut, and stirs up a Black Widow. He assures me that it's a solid flavor match for the Blavod.
Beware, though - this inky drink may fool the eye, but its refreshing, fruit-forward taste (and hidden spirits) makes it dangerous. Too many, and you'll feel more like a merry widow - with a little mayhem on her mind.
Toups' Meatery, 845 N. Carrollton, 252.4999
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