Podcast Summary:

“Anyway, I’ll Drink to That” is a Boozn Sam’s production, exploring the fun, quirky, and fascinating tales of drinks (The Hurricane Drink in this episode) that define culture, history and the world. Every drink has a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it…as true as I can. Hosted by Sam, from Boozn Sam’s. Saddle up with a good cocktail and give me a few minutes of your time for a mystery surrounding a drink that changed the world.

Episode 14 Details:

A famous media mogul, after fame and success in the US, finally met his match battling the fiesty Italians. He walked away a brusied and beaten, but with a drink to ease his pain. 

Transcript of Podcast:

*This is the entire podcast episode in written form. Do not read if you want the audio version to be spoiled.

Ed sat before the board and hard gulped. The faces looking back at him were all angry. Well, all except for Pat’s face, which he didn’t understand. He knew their anger was misplaced too, and due to a misunderstanding that he needed to clarify. The issue had been going on for years, and, with no end in sight, there wasn’t much Ed could do but appeal to those gathered around him and hope they’d understand.  He doubted they would.

Ed harbored his own anger and resentment too, as is usually the case. The stomped on like to pass on the beating to others. Hurting people, hurt people. Only, for Ed, he couldn’t pass along the whooping he wanted to give to anyone. Henry was the source of all his pain, and Henry was too far away to face retribution.

Besides, it wasn’t like it was Henry’s fault either. He was only the mastermind behind the current problem, a problem that led, out of necessity, the creation of a completely unrelated drink, which sells by the hundreds of thousands every year, in one very popular place alone. 

He’d followed Henry closely these past ten years. A man in his position, at this time in history, had to. There was too much happening throughout the world to not pay attention. Things that had never happened before, ever, were occurring. The world was being reshaped. War had hung on the horizon like a thick, dark cloud for many years until it exploded in violent fashion over in Europe when Hitler decided the world wasn’t a big enough place for all to exist.

So, he took his pride and his prejudices and he sent them off to death camps, as he blitzkrieg his way through Europe amidst a shower of bombs and bullets. Bombs, the explosives, was the culprit here. 

Or, became a culprit when Henry took over as Secretary of War at the ask of Theodore Roosevelt. At the time, Henry said this:

“we didn’t have enough [explosive] powder in the whole United States to last the men we now have over overseas for anything like a day’s fighting. And, what is worse, we didn’t have powder [explosive] plants or facilities to make it; they had all been destroyed after the last war.”

Neither side realized how much explosives they would need for this war, or, that, the use of explosives would become a primary strategy in World War 2. One popular explosive required mixing Toluene, Nitric Acid and Sulphuric Acid together. 

But, the resulting product was…dirty… for lack of a better word. It wasn’t a clean explosive. 

Science presented a solution, but not a solution that people like Ed, or the board that looked to Ed for direction, appreciated. After all, they had businesses to run, and without product, they had no businesses. 

There is a process called recrystallization where an impure substance is heated up until a saturation point is reached with another substance. Then, when the, now combined, liquids cool, crystals form.

Filter out the crystals. 

Dispose of the liquid, which contains the impurities that bound to the added substance.

What you’re left with is pure crystals. 

A clean product. 

A product called TNT that most certainly goes boom. 

And a metaphorical boom was also occurring for Ed, as he looked into the angry faces of those around him, who were listening to what he was saying, and the process of making explosives that he was describing, but were angry none the less.

He wiped sweat from his brow and paused. The room was so quiet you could hear the strike of a match. And in that moment, Ed kinda wished a match would strike, and blow this who meeting out of here. Because he wasn’t finished yet. 

When no one asked questions, he gulped, and continued. For a second his eyes met the eyes of Pat, who smiled, with a look of unconcern. If only everyone could be as calm as Pat, he thought, and wondered what sort of secret Pat had up his sleeve.

“You see,” Ed said, fumbling with his sport coat, “their product was being siphoned for the war effort, to make bombs, not for consumption by the military. Furthermore, the shortage is likely to continue to be real as long as the war lasts.”

He gulped, waiting for the backlash, but he was met with something far worse. Indifferent stares that he couldn’t read. More sweat pouring out of him, and more heat rolling off of his hot chest and red face. Still, he continued on and explained another problem that would certainly not help their cause in any way. 

In addition to the process of recrystallization that was needed to create TNT, this substance was also needed to create a better version of a chemical called Butadiene, which was essential for the war effort…because it was used to produce tires and other plastic resins. And, do you know what the military was going through a lot of during World War 2? Tires.

A groan went through those gathered and the temperature int he room seemed to tick up a few more degrees. The seersucker suit Ed wore wasn’t doing him any good. He looked at the faces of those gathered. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. More Anger. And Peace. 

Pat seemed unconcerned. If anything, he seemed… okay with the situation. As if, whatever trick he had up his leave was lighting a new pathway to success that none of the others had discovered. 

“But, it’s 1944 and we’ve been without any new production here in the US for 2 years. Surely we can’t be expected to continue on like this much longer.” Someone shouted.

“We’ve got businesses to run.”

It’s the war effort.” Ed mumbled and shrugged. How could he be expected to change the tide of an entire nation, and didn’t it seem selfish to demand such a thing for such, at a time like this, felt inconsequential in comparison to all the lives being lost overseas?

“It’s our lives.” Someone retorted.

And from there the anger only rose, until all of the frustrated owners voiced their objections, despite knowing that the shortage came from a good spot. 

All voiced there anger, expect for one. Pat. Because Pat knew that if the world hands you coconuts, you make a Pina colada. Well, not a Pina colada exactly, but something along those lines. 

Ed pulled at his shirt collar and shrugged once more. “What do you want me to do about it?” He finally asked angrily. “It’s not like I’m the one taking all your alcohol.”

And he wasn’t. The great shortage of alcohol in the US during WW2 was due to a directive from the acting Secretary of War Henry Stimson, appointed by Theodore Roosevelt, who saw the need to dramatically ramp up production of explosives and essential war time materials like tires. 

Alcohol was essential for both. 

For the production of TNT and the process of recrystallization, whereby the impure mixture of Toluene, Nitric Acid and Sulphuric Acid, which formed the basis of TNT, was mixed with alcohol, heated, and then allowed to cool. The crystals created upon cooling left behind their impurities in the remaining liquid substance. 

And TNT production in WW2 was a big deal.

3 millions tons of it were exploded during the war.

Rubber was the same way, and the United States dealt with natural rubber shortages the entire war…

Which lead them to invest heavily in synthetic rubber production, which required a chemical that could be made better and cheaper with alcohol.

For all in the room, expect Pat, this was a big blow.

Pat, on the other hand, had something the others did not. 

At this time, with the extreme alcohol shortages hitting hard, distributors required the purchase of a different type of liquor, a much more prevalent type of liquor that could be more easily imported. So, to get the good stuff, the drinks like scotch and whiskey that people really wanted, a fine establishment had to buy a ton of other liquor in addition.

For many this was a deadly blow, because the liquor purchased was not desirable by any stretch of the imagination.

But, Pat stretched his creatively a little bit further. Like he had to survive the prohibition years not too long ago. After all, him and his business partner had, only a few years prior in 1940, opened a new establishment just down the street from his prohibition speakeasy. 

Then, two years later, they were dealing with this. So, Pat employed every ounce of resourcefulness he had and came up with a sweet, fruity drink that utilized the surplus of liquor distributors were pushing. 

He found a clever name, a name after the container that he served the drink out of. 

Still, that wasn’t enough. He had to go further. And he did. By taking an old time concept and reinvent it into a format that still lives on today with great popularity. 

So, when Pat looked around the room at his fellow bar owners, he wasn’t worried. He’d found a way to survive the hard times and adapt. And a way that would, fast forward over 85 years later, result in over 500,000 of these drinks being served up every year at the establishment that still bears his name, the same establishment he started.

The establishment where you can find the only thimble tray player in the world still alive today. Alvin, who has been tapping thimbles stuck to his fingers on the bottom side of an aluminum tray filled with quarters to create a rhythmic, unique percussive instrument…like his predecessor, Eddie. 

Alvin has been there almost 45 years. And Eddie, well he played there for almost 7 decades, until he drowned in Hurricane Katrina not too long ago at the age of 95. 

But, this bar having the only musician of this type in the world in attendance isn’t even the most famous part of this establishment. 

Nor is it the two pianos, which face each other and allow two pianists to duel it out in a, what we consider, classic dueling piano scenario….a concept that Pat himself also invented by taking the 1890’s ragtime piano duel concept and allowing for crowd participation with song requests….which is the version of dueling pianos that we know today.

Still, set aside the musician who plays thimbles on the bottom of a tray, cast away the first version of the modern dueling piano, and let’s look to the most important contribution that Pat made at Pat O’Brien’s, which still stands in New Orleans today. 

The invention of a cocktail with the rum that flowed fast and free from the Caribbean during WW2, when good scotch and whiskey were hard to come by, and people like Ed Dauphin, Chairman of the Southwest Louisiana Liquor Industry Board, had to explain to a room full of angry people the importance of alcohol in the war effort to make explosives and synthetic plastic.

The Hurricane Drink

Pat took 4 oz of Caribbean rum, and added 2 oz of lemon juice and 2 oz of passionfruit syrup to create a bright red drink that he served out of a glass shaped like a flower vase, or, more specifically A Kerosene Lamp… 

That kerosene lamp carries a nickname that gave this drink it’s name:

The hurricane lamp

And the rum drink Pat called the hurricane,

You can still drink this drink today at Pat O’Briens, and many other places. 

The next time you do, remember the resourcefulness of a man named Pat during a very trying time in world history, and a drink named the Hurricane Drink, which also gave us 

Dueling pianos

And the only living musician still around making music by tapping thimbles on the back of a tray. 

Anyway… I’ll drink to that.