Rum Stories: The History of the Hurricane

March 4, 2018

The history of the Hurricane cocktail is an interesting tale of supply and demand, inspiring what would become a legendary cocktail of the southern United States. The first version of the cocktail is believed to have been served at the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Queens, at the aptly named Hurricane Bar. Not much is known about that drink, other than speculation about it containing rum, and that it was served in a Hurricane glass.

Conversely, the most popular story of the cocktail’s creation can be traced directly to Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans. The facts surrounding the cocktail’s origin also mark the recipe as a time capsule that addressed the needs of the time. In the mid-1940s, shortly after World War II ended, bourbon and Scotch whisky were in short supply. Rum, however, was plentiful. It both floated on barges down the Mississippi River and arrived at the Port of New Orleans via ships from the Caribbean.

This glut in the market led spirit distributors to get creative. They offered so-called deals which required bars to buy multiple cases of rum for one case of whiskey. However, the popular cocktails of the time necessitated whiskey. Indeed, the overabundance of rum in their storerooms quickly got out of hand.

As the story goes, Benson “Pat” O’Brien and his partner Charlie Cantrell, practically swimming in rum, decided to develop a new cocktail to help use it up. Although, other sources state it was head bartender Louis Culligan who invented the cocktail. In either case, it was Culligan who published the original Hurricane recipe in the now defunct Cabaret magazine c. 1956.

Original Hurricane Cocktail

– 4 oz gold rum (an aged Jamaican rum is recommended)
– 2 oz lemon juice
– 2 oz Fassionola (a specialty passion fruit syrup)

Fill shaker 2/3 of the way with ice and add ingredients. Shake hard, then pour unstrained into a large Hurricane glass. Add more ice as needed. Orange slice and cherry garnish optional.

Fassionola / Photo Credit: Cocktail & Sons

The cocktail caught the attention of patrons not only for the flavor, but because of its signature Hurricane glass. This iconic glass was modeled after the shape of the Hurricane lantern, which quickly became a favored New Orleans souvenir. What the owners at Pat O’Brien’s did not count on was that the cocktail would become a New Orleans classic, one that is as popular today as the first years it was served.


Eventually Pat O’Brien’s bar, in what is seen by cocktail historians as a cost-cutting measure and to meet demand, changed from individual servings to a premixed concoction that could be mass-produced. This new formula made the cocktail a much brighter red than the original. Some consider it a much sweeter drink that sneaks up on the imbiber. When visiting New Orleans, a stop at Pat O’Brien’s patio garden is a must, but several other bars especially in the French Quarter offer their variations of this classic.

Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane

Single serving:

-2 oz light rum
-2 oz dark rum
-½ oz fresh lime juice
-2 oz Fassionola or passion fruit syrup
-1 tbsp. simple syrup
-1 tbsp. grenadine
-garnish: cherry and orange slice

Add all ingredients except garnish to a shaker with ice. Next, shake and strain into a Hurricane glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

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