Drinks to Celebrate Mardi Gras!

By Suzanna U. RSS Tue, February 25, 2020

Every year, Mardi Gras brings together revelers in New Orleans and beyond to carry on the traditions of celebration that began in medieval times. Whether you take to the streets to join a parade or get fancy for a masquerade ball, chances are you’ll have a drink of choice in your hand.

Here at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center, we’ve gathered some of our favorite alcohol-free drinks that you can make with or without added spirits. We will also be offering A Healthier Happy Hour with food and health writer Joy Manning on Wednesday, March 18 at 6:00 p.m. Pre-registration is required; tickets are $0-$20 and include generous tastings of non-alcoholic drinks and plant-based bites. 

Manning shares this refreshing take on a taste of the tropics:


Hibiscus Fizz


  • 1 part hibiscus concentrate (recipe follows below)
  • 1 part Fever Tree tonic
  • 1 dash orange bitters (optional)
  • 1 thinly sliced lime wheel

Hibiscus Concentrate ingredients:

  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1/4 inch piece ginger, sliced thin
  • A few curls of lime zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice


  1. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. Off heat, add the hibiscus flowers, ginger slices, and lime zest.
  2. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a bottle, and add the lime juice. Chill.
  3. Place one large ice cube in a rocks glass. Add the hibiscus concentrate, tonic water, and bitters. Stir. Top with lime. Enjoy!

Looking for a more local flavor? Nutritionist Matthew Self shares his take on shrubs, which can be made using harvests from regional fruits and herbs.

Although there’s much room for improvisation in these recipes, you’ll want to include the essential shrub-component – the vinegared-syrup – which comprises the following:

  • Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Fruit
  • Herbs or other flavorings

These components are then heated together in a saucepan to dissolve the sugar and release the flavors of the fruit and other herbs or spices.


Old Fashioned Cornelius

We don’t know if there was an actual person named Cornelius who enjoyed the refreshing taste of Cornelian Cherry shrubs in the days of colonial America…but don’t you think there should be….

Cornelian cherry vinegar ingredients:

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup cornelian cherries
  • ½ Tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Drink ingredients:

  • 1 oz. cornelian cherry vinegar
  • 1 oz. bourbon (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp. fresh orange juice
  • 5-7 oz. club soda (or equivalent)
  • Pour over ice, stir, garnish with orange wedge and fresh thyme

Dark and Goumi

The name and color of this drink give way to the ominous, angry seas and devil-may-care pirate days of yore….it’s also just a corny play on a Dark and Stormy – goumi is just so fun to say!

Goumi vinegar ingredients:

  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ – ½  cup sugar
  • ½ cup goumi berries
  • ½  Tbsp. chopped, fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Drink ingredients:

  • 1 oz. goumi vinegar
  • 1 oz. rum, preferably dark (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 5-7 oz. ginger beer (or equivalent)
  • Pour over ice, stir, garnish with lime wedge


Honeyberry Bee’s Knees

With a name like honeyberry, it’s hard to pass up the chance on making a modified version of this Prohibition-era favorite featuring honey and lemon – history states that the flavors were added to less-than-ideal ‘bathtub gin’, to mask the flavor – what better to mask the flavor here than a little honeyberry vinegar!

Honeyberry vinegar ingredients:

  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ½ cup honeyberries
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Drink ingredients:

  • 1 oz. honeyberry vinegar
  • 1 oz. gin (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 5-7 oz. club soda (or equivalent)
  • Pour over ice, stir, garnish with a lemon wedge

Looking for additional inspiration? Peruse our catalog and your neighborhood library for nonfiction books about drinks which include information about the cultural, historical, and culinary approaches to your favorite beverages. Cheers!

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