Cats can’t fetch a Frisbee. They can’t sit on command. They can’t go on walks. But they can inspire cocktails. At Loa, in New Orleans, there are two cocktails for which the bartender Alan Walter has his cat, Tammy Why-Not, to thank.
The first is the Jean Lafitte. After Walter brought home an armful of Spanish moss—the ghostly kind that hangs from trees in Louisiana’s bayous—his cat, Tammy, went crazy. “She was laying on it and treating it like it was some sort of drug,” he says. “That sparked my interest.” Initially, Walter teamed up with his friends at California’s Tempus Fugit distillery, who attempted to make a tincture with the moss. “It tasted a lot like an olive,” he says. “In the world of drinks, that’s not necessarily an exciting thing.” So Walter tried something different—he made and reduced a moss tea, which resulted in an earthy, green tea-like flavor. “It shows how something will give off a certain hostility through one process and not through another,” he says.
Walter makes a syrup with the tea and mixes it with vanilla-tinged Matusalem white rum, pisco, citrus juice, pulverized dried lime and fennel to make the Jean Lafitte. The drink is served up, with dried lime and fennel powder lining half the rim, and a lemon twist. “We sell that drink by the dozens,” Walter says. “And not just for its curiosity value.”
The second and more obviously cat-related cocktail is the Here Kitty Kitty. Served in a small bowl, which resembles something you might pour milk into for a cat, the cocktail came about after Walter infused Metaxa (Greek brandy) with catnip on a whim. “We think of it as being in cats’ toys, but an herbalist wouldn’t think it was that odd for humans to use it,” Walter says. A member of the mint family, catnip is credited with alleviating tooth pain, lowering fevers and aiding digestion. Walter shakes the slightly bitter herbal brandy with a small amount of cream and crème de violette, then strains it into an absinthe-rinsed bowl. “It tastes really good—like a brandy milk punch,” Walter says. He garnishes the drink—which patrons can drink either by lifting the bowl to their lips or by leaning down and lapping it up like the cat that inspired it—with an extra-long lemon twist. “Sort of like something to distract a cat,” he says. “I didn’t want to take the joke too far with a piece of string.” While Walter isn’t going to offer his cat a bowl of the cocktail, he believes she would happily drink it if she were allowed.