In this week's episode, Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) unveils his latest plan: A tribute to classic R&B artists. Where better to make the announcement than Arnaud’s French 75, a classic French Quarter bar in a classic old-line, Creole restaurant? That’s where Chris Hannah holds forth. He’s a prince among New Orleans bartenders, knowledgeable, personable and professional. We will have three of his recipes in the upcoming 'Treme' cookbook, but when Chris told me about the Rebennack cocktail, I knew we had to feature it here. It’s named for Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, a frequently featured performer on 'Treme.'
As we talked across the bar, Chris told me about another connection he has to our show, through Clarke Peters (Big Chief Albert Lambreaux).
The Rebennack was originally a cocktail I'd make for my flask to take out on the town. During Mardi Gras of 2010 I happened to be carrying this flask cocktail at Krewe De Vieux. Dr. John was King of Krewe de Vieux that year and I was excited to run up to him and yell, "throw me something, Mister!" When I did, I was like a kid ... things stood still; he looked down and threw me a cup. I took a sip from the flask after he went by and decided to name the concoction the "Rebennack" and serve it to guests at my bar. Two years later it was in the Wall Street Journal.
I lived in Baltimore during 'The Wire,' 1999 thru 2003. I loved 'The Wire,' and loved seeing the characters hanging around the city while they were filming. Then I moved to New Orleans—well, I lived through the hurricane and came back to New Orleans. One night I happened to be working the 'Treme' premiere party and I was able to talk to Clarke Peters, who starred as Lester Freamon on 'The Wire.' I walked up to him and told him I had lived 'The Wire,' from '99 to '03 and loved it. Those were the roughest years for Baltimore and that’s why 'The Wire' existed. I mentioned I moved to New Orleans—and then we had Hurricane Katrina. I thought he'd like the correlation of why and how we had been hanging out in the same cities over the past 10 years. I could tell he did, because after shaking my hand he said, "So you're the guy? Hey, do me a favor: Move to Hawaii."