You'd probably have to go somewhere a little more upscale than Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge (3714 Main, no phone) to get a traditional New Orleans drink like a Sazerac cocktail or a Vieux Carré. But those places don't have Hustlers Brass Band and free homemade red beans and rice on Tuesdays. I spent Mardi Gras at Big Top this year with televised figure skating, clown decorations, bartender Big E's scorpion shot and the eight-piece band. (Most groups don't have a tuba player who can play a battle-scarred brass hulk of an instrument while ordering a Heineken at the bar.) Hustlers were fresh from a show at House of Blues, where they said the bigger room made it harder for them to hit their stride.
If you see the band live — and many more Houstonians should — Big Top is the place to do it. Just don't talk about football with trumpet player Dean. He's the only member of the band not originally from New Orleans; he doesn't give a shit about the Saints; and he'll be happy to remind you how many Super Bowl rings his hometown Steelers have (that'd be six), as well as how few their former rivals the Oilers won (that'd be zero). A great band playing to a half-empty room and a drunken (on our part, at least) revisiting of the Steelers-Oilers feud — it was a Houston-style Mardi Gras for sure.
2 ounces Myers's rum
1 ounce amaretto liqueur
1 ounce triple sec liqueur
Splash pineapple juice
Splash orange juice
Shake over ice and strain into shot glasses. This drink is usually served in a fishbowl-style glass with multiple straws — the recipe makes four shots. Big E shakes them up in the Pachinko Hut, which is the tiki bar in Big Top and Continental Club's shared backyard.
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