All hail Rex, or Bacchus, or Punxsutawney Phil, or whomever is responsible for sending us a potentially early spring this year. Time for a party. And what better way to celebrate the annual return of the earth’s fertility, or whatever, just your love for humankind in a broader sense, by letting the good times roll with a Cajun-inspired feast? Time for a Mardi Gras party. Bead throwing? Optional. Hurricane drinking? Mandatory.
So in honor of the first time parts of your skin will see the sun in 2020, we offer a guide on how to assemble the goods for a Bacchanalian (but classy) affair to remember that is sure to set the tone for the kind of spring and summer you intend to have this year. I repeat: Bacchanalian, but classy.
Related Reading: The History of King Cake for Mardi Gras
Step 1: Set the Scene
I don’t recommend staging a full-out parade in your living room, but if it evolves or devolves into that naturally (see Hurricane Punch, below,) that’s your business. A few colorful and clever flourishes are all it takes to establish a festive, irreverent atmosphere evocative of the Big Easy.
Delineate different party zones with these French Quarter street signs. Only you will know why one room or another got designated as Bourbon Street…Buy Now
I mean, you gotta have them. It’s Mardi Gras. But you can flip the script on predictable party antics by encouraging their distribution as rewards for exceptional behavior such as attention to costume detail, service to the host, acts of chivalry, or impeccable storytelling. Or you can just scatter them around the place and whatever happens, happens.Buy Now
In the pre-electricity era of Mardi Gras, flambeaux (i.e. torches) were carried alongside the parades so that revelers could see the spectacle. Over time, they became part of the spectacle, as torch-carriers eventually turned a matter of practicality into a matter of performance. These tabletop torch candles add an element of nostalgia to the atmosphere with less threat of setting off your smoke alarm. Or if you really don’t trust your friends, try these adorable battery-powered torches.Buy Now
Along with your party invite, send a link to these elegant (read: sexy) lace masks to let your invitees know you are not kidding around thematically.Buy Now
Half the tunes have “blues” in their title, but the vibe from this collection of vibrant, brass-driven jazz bands is anything but. Plus the other half of the songs have cheekier titles like “Climax Rag,” “Snag It,” and “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” (I mean, have you seen her shimmy?) so you know it’s bound to be a good time. Get the Mardi Gras playlist.
Step 2: Feed the Crowd
Let’s be honest, in the tradition of the most ostentatious party hosts, you’re mostly in this to show off your culinary skills. New Orleans culture is abundant with Southern, Creole, and Cajun dishes that showcase your absolute prowess but are also easily adaptable for a cocktail party. (If you’re all about convenience, you can also just order New Orleans food online.)
Let’s begin, as all memorable festivities do, with a libation to get those good times rolling as quickly as humanly possible. As un-fussy as cocktails get, basically a vehicle for rum and fruit juice, (not this year, scurvy!) the Hurricane begs to be served in punch form. Keep it authentic with the appropriate elongated tulip-shaped glassware. Get the Hurricane Punch recipe.
Not to be overshadowed by the French Creole population, the Italian immigrant community in New Orleans mightily staked its culinary claim by putting forth the biggest, baddest sandwich: the muffuletta. Stacked with charcuterie, provolone, and a spicy olive salad, this miniature version does the original from Central Grocery credit. Get the Mini Muffuletta Bites recipe.
Central Grocery Muffuletta Sandwiches, 2 for $109 on Goldbelly
Or you can grab an original version of the New Orleans favorite right from the source via Goldbelly.
Two New Orleans delicacies rolled into one cute sandwich. You can fry the tomatoes earlier in the day and warm them up just ahead of assembly for easy party time management. In contrast to the showy muffuletta, the magic of the po’ boy is in its fresh simplicity. Have a bottle of traditional Louisiana hot sauce nearby for maximum authenticity. Get the Fried Green Tomato and Shrimp Po’ Boy Sliders recipe.
If you didn’t andouille, did you even Mardi Gras, bro? A little sweet from the pineapple tones down the heat from the sausage, plus they’re adorable, so toss a strand of beads or two the way of these skewers. Get the Andouille Sausage and Pineapple Skewers recipe.
There’s an old Creole saying: Anything worth making is worth making into a deviled egg. Okay, that’s not a real thing, but so long as they already have “devil” in their name, might as well get hella spicy. Get the Creole Deviled Eggs recipe.
You know you must have one. Traditionally, a king cake has one plastic baby tucked inside, of which the lucky recipient becomes obligated to the party host. Why not go ahead and tuck a multitude of them babies and see what you can make your friends do. Get our Mardi Gras King Cake recipe.
Step 3: Commemorate
All you need is a corner, some colorful fringe, a handful of props, and a spare phone or tablet with remote control or selfie stick and you have a makeshift photo booth. The ultimate host or hostess, you’ll have excellent souvenirs for your guests, as well as top-notch social media fodder to establish that you are the rightful Rex of Mardi Gras 2020.
Related Video: Get the Party Started with These Mardi Gras Cocktails
Header image courtesy of OKRAD/Getty Images.