NEW ORLEANS – The Big Apple (search) will raise its glasses to the Big Easy (search) — not for toasts, but to collect money for more than 80,000 hospitality workers from the hurricane-ravaged city.
In addition to New York, bars around the country also have promised to mix cocktails to help the Louisiana bartenders and hotel, casino and restaurant workers facing unemployment.
Four New York-based cocktail experts are spurring the "Save New Orleans Cocktail Hour" — a two-hour nationwide drinking session scheduled for Sept. 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Each $10 drink — Big Easy classics like the sazerac (search), the ramos gin fizz (search), the Pimm's cup (search), and even the hurricane — will be served with a set of free Mardi Gras (search) beads.
New York bartenders stepped forward first, with dozens of establishments from Soho's tony new Pegu Club (search) to the Central Park's Tavern on the Green (search) and the lively Havana Central (search), agreeing to participate in the fundraiser.
Organizers said the effort is spreading quickly and now includes the Sierra Gold tavern in Las Vegas, a half dozen businesses in Washington, D.C., and more in Arlington, Va., and Silver Spring, Md.
The New Orleans concoctions will also flow at watering holes in Cherry Hill, N.J., and various locales around Pennsylvania.
The idea for the fundraiser came from Anistatia Miller, a Manhattan-based co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.
She said the old French Quarter-style building on Chartres Street survived Hurricane Katrina unscathed.
"But we're still looking for three people who worked with the museum," said Miller, a bartender and cocktail book author who founded the museum with three other New Yorkers — her co-author husband, bartender Jared Brown, and international cocktail authority Dale DeGroff and his wife, Jill DeGroff.
In helping New Orleans, "we're only returning the favor," said Miller.
After Sept. 11, 2001, the Louisiana city raised money at its drinking establishments to send to devastated New York bartenders and restaurant workers.
"This is our livelihood and our business," Miller said. "We think, 'What would happen to us if this were New York?' This fundraising is heartfelt."
Teetotallers won't be excluded; donations are being accepted through the Web site of the New Orleans museum.