The Hand Grenade
// Written by Drew Allen –
The Hand Grenade Drink, “New Orleans’ most powerful drink,” was originally created in the 1980’s, by owners Earl Bernhardt and Pam Fortner, specifically to compete with the Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane drink. Understanding the development and marketing of the Hand Grenade drink should be a basic requirement for any business degree offered by any reputable business school. Since 1984, the Hand Grenade has gained popularity and market share to the point where today, nearly a million Hand Grenade drinks are sold per year. The Hand Grenade is trademarked, and the name recognition of The Hand Grenade in the New Orleans metropolitan area rivals that of the Hurricane. Of secondary importance, the Hand Grenade drink is actually a decent drink, with a bit of a melon taste to it.
Of course, the recipe for making the Hand Grenade (consisting of 13 ingredients) has been a tightly held secret, adding to the mystique of the Hand Grenade. The trademark-protected recipe and likeness of the Hand Grenade have been zealously protected by the owners on multiple occasions.
On many nights, if you walk past Tropical Isle (one of the 5 bars owned by Bernhardt and Fortner which exclusively offer Hand Grenade drinks for sale), you may be fortunate enough to see the current version of the Hand Grenade mascot standing near the doorway. (Free Advice to the owners, acknowledging, “Free advice is worth what you paid for it,” consider naming the mascot – something like “The Hand Grenade Dude” or “Harry the Hand Grenade.”).
The Hand Grenade mascot is actually an individual wearing a life-sized inflatable costume. Of course, seemingly on every drunk person’s bucket list, is not only the dream of drinking a Hand Grenade drink, but of foolishly posing for a picture with the Hand Grenade mascot. Captain Obvious wishes to take this opportunity to point out that no one ever looks good in a drunken photo taken with the Hand Grenade mascot; the eventual release of such pictures are likely to cause a lifetime of regret. (Refer to Democrat Michael Dukakis’s attempt on September 13, 1988, while running for president against then Vice-President George H.W. Bush, attempting to show his military prowess to the voters, when he decided to climb into a M1 Abrams tank, donned an over-sized military helmet (akin to Rick Moranis’ Dark Helmut character in the movie Spaceballs) and rode past the national press corps in full military mock up. Instead of burnishing his reputation as a military genius, it proved to be a monumental photo op gone bad for the ages.).
But it was almost not to be! You see, years ago, New Orleans nearly lost the Hand Grenade mascot.
Originally, the Hand Grenade mascot’s costume was actually composed of a hard outer shell. The Hand Grenade mascot looked like an actual oversized hand grenade. Unfortunately, the days of the hard-shelled Hand Grenade mascot were doomed to be numbered.
As the story goes, a custom was soon born. Apparently, groups of tourists, most notably bachelorette parties, soon developed and instituted a nefariously evil plan. Typically, they would lure the hard-shelled Hand Grenade mascot to the very edge of Bourbon Street. Then, with a sudden, coordinated plan of attack, the bachelorettes would push the hard-shelled Hand Grenade mascot with such force as to cause him to fall down on his side, onto Bourbon Street. While the individual inside the costume was well-protected against injury, the costume provided no respite from the embarrassment and nausea caused by being rolled down Bourbon Street, sometimes all the way down to Canal Street. After this entertaining custom became widely known, regretfully, the hard-shelled Hand Grenade mascot was retired from service, and mysteriously has not been recently seen.
Understandably, waves of depression soon hit the local New Orleans population (and especially the out-of-town bachelorettes and their bridesmaids-to-be) once word spread that the city would lose its beloved Hand Grenade mascot forever.
In response, the owners initially created a new Hand Grenade mascot costume. This Hand Grenade mascot was an unmanned blow up Hand Grenade doll. However, the people were not satisfied. Brides refused to bring their bachelorette parties to New Orleans. In fact, no weddings took place in New Orleans for a period of over 11 years, decimating the wedding planning industry and contributing to the debauchery of the New Orleans populace, at least according to the “religious right” (oxy-moron, table for one).
But Earl and Pam were actually as clever as a couple of foxes. After a period of time, they surprised everyone by introducing a new manned, soft-shelled taco Hand Grenade mascot, with the added benefit that he is now impervious to being helplessly flipped and rolled down Bourbon Street.
In addition to the Hand Grenade drink, Earl and Pam also developed several other named drinks, most notably the “Shark Attack” drink. While the Shark Attack drink visually mimics the likeness of a victim’s blood in water (complete with a commemorative 3-4 inch shark, after finishing my first and only Shark Attack drink, I decided that I would rather take my chances with sustaining an actual shark attack, than be forced to drink another Shark Attack drink. (Sorry Earl and Pam…but at least you hit it big-time with the Hand Grenade, destined to be a part of New Orleans’ history.).
My opinion regarding the Shark Attack drink would change if Earl and Pam would create a life-sized shark mascot, perhaps allowing it to chase drunk tourists (and bachelorette parties) down Bourbon Street. Add another costumed employee dressed as a recent shark attack victim and screaming, “shark attack, run for your lives!” It would be devilishly clever if they starting several blocks away from Tropical Isle, before chasing potential customers away from Crazy Corner, and toward Tropical Isle. Relieved at having survived a “shark attack,” most would certainly decide to celebrate with a drink at Tropical Isle. Just make it a Hand Grenade drink.
Drew Allen is the owner of Voodoo Lounge, and is Minority Owner of French Quarter Phantoms, both located here in the French Quarter, in New Orleans. He is also a practicing Civil Trial Attorney, licensed to practice law in Illinois, where he still maintains a part-time practice.