The painting above is now housed in New Orlean's Cabildo on Jackson Square. Done from life, allegedly, it shows us (from left to right) Renato Beluche in shadow, Jean Laffite singing and raising a cup, Pierre Laffite standing and looking dapper, and Dominique Youx pipe in hand. The painting is known by various names and one that seems to cling is "The Laffite Brothers In Dominique's Bar".
In fact, Dominique Youx was no brother to the Laffites at all. William C. Davis in The Pirates Laffite dismisses the story as a "canard" and given the level of research he applied to his book it would be difficult to argue with him. Youx probably did run a coffee shop in the Faubourg Marigny before his death in 1830 but where it was or what it might have been called is - like so many other things - lost to history. All argument along these lines seems to fall, for the most part, on deaf ears. And then it escalates from there. For instance, as I read recently, not only was Youx a Laffite but he invented and sold that spicy coffee delight that has come down to us as Cafe Brulot.
This article at Suite 101 happily wraps up every myth possible about the Laffite brothers into the birth of a coffee drink. It even includes as fact the outlandish story Pierre Laffite fed to the Spanish government about his family being Spanish. It hooked Spain into paying he and his brother as spies. It was Jean who added the bit about their grandmother being a Jewish victim of the Inquisition. To remind the brothers associates of their undying hatred for the Spanish. For whom they were spying. The truth is, in fact, far more intersting (and full of intrigue) than the story. But who needs the truth when a good Laffite lie persists?
Well, much as the Cafe Brulot story titillates, it too is a tall tale. Although there were probably recipes for spiced Creole coffee in existence as early as Dominique Youx's day, the official claim for introducing the modern version comes from:
One of the quintessential New Orleanian dining spots, Antoine's (pictured above in the NY Times online). According to his 1988 book The 100 Greatest New Orleans Creole Recipes, Roy F. Guste, Jr. is a direct descendant of the man who first fired up the brandy and coffee:
Cafe Brulot was created by my great-grandfather, Jules Alciatore for his patrons at Antoine's. He designed special cups and even the decorative suspended copper bowl in which to blend and flame the mixture.
Of course, it would be a yet more colorful piece of NOLA history if Captain Dominique himself had invented this popular, post-meal cup. He was rumored to have made excellent coffee so it might follow after all. But, as I've said so many times before, I'm about history as it was not as I wish it could be.
So why do I bring it up at all? Well, today marks a little milestone for Triple P. April is my first month with a post on every single day. Here then, by way of celebration, is Monsieur Alciatore's recipe for Cafe Brulot a la Diabolique:
6 ounces of brandy
Peel of 1 lemon
2 sticks of cinnamon
8 whole cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 cups strong, hot, black coffee
In a fireproof bowl, over an open flame or stove, combine the brandy, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, cloves and sugar. As the mixture heats, ignite carefully with a match. Use a ladle to stir the liquid for about two minutes. Pour hot coffee into the flaming liquid and ladle into demitasse cups or serve a half cup in regular coffee cups. Serves 6.
It is very dramatic to watch the making of Cafe Brulot table side. I find, though, that flaming anything at home is hazardous at best, although it is a good way to get to know local firemen (single ladies, take note). I also find that simply warming the brandy mixture over the stove and then adding the coffee is all you really need for a tasty pick-me-up.
Enjoy, Brethren. And thank you for a very successful April!