Food & Drink

New Orleans Bar Levies Explosive Charges Against Cocktail Copycats

New Orleans bar empire Tropical Isle®, home of the city's famed Grenade™ and Hand Grenade®™™®®™ cocktails are known for cheap, drinky, touristy fun, but when it comes to their intellectual property, they don't play around. Tropical Isle®™™®®™™™® is suing a Wilmington, NC bar named Bourbon Street Wilmington for trademark infringement.

Tropical Isle®™™®®™™™®®™™™™® holds trademarks on its Hand Grenade®™® family of products, including its mix and signature neon green cups (which look like a bong and a hand grenade had an alien baby) and has a history of aggressively defending them. In 2013, Tropical Isle sent Bourbon Street Wilmington a cease and desist notice after discovering that BSW had been purchasing Tropical Isle's Grenade mix (sold for home-use only) from the bar's online store and serving it to the public. The two bars reached a settlement in 2013, with Bourbon Street Wilmington agreeing to stop using the trademarked material. Now, however, it seems BSW has changed hands and the new owners are up to the same old tricks.

As in the original lawsuit, Tropical Isle is seeking any profits realized via illegitimate drink sales, along with damages and court costs. 

Hand Grenade inventor Pam Fortner explained that the company goes so far as to offer a $250 reward to tipsters who help bring down copycats. All Tropical Isle employees are required to sign a confidentiality agreement in reference to the exact Hand Grenade recipe. 

According to Louisiana-based food historian Rien Fertel, Fortner and Tropical Isle co-founder Earl Bernhardt have defended the drink against hundreds of trademark violators since they unveiled it at the 1984 World’s Fair. Fertel says the Hand Grenade®™™®®™™™®®™™™™®®™™®®®®™™™™™® is “the most litigated drink in New Orleans.” Fortner tells us only a few cases have proceeded past the cease-and-desist letter stage.

Our advice to Bourbon Street: Daquiris are both delicious and trademark-free. Sure you don't get to serve them in a cup that looks like the '80s threw up on the X-Files, and no, it doesn't taste like a radioactive Jolly Rancher, but it will keep you out of court.