"We have a federal trademark on it," Fortner says of the secret recipe for the potent, melon-flavored drink. 'No one can sell it except us." And she means business. On the bar's Web site, a $250 cash reward is promised to "anyone furnishing information that leads to the identification and termination of the illegal use of our federally registered trademark, the Hand Grenade." (Far-flung fans will be happy to know that they can call 800-ISLE-MIX to buy an offically sanctioned drink mix by the quart for home brewing.)
Served frozen or on the rocks, the chartreuse glow of the concoction and the souvenir cups it's sold in makes the drink easy to spot in the hands of Bourbon Street revelers. And Fortner credits as many tourists as locals for much of the bars' repeat business over the years.
"We have a great balcony overlooking Bourbon Street, and people just like to come back," she says of her out-of-town regulars. "We have one Irish family from Chicago who have been coming here since St. Paddy's of 1985 and now the grandkids come."
In addition to the laid-back vibe, the funky, beachy decor and the "tropical glow" that set it apart from its louder, dimmer Bourbon Street counterparts, many of Tropical Isle's patrons also have come to expect to hear the familiar sounds of longtime house band, Late as Usual. Al Miller, the band's founder billed as 'the Cajun Jimmy Buffet" " recently retired, but customers can count on the remaining members for a steady stream of party-song favorites on most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at the bar's 600 Bourbon St. location.
"We're trying to do our part to keep live music alive," says Fortner, adding that her bars also feature other local acts such as Al Hebert, Dwight Breland, Corey Michael and Debi & the Deacons " on a weekly basis.
Tropical Isle will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a block party on Saturday, Dec. 13, and live music all weekend long with the bars' regular bands, plus special guests Amanda Shaw, Jerry Diaz & Hannah's Reef and others.