NOLA is so many things all at once. But even if I put it mildly, New Orleans is a town where drinking is not just accepted, but is encouraged.
It stands out as one of the best drinking towns, and the cocktail culture that is over 100 years old in this city is constantly evolving.Drink like the locals? Classic cocktails? Bartender’s choices? We have you covered.
Nola bars For the History buffs
The Sazerac is the official cocktail of the city of Nola, do yourself a service and visit the home of the drink, at its namesake bar in the historic Roosevelt hotel. Make sure to watch the ritual of this drink being made, with the Herbsaint (absinthe) being swirled around before being tossed out, and do not make the mistake of asking for ice!
When you are there, also get the Ramos gin fizz, which was a close contender to the official cocktail title. If there is any cocktail in the world that needs some TLC and attention, this is it. It is said that when Henry Ramos introduced this drink over a 100 years ago, he had a dozen bartenders to shake up his fizzes. Bartenders at the Sazerac now spend significant time shaking up each fizz turning the drink into something truly amazing.
The slowly revolving Carousel bar in the Hotel Monteleone, which looks like an ornate merry-go-round, has been inviting visitors for over 60 years now, and invented the drink “Vieux Carre” (Old Square) in 1938. Named after the French Quarter, this drink alone is worth a visit to the bar, although with all the celebrity spotting here you never know who might be joining you on this 15 minute journey around the room!
French 75, a bar that was once a “gentlemen only area”, represents classic New Orleans – unpretentious, elegant and impeccable! The history, the service and drinks are all top notch, and if you like to enjoy a cigar with your drink, this is the place to be.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop is reputed to be oldest continually operating bar structure in the country (built in 1772!), and they use only candles to light the place, which gives it a great atmosphere. Definitely a mix of tourists and locals, it is best at night when you can sit around the piano player with a drink and soak it all in.
For Craft cocktails
There is no dearth of cocktail bars in Nola. Some favorites – Kingfish, Bar Tonique, Cure and SoBou all have great bartenders who can make the classics but can also create personal cocktails for your specific taste. For a refreshing Pimm’s cup, try the Kingfish version with little bits of fruit added! And the Hurricane at SoBou is nothing like the multicolored and artificial versions you see being churned out at the establishments on Bourbon Street.
Added bonus – the bartenders at these establishments are really friendly and will provide interesting tidbits of cocktail history and fun facts if you are willing to chat them up.
Drink like the Locals
Just off Bourbon Street, Erin Rose is a great place to meet local bartenders who stop by after their shift (or before!). A couple of hours here, and you are sure to be drinking beers with some friendly locals (and possibly their dogs – Hey Otis!). It’s funky, it’s old and here’s a pro tip: Killer Po Boys serves up some great sandwiches from the back bar to soak up all that fun you are having.
Flanagan’s pub is definitely a dive, but a really cool one. Are you a tourist but want to hang with the locals? Feel at home here. Added to that, it is a 24 hour bar. Yes, you read that right. Open 24 hours.
For Killer Patios
Napoleon house not only serves up a refreshing Pimm’s cup, but also has a great patio area away from the bustle of the street. Nothing says Nola like having a drink in hand, watching locals and tourists take in the history and elegance of Napoleon House.
Bacchanal is a must stop. Grab a bottle of wine, some cheese and head to their backyard for the quintessential New Orleans atmosphere – music from local jazz bands, tiki torches, mismatched furniture and glasses. If there is one word to describe it – relaxed.
The sleek patio and bar at Bellocq just screams sexy. Definitely a more romantic place, it would be perfect to enjoy a great cocktail with a date. A classy New Orleans experience.
Drinking is a very important (the most?) part of the NOLA experience. Start early!
Opening Image Photo Credit: Kevin O’Mara/CureCo.