The incredible cocktail culture in New Orleans is a hallmark of the city. But with so many choices (and tourist traps), it is easy to get distracted from the good stuff. Good news for you, I have listed out some of the best places to grab a drink in this magical city! I will focus primarily on places to try classic New Orleans cocktails, but I threw in a little lagniappe because why not!
Where are your favorite places to grab a drink at? Leave a comment below and let me know!
First, let's start with where NOT to drink. Let me preface this by saying of course if you WANT to drink at these places, you go right ahead! Don't let me stop you! These are just the places I would personally skip because they are either overpriced or basically just for tourists. I prefer to reserve my alcohol intake for cocktails.
You can go ahead and skip right on past most places selling alcohol on Bourbon Street. The Jester and Hand Grenade? Sure, they have their place. First timers you go right on ahead. It's kind of like a New Orleans right of passage I suppose, you have to get it at least once. But I will give you the warning I have given all my friends who go to New Orleans: If you get one of these, absolutely do not finish it by yourself. You WILL get sick. These bad boys taste like candy, but are pretty much straight 151. 151 plus mounds of sugar equals tomorrow will not look good, my friend.
Big ass beers? Random daquiri shop on every corner? $5 Jello Shots? Eh, fine if you want it, but I would rather save room for something from one of the spots below.
NOW ON TO THE GOOD STUFF!
CLASSIC NEW ORLEANS COCKTAILS
Order a Pimm's Cup. This cocktail was originally created in London by bartender James Pimm, but the Napolean House put it's own New Orleans twist on it and it has been a staple in the city ever since. This is one of my favorite New Orleans cocktails!
THE SAZERAC BAR AT THE ROOSEVELT HOTEL
Are you really surprised that America's first cocktail was created in New Orleans? That cocktail would be the Sazerac, my friends. It should go without saying but if you go to the Sazerac Bar, you have to order a Sazerac. Also grab a Ramos Gin Fizz, another cocktail they do exceptionally well (see The Empire Bar below for more details on this cocktail).
Both the Sazerac AND the Ramos Gin Fizz are staples in most New Orleans bars and restaurants, each bartender putting their own little twist on it. Some are more traditional than others, but these are two drinks that are fun to try around the city! If you have a favorite spot for either, leave me a comment below and let me know!
THE CAROUSEL BAR AT HOTEL MONTELEONE
Order the Vieux Carre (aka "French Quarter" in French), which was invented here in 1938 by Walter Bergeron who was the head bartender at that time. This drink is not playing around, y'all, so if you are trying to have a good time this is going to start you off on the right foot. They also make one of my favorite Pimm's Cups if you want something on the lighter side!
Fun note, the bar is an actual moving carousel! It is nearly impossible to get a seat at it though, so if this is on your New Orleans bucket list, I suggest getting there around opening to guarantee you a spot.
THE EMPIRE BAR AT BROUSSARD'S
Order a Ramos Gin Fizz. This cocktail was created by Henry Ramos in 1888, who was a bartender, bar owner, and funny story...not a fan of drinking. This drink is creamy, sweet, and citrusy, and is served with a signature foam on top. The original recipe called for it to be shaken a total of TWELVE minutes to get the perfect foam. He reportedly would staff anywhere from 20 to 35 bartenders at a time, depending on the season, just to keep up with orders for this drink!
Another awesome spot to order a Pimm's Cup. They also have delicious food! Great stop for an appetizer and drink, or for a full meal. You really can't go wrong here!
Add to the Ramos Gin Fizz list!
CANE & TABLE
Andddd another one for the Ramos Gin Fizz. I am still undecided on who makes my favorite. Try them all and you be the judge!
OTHER BOMB COCKTAILS
Order the frozen Irish Coffee. You're Welcome.
Go for happy hour! M-F 4-7, Sat-Sun 3-7. $4 small bites, $6 cocktails. Bonus points, it is in the French Quarter. Need I say more?
Cure is located on Freret Street, which also has quite a few bomb restaurants (See: Freret Beer Room & The Company Burger). If they still have any of their punch left, order that!
Located in the Old No. 77 Hotel, Compere Lapin is a restaurant built around the bar. The food is absolutely divine and the drinks are the real deal. The Head Bartender Abigail Gullo actually won Bartender of the Year in 2016! If you have not made it here yet, it needs to be at the top of your to-do list.
This tour is given by Elizabeth Pearce, author of Drink Dat. It is a fun drinking tour of the city that includes the history of some of the iconic cocktails of New Orleans. Make sure you pace yourself, though! I would not recommend drinking before this tour.
Bacchanal is primarily a wine bar, but they do also have cocktails along with great food. Bacchanal is a super fun hangout, and they have live jazz seven days a week! Winning all around.
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