The top five cocktail bars in New Orleans
New Orleans international cocktail festival Tales of the Cocktail is fast approaching. MIXOLOGY magazine asks international mixology gurus for their verdicts on the lively city’s best cocktail bars.
On July 16th, The New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society (NOCCPS) will throw its 12th annual five day international cocktail festival, Tales of the Cocktail. At the festival mixologists from around the globe will shake and stir, participating in seminars, dinners, competitions, tastings, and product launches. Is the FOMO hitting you yet? Breathe easy. MIXOLOGY has asked global cocktail authorities to give us a taste of the best NOLA has to offer. Here are there top five cocktail bar pics.
Carousel Bar & Lounge – Go for a Spin
Located in the grandiose Monteleone Hotel, a fixture of New Orleans historic French Quarter, The Carousel Bar and Lounge takes patrons for a ride into cocktail bliss. The circular 25 seat counter actually rotates around the bar whose yellow fairground lights give the dark interior a dream like ambiance.
This circus style attraction is a source of superior cocktail amusement for mixologists Cihan Anadologlu of Schumann’s Bar in Munich and Ian A.V. Burrell, “Global Rum Ambassador”, to name a few. Cihan, who calls Carousel his favorite cocktail bar in New Orleans recommends the “Vieux Carre”. The drink, which was invented at Carousel, is made with cognac, Benedictine liqueur, rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. In addition to twenty-two martinis, the extensive drink menu includes a whopping twenty-five “features”, with traditional staples such as the Negroni as well as classic Nola cocktails like the “Brandy Milk Punch”, a brandy, light creme de cacao, vanilla, simple syrup, and half and half cocktail.
214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States
Napoleon House – A Bar Fit for a Little French Emperor
Bar and beverage consultant Phillip Duff tells MIXOLOGY that “if you want an old, old cocktail bar, then its very hard to beat the Napoleon house”. This 200 year old landmark was originally home of Nicholas Girod who as mayor of New Orleans in the early 19th century offered his home to Napoleon during his exile. Despite Bonaparte’s declination the bar honors him to this day. Its small wooden tables and patina walls, covered in framed images of Napoleon, as well as others from its history make it the picture of a quaint European café.
At the bar which has stayed in the Impastato family since the early 20th century, Sal, “the 3rd generation proprietor” who Jared Brown of Mixellany Limited tells us shares a likeness with his grandfather who can be spotted in one of the many paintings on the walls is the current head-honcho. The simple cocktail menu includes house specialties such as the “Pimm’s” and “Pimm’s Ginger Julep”. Chris McMillian, himself a third generation Louisiana bartender, believes the Napoleon House is a Nola must for cocktail lovers, admiring its ability to imprint the “sense of the timelessness of the city” onto its patrons.
Napoleon House, 500 Chartres Street, New Orleans, La. 70130
Cure – What the Doctor Ordered
Cure reminds its patrons that cocktail bars, distinct from saloons, are meant to be civil and sophisticated. With this maturity in mind, Cure transports its guests to a time when “cocktails grew out of medicine and home remedies”, hence the name Cure. The brick walls of this warehouse-style bar proudly display its array of spirits with backlit shelves of bottles stretching to the ceiling.
For cocktail journalist Camper English of Alcademics.com, Ian A. V. Burrel, and Phillip Duff, Cure is just what the doctor ordered. Ian tells us that “although New Orleans has a deep cocktail history, bars that make good cocktails are a minority” but he believes Cure to be the delicious exception, recalling having one of his favorite Nola cocktails, “A Place in the Sun” at the watering hole. The “rich and silky refinement” is made with Ron Pampero Aniversario Venezuelan rum, Wray & Nephew Jamaican Navy strength rum, and Cocchi Americano Rosa rose petal and red berry sour.
4905 Freret St, New Orleans, LA
Tujague’s – Birthplace of the Grasshopper
According to experts, another historical monument, Tujague’s is a French Quarter cocktail bar must. The bar which served as a Spanish armory and existed before “New Orleans” acquired its modern name, was founded in 1852 by the Tujague couple who emigrated from Bordeaux. Throughout its long history which included a move to its current location 72 years ago, many affluent visitors including Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, as well as Harrison Ford, and John D. Rockefeller have enjoyed its delectable cocktails.
In 1982 Steven Latter restored the site it to its original state with an antique bar shipped from France. Jared Brown reveals to MIXOLOGY that the wood-paneled bar filled with a display of “one of the world’s most impressive collections of mini bottles of booze” is the “birthplace of the grasshopper cocktail”, a créme de menthe, créme de cacao, and cream creation which enjoys global popularity in today’s cocktail world. Chris McMillian is another on the list of the heirloom’s devotees. He tells us he loves “the antebellum bar” and believes its well shaken drinks are relics of New Orlean’s “Golden-Age” when it enjoyed its status “at the center of drinking culture” in the States.
823 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA
Bourbon “O” Bar – Bourbon Street Spirit
Gary Regan, writer of “The Joy of Mixology” calls the brains behind Bourbon “O” Bar, Cheryl Charming “a cocktailian mastermind”. She is also publisher of “more bar and cocktail related books than anyone in the world” according to the bar’s website. Located on the French Quarter’s infamous Bourbon street, the pub provides live entertainment three nights a week.
The menu offers a long list of Nola classics, including Sazerac, Brandy Crusta, Grasshopper, Roffignac, French 75, Pimm’s Cup, Scarlett O’Hara, Hurricane and Absinthe Drip. Also available are “party drinks” like the “Benjamin Button” which, inspired by Brad Pitt’s role in the New Orleans filmed feature, is a Louisiana rice vodka and award-winning Cajun caviar concoction.
Freshly squeezed juice and homemade syrups and mixers give cocktails their exceptional kick as do the bar’s talented team which includes superstars such as Steven Lemley, New Orleans Magazine’s Mixologist of the Year in 2013. With its eclectic jazzy interior, intimate and lounge-y pillowed seating areas, and expressionist paintings, this bar echos the lively energy of Bourbon street’s soul. Put simply by Gary Regan, the Nola gem is “a brilliant bar”.
717 Orleans St, New Orleans, LA
These five New Orleans bars, rich in the city’s rare history, and beloved of international drink pros will pour a whole lot of heart and soul into your glass ensuring that there will be plenty Tales of a Cocktail, among others, to tell.