New Orleans: Home of the Cocktail

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The last time I was in New Orleans, I tried the famous Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane, which I did not like. I stuck with wine at dinner and enjoyed a cider or two at the Irish Pub when we went out. I was younger then. My palate had not yet developed, nor did I even know this:

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{Source: Lonely Planet New Orleans 2012 – highly recommended!}

Flash forward 12 years later and I’m ready to try said Sazerac. I’ve enjoyed a few craft cocktails in the Twin Cities, notably at the Bradstreet Crafthouse, Eat Street Social, Ward 6 and Tongue in Cheek. But I’m no mixologist. Half the time I’m not even sure what makes a cocktail taste better or different. But I did know I wanted to try some of the local drinks in New Orleans where they originated.

This wasn’t something we planned to do before we went to NOLA, but it just happened: Cocktail Bar Hopping!

When you are in New Orleans, you do a lot of walking. Wandering aimlessly throughout the French Quarter and around Jackson Square is a lovely way to admire the architecture and street musicians or pop into an art gallery or antique shop.

But during some downtime on our trip, I decided to take a map and pinpoint all of the places I had read about in my guidebook and online. I had already resigned to the fact that we didn’t have enough stomachs to try all of New Orleans cuisine we wanted to sample. The same was going to be true for cocktails.

But we could at least pop into a joint if we stumbled across one we recognized!

The bars and restaurants listed in this post are ones where we stopped just for a drink. Each stop was a one-and-done sort of experience so that we could check a lot of boxes! You’ll see more fun cocktails included with a few more restaurants in posts to come. For lack of a better way to organize, I’m listing them alphabetically.

NOTE: This was not a crawl! These were locales where we stopped over the course of our four five day trip. A 3-martini lunch was quite enough, thank you very much.

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Arnaud’s French 75

This is where the French 75 cocktail was concocted… Well, at least their version, which is made with cognac, sugar, lemon juice and champagne.

The first time we popped in, we couldn’t even fit through the door because it was so packed. We tried again on another occasion. While there was still no place to sit, we were satisfied with standing room only. A waiter took our order for the bar’s namesake cocktail.

While waiting, I admired the decor. I just love these monkey lamps!

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I love the classy ambiance in this place. It could’ve even been romantic if we had a seat on one of the couches. The French 75 is known to make the best cocktails in the city. I’m sure they have some other tasty ones on the menu. But our $28 bill for two cocktails that tasted mainly of lemon didn’t thrill us.

And a note from the bathroom:

{Yes, those are pink tiles. I did not alter the photo in any way.}

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Molly’s at The Market

By “The Market”, they mean The French Market, New Orleans’ open air market since 1791. It’s just across the street.

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Molly’s is an Irish bar of sorts where Rob had the best… wait for it…

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…the best Hot Buttered Rum of his life! It was a chilly night and we were making our way through The Quarter to Frenchman Street. What a way to warm up!

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I had a Pimm’s Cup, which you’ll find all over New Orleans. I tried one at three different places throughout our trip, until I finally realized that I didn’t really care for them. They are kind of boring!

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Muriel’s

We recognized Muriel’s because we had recently read that it was haunted. It was a foggy night, one perfect for a ghost tour! We did not take one, but saw quite a few of these groups that evening. We opted for Muriel’s instead.

It’s beautiful inside Muriel’s!

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The bar is in the back. It was here where I finally ordered a Ramos Gin Fizz, which was born in New Orleans. I appreciate the intense work needed to put this drink together. There are so many ingredients! But I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. The fizz is fun, but the flavor a bit boring.

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Ramos Gin Fizz & Brandy Milk Punch

Rob had a Brandy Milk Punch made with brandy, ice cream mix, vanilla extract and nutmeg, aka an adult milkshake! FYI: Muriel’s boasts an extensive and impressive wine list.

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Napoleon House

In the French Quarter, amidst the colorful buildings with ornate balconies, you will find this:

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It’s what I picture the exterior of an old stone farmhouse in France to look like. {Well, without the awning or balcony.} When you step inside you’ll find that it’s dark and somewhat eerie. Then you hear the music. Loud classical music! I have  never been in an establishment like this. Truly, one-of-a-kind.

From the Napoleon House website:

The building’s first occupant, Nicholas Girod, was mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815.  He offered his residence to Napoleon in 1821 as a refuge during his exile.

Napoleon never made it, but the name stuck, and since then, the Napoleon House has become one of the most famous bars in America, a haunt for artists and writers throughout most of  the 20th century.

Owned and operated by the Impastato family since 1914, it’s a place that suspends you in time, where you can hear Beethoven’s Eroiqua, which he composed for Napoleon, and the music of other classical masters, while sipping a Pimm’s Cup, and basking in an ambiance that could only be New Orleans.

Naturally, this is where I had my first Pimm’s Cup.

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Sazerac & Pimm’s Cup

 

I considered lightening these photos, but decided against it so you could really get an idea of how dark and ominous it is in here.

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The Napoleon House is listed in Thrillist’s post titled NOLA’s Top Bartenders Reveal the City’s Best Everything as one of the best places to spend a rainy day. Rob was begging for a thunderstorm. Classical music to a thunderstorm? It sounds perfect, actually.

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Soubou

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Yes, this is one of the Brennan establishments where you can get 25-cent martinis with lunch Monday through Friday. But they do have quite a list of craft cocktails.

The one thing about cocktail bars is that the bartenders are usually so busy crafting them that you barely get time to chat with them. Luckily, our bartender took the time to draw our attention to the Happy Hour list.

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It was settled. It was time to order a Sazerac, a New Orleans classic.

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The Sazerac has a very distinct flavor. Even if you don’t like anise-flavored beverages, give this cocktail a shot. The flavor is subtle and the drink well-balanced. I’m not even a huge fan of whiskey and the Sazerac grew on me. When in doubt, it’s what I ordered most of the rest of the trip!

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I’ve read lists of where you can find the best Sazerac in the city; but to be honest, I don’t think I had a bad one. They all seemed the same to me.

Rob’s takeaway from SoBou? #7 below. 

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It stuck with him such that he brought it up later in the trip.

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Sylvain

I would have never have known of Sylvain if it weren’t for me sipping a glass of prosecco with dinner one night at Revolution. We were sitting at the bar and met a couple who was semi-local. She saw that I was sipping a glass of bubbly and suggested that we go to Sylvain for their Champagne Cocktail. I’m so glad I did…

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She was right. Drops of lavender {oil or bitters?} are added to a sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute. Then it’s topped with prosecco. Love and Perfection.

Rob had trouble finding “decent beer” throughout the city. {We are spoiled in MN.} But he found one here he could enjoy. We had already had dinner that night; but seeing the quality dishes delivered to other guests brought us back for dinner the following evening.

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Tonique

Most of the cocktail bars in New Orleans are also restaurants. Bar Tonique is not one of them. It’s a tiny one-room joint that could have been a studio apartment or a small shop. But I adore the interior.

I felt like we were visiting an apothecary. Love these bottles!

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It’s at Bar Tonique that I decided to try a Vieux Carré, which is very similar to a Sazerac, but with the addition of brandy and Benedictine or vermouth. In French, vieux carré means “old square.” But don’t pronounce it the French way! In New Orleans, it’s pronounced VOO car-AY.

The cocktail was invented at the Carousel Bar in The Quarter. It’s one that we tried to visit, but was always overflowing with people when we passed it.

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Vieux Carré

There was a different clientele at Bar Tonique or at least it felt like it that day. Rob said it felt like there were more professionals because people were dressed up, some in suits and came in groups. I pointed out that it was Saturday. 🙂 Bar Tonique is on the other edge of The Quarter near Louis Armstrong Park and a slew of Voodoo shops.

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Tujagues

This was my favorite cocktail bar of all.

And to be honest, it had nothing to do with the ambiance. The bar is narrow and oddly set up. There are no chairs at the bar, but a few small tables shoved up against the wall on the other side. I, personally, would prefer to sit at the bar, but there is no way anyone would be able to walk through and get to the dining room with how narrow it is.

Tujagues {I believe pronounced Two Jacks} is known as the second oldest restaurant in the New Orleans, dating back to 1856. It’s known for its classic New Orleans cuisine. When I walked through the bar back to the restrooms toward the dining room, the food smelled absolutely incredible. How we missed dining there this trip, I do not know. It’s on my “next time” list. I doubt that it’ll close after over 150 years. I like my chances.

There’s also an unbelievable cocktail list. Tujagues is home to the Grasshopper

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They were making a ton of Grasshoppers {which are quite common in supper clubs in Wisconsin} while we were sipping our cocktails. They lined them up at the bar. A group of people walked in and just took them straight off the bar. “Wow!” I said to Rob. “Must be nice to have your cocktail waiting for you when you arrive.”

One of the gals heard me and said sweetly, “We’re on a tour. It’s not that magical.” 🙂 Another reason why no seats at the bar. Walking Tours stop here!

And I understand why. Their cocktails are incredible.

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Can you guess which one I ordered from that list?

Quarter Moon & French Twist

Yes, that French Twist would be mine. And it was divine. It came with a sprig of lavender that you can’t really see in the photo. This is the only place where we stayed for a second drink because there was another I was dying to try. Can you guess which one?

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And Rob found a local stout to enjoy!

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NOLA Irish Channel Stout and Rouffinac

And that about tops it off.

Here are a few other places we missed, but are on our list for next time:

  • Bellocq – This is located in the hotel where I stayed the last time I was in New Orleans. It’s under a new name and owners.
  • Carousel – There is really a revolving bar somewhere in here. It was packed to the gills every time we tried to stop.
  • Avenue Pub – Rated the best beer bar in NOLA with over 40 taps and excellent Happy Hour food.
  • Cure – In the Freret street neighborhood.

Have you ever enjoyed a cocktail where it was created?

What did you think?

New Orleans 2015 Trip Posts:

Cheers~
Carrie

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