As one might expect in a three-hundred-year-old city with no official “last call for alcohol,” New Orleans has a storied cocktail history and a contemporary reputation to match. Here are a few of the city’s timeless contributions to international saloon culture and recommendations for the best places to partake (if that’s your pleasure, and it damn sure should be).
Seek out the classics according to your mood or the time of day. (Day drinking in New Orleans is a year-round sport, so enjoy a nice tipple whenever the mood strikes.) Just make sure to budget a little afternoon nap time in your bar-hopping itinerary.
Fancy-dress cocktail fans know this complex but elemental whiskey concoction as a cornerstone of any aspiring cocktail bar. Locals know it as the Official Cocktail of New Orleans—made with potent rye whiskey, a little sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, and the slightest hint of absinthe around the edges.
BEST SIPPED AT: The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel; any reputable bar in town.
Another sophisticated tipple that packs a hell of a kick, the Vieux Carré adds a little bit of spicy Benedictine to a classic brown-liquor cocktail with a bit of cognac and vermouth added to the mix. Basically, the brandy-spiked love child of a Manhattan and an old-fashioned, with a little mystery spice (Benedictine) added for fun.
BEST SIPPED AT: The Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, where it was invented in the 1930s.
This British summertime cooler makes a lot of sense here in the American subtropics, so we adapted the recipe that mixes Pimm’s #1 (a spicy gin-based spirit) with a citrus soda, and a little cucumber slice—just to be fancy and vegetal. A classic afternoon sipper that qualifies as a salad in a pinch.
BEST SIPPED AT: The Napoleon House Bar in the Quarter (for a classic version) or a fresh-juice version at Cure, Uptown’s fine-cocktail pioneer.
Aficionados of bubbly wine, rejoice. Your favorite fizzy vintage gets a high-octane upgrade with a little lemon, superfine sugar, and either London dry gin or cognac (the first more common, the second more historical, both delicious). Drinker beware: Appropriately named for a WWI field artillery gun, the 75 packs a solid wallop despite its sophisticated presentation.
BEST SIPPED AT: Arnaud’s French 75, one of the city’s most-lauded parlor-style cocktail joints.
God’s own hooch-spiked milkshake can get the morning off to a silky-smooth start. A traditional dusting of nutmeg gives this breakfast cocktail a holiday vibe, no matter the month.
BEST SIPPED AT: Brennan’s in the Quarter. Also try its rum version, Caribbean Milk Punch.
This perennial veggie/vodka concoction seems to be the universal “morning after” antidote, and you should expect any respectable New Orleans version to be “wake you up” spicy and packed with vegetables (pickled okra, celery, marinated green beans).
BEST SIPPED AT: Atchafalaya in the Garden District, where the “build-your-own-Bloody” bar lets you customize your garnishes. Stay minimal or go nuts. Your call.
The Go Cup
When you’re in the French Quarter, it’s perfectly legal to carry your alcoholic beverage with you (provided it’s in a plastic cup). The old “sip and stroll” feels naughty to some but natural to locals. (Disclaimer: It doesn’t work in cars. Seriously. Don’t chance it.)