You can thank New York for the modern cocktail revival and look to San Francisco for the epitome of tiki, but nowhere drinks like New Orleans. The city was basically built on booze, and it takes the best parts of drinking culture from the French, Spanish and Americans who have called it home. When people visit New Orleans, they come to consume all manner of drinks in a carefree, devil-may-care way. No matter who you are, you can find the type of drinking establishment and the types of drinks you want. To put it simply, the Big Easy is the best drinking city in the country hands down, and here’s why.
In New Orleans, the party hasn’t actually started in a long time simply because the party never ends and the bars never close. The city is home to a large number of 24/7 bars, letting you wake up at any hour of any day with a whole world of fine drinking establishments—from posh to grimy—to explore. Find the locals and play some games at The Club Ms. Mae’s at 7 a.m., or hit up The Avenue Pub for the only bar where you can get great craft beer at 4:13 a.m. on a Monday.
Open Container Law
The Big Easy does everything it can to keep from restricting you in any way, including where you drink. Drinking in public is legal, so grab a to-go cup in the French Quarter and scope out your next bar. Buy a streetside Hand Grenade and stroll Bourbon Street, soaking in the ambiance of performers and visitors. It’s not a free for all (the drinks have to be in plastic containers), so be sure to brush up on your New Orleans drinking laws beforehand.
Of course, you don’t have to wander the streets like a commoner if you feel like you’re above that. Bourbon Street is lined with balconies, many of which you can access to look down at the people taking advantage of the open container law down below.
Speaking of Hand Grenades, New Orleans is no stranger to questionably strong drinks—some of which have who knows what inside. Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenade is a trademarked drink that’s strongly protected, so the true mix is unknown. What is known is that they’re everywhere, and they’re the strongest thing you’ll find outside of a Scorpion Bowl.
And lets not forget the Hurricane. Invented by Pat O’Brien, the Hurricane is a drink that will blow you away if you’re not careful. The traditional recipe is four ounces of rum, some passion fruit syrup and lemon juice. You can find people selling Hurricanes and Hand Grenades around basically every corner, and there’s nothing like wandering with either in your hand.
All Walks of Life Are Welcome
You don’t have to be a hard-drinking, hard-partying dive bar lover to appreciate New Orleans drinking culture; there’s a spot for you in New Orleans no matter what type of person you are. Want something less touristy and off Bourbon Street? Try out The Mayhaw Bar. Need something balanced but low-ABV to recover? We suggest Bar Tonique. Can’t get enough Daiquiris? New Orleans has five of the craziest Daiquiri bars in the world. Are you a simple soul who just wants a dive bar? The Big Easy has the diviest of the dives.
Everyone Is There to Party
Just because there are options for upscale, classy drinking and eating, doesn’t mean you have to choose them. People who travel to New Orleans come to party, enjoy culinary delights and overindulge on the best things in life. People don’t go to Bourbon Street for a cup of coffee, and they don’t go to the French Quarter simply for mediocre food and drink. Just be sure to follow the unspoken drinking rules of the city.
The Best Food for Hangovers
Bar hopping all night can be exhausting and leave you hungry. Thankfully it’s all too easy to conquer that hunger in New Orleans because there is so much good food out there. Grab beignets and coffee in the morning, and po’ boys at night. Spoil yourself with too many shrimp and crawfish. Splurge on dry aged steak at Doris Metropolitan, or hit up Antoine’s for some Oysters Rockefeller.
If you only want one reason why New Orleans is the best drinking city, all you have to do is study its history. It’s home to some of the oldest bars in the country, and many of those bars are the birthplaces of the classic cocktails we know and love. There’s the Absinthe Frappé, Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz, Vieux Carre, Grasshopper and so many others.
Cocktail culture wouldn’t be the same without New Orleans. There wouldn’t be Peychaud’s Bitters, and the development and use of absinthe in cocktails would be sorely lacking. Those historic locations are still standing, sometimes in their original locations or just down the street. It’s easy to understand why New Orleans is the best drinking city today, but look back in history and you’ll see that it pretty much always has been.