Charleston: The Ultimate Local's Guide
Specialty: The Manhattan. (“My Gramps taught me how to make one when I was eight, so I've been making that one the longest.”)
What makes her a good bartender: Her 15 years of experience as a teacher means she is a great wrangler of kids -- or in her current life, less-than-sober patrons.
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Enjoying New Orleans and hanging out with her dog Ronnie.
Favorite thing about New Orleans: “New Orleans has a unique culture and tradition. And we are fiercely protective of that. I love the spirit here. It’s a sweet smell in the air, and it invigorates me every day.”
Specialty: classic Cuban cocktails and creative rum drinks
What makes her a good bartender: Being welcoming and making sure everyone who drinks at El Libre feel like they’re hanging out in a friend’s living room. But she can also nerd out about spirits and cocktails with the best of them.
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Art -- oil painting, crafting, photography, jewelry -- and travel. She visits at least one new country a year, but always aims for more. In 2015 she’s been to Greece, Turkey, Germany, Mexico, and Panama.
Favorite thing about New Orleans: “New Orleans is such a unique and magical place. I like to call it the farthest you can get from the US within the US, because it really does feel more like a European city. Also, go-cups.”
Specialty: The classics, and variations thereof, like the Saint 75, a play on a French 75 that uses basil infused simple syrup and St. Germain along with gin.
What makes her a good bartender: Ability to multi-task, have a sense of urgency, attention to detail, creativity, and hospitable.
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Spending time making cocktails at family parties and gatherings.
Favorite thing about New Orleans: Great cocktails, live music, and food that can’t be beat. Born and raised here, she can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Specialty: Seasonal toddies and hot drinks.
What makes her a good bartender: A healthy appreciation for chaos.
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Supporting her friends’ new food truck endeavor, Electric Eggroll by, um, testing the truck’s egg rolls and dumplings.
Favorite thing about New Orleans: How it’s always changing, but will still always be New Orleans. It’s a place with a real soul.
Specialty: Frozen Irish Coffee.
What makes her a good bartender: The pure love of hosting a party and facilitating fun. Also, reading a room and maintaining controlled chaos.
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Taking history classes and spending time with her new pet bunny, Dennis Hopper.
Favorite thing about New Orleans: “This place has a strong and magical draw, a sense of pride, and a culture so rich that you could study for your whole life and still not understand some of the rituals. I love that people who visit here almost universally remember it fondly, and when I travel to other cities and bars, if I say I'm visiting from New Orleans the person on the other side of the bar always smiles and wants to talk about the city.”
Specialty: A variation on a Sidecar made with rye, Grand Marnier, and a twist of orange peel.
What makes her a good bartender: A long standing passion for craft beer and a love for sharing it with others. A persistent curiosity; behind every bottle lies a story.
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Singing in in a four piece psychedelic flamenco surf noir band called Freedom Tickler. She’s also been a longtime homebrewer.
Favorite thing about New Orleans: “There's an undeniable magic here. Its power has propelled driven individuals to contribute in myriad ways. I love the beads in the trees, the mysterious street signs, the oaks busting through the sidewalks and ivy interlacing through all the wrought iron fences, the marching bands -- the city is a living work of art.”
Specialty: A special drink on-the-spot, especially for guests who want to try something different.
What makes her a good bartender: Following the Golden Rule.
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Writing her sixteenth book, working on graphic design projects, interior design projects, coin collecting, and walking the French Quarter.
Favorite thing about New Orleans: The diversity of its people.
Specialty: The Last Word, or anything with chartreuse.
What makes her a good bartender: Getting behind the bar to make people laugh, tell a story, create a story, and listen. “I make friends with my customers. You can't trade that for any level of skill.”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Practicing yoga regularly and reading to her badass dog (who enjoys it thoroughly).
Favorite thing about New Orleans: The neighborhoods. “When I get together with friends that live in other parts of town, I meet new people, try new places, gain new stories. For as small as this city is, there is so much happening in such small pockets. Every neighborhood is a brave new world of sorts, and experiencing each nook through the eyes of a frequent traveller adds a bright level of insight.”
Specialty: The Wild Yamagishi. It has a Hakushu 12yr Japanese whisky base, with Peychaud’s bitters, Benedictine, and Chartreuse. The glass is rubbed with a Shiso leaf, an Asian herb that leaves an incredible perfumed aroma similar to mint or anise.
What makes her a good bartender: Making the guest a cocktail that is a good fit for both their palate, and a nice complement to their plate if they are dining. Acceptance of everyone’s tastes and preference. Building confidence in her guests.
What she’s doing when she’s not working: Reading about food, cocktails, wine, cooking, chefs, and hot food cities across the country, as well as practicing her cocktail craft and enjoying time spent with loved ones.
Favorite thing about New Orleans: Parading with friends on Mardi Gras, the sound of the street cars, being in the middle of a second line with a brass band right behind you, the way everyone speaks to each other on the street, in grocery stores, in lines, and just about everywhere.
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Nora McGunnigle is a New Orleans native and professional lady drunk, so she stands by her selections. Follow her on Twitter at @noradeirdre, and read her other recommendations here on Thrillist