Where to Grab a Drink in New Orleans Right Now
There is plenty to drink about.
Pandemic life in the Big Easy has not been so easy for bars, restaurants, and music clubs. The citywide shutdowns have been among the strictest in the country in order to protect the health of the service industry and the travelers who come from all over. In fact, the city that’s best known for takeout drinks actually suspended the go-cup for months since it promoted unsafe crowding in the streets. But things are starting to open up again, albeit slowly—some due to the city’s phased in regulations for bars, and some by getting a provisional restaurant license. The bars listed here are proactive with plans and outside spaces and are also all excellent spots and highly recommended regardless of the state of the world.
The 24-hour party approach has been scaled back—currently alcohol sales are limited to 8am-11pm. Mask up when not eating or drinking at your table and, at this point, you need to order food with your drinks if you’re hanging out there. Bars without food have the option of limited outdoor seating, with the potential of indoor seating in the coming weeks, and can provide drinks to go. Breweries (check out Courtyard Brewery, NOLA Brewing, Miel Brewery, Urban South Brewery, Brieux Carre Brewing Co) are also open to patrons once again. These restrictions will likely contract—and maybe expand—several times, so be sure to research the city’s regulations and check on all establishments’ social media and/or websites for what is happening at the moment. Everyone in New Orleans thanks you for your safe support.
This neighborhood bar provides original cocktails out its to-go window. Try the watermelon margarita or their aperitivo La Strada with amaro and infused with rosemary and citrus, and enjoy a stroll around the beautiful Bayou St. John neighborhood. Check out whichever food truck is there for an accompanying snack.
How to order: Order from a menu of specialty cocktails from the takeout window.
J & J's Sports Lounge
Although J&J’s can’t host Saints games this season, fans of the team and the bar can pick up beers by the cup or refillable 64-ounce growler along with any other drink you’re in the mood for from its to-go window. Keep an eye out for the bar cat, Cheddar Bob.
How to order: To-go cocktails and growler fills available at its takeout window from 4-8pm.
Out In The Cold
This beloved neighborhood dive bar with a witty vibe (seriously, check out its Instagram) is located in the heart of the Irish Channel and, some may argue, is also its heart. It’s easy to miss—at least they have a sign now, a recent addition—but once you discover it, prepare to make new friends over very cheap and generous drinks. There’s even a cat-friendly patio, which means cats may be hanging out there, not that the cats are necessarily themselves friendly.
How to order: First-come, first-served patio seating order from the takeout window.
Fortunately for Parasol’s, it’s always been known for po’boys, so when bars closed but restaurants were open, the spot could sling its signature sandwiches along with beer and booze to customers eating in the separate restaurant space or outside under the newly installed corner awning. Great neighborhood bar, cheap food and drinks, great service.
How to order: Socially distanced seating inside and out, bar service in separate space, and to-go drinks all available.
Finn McCool's Irish Pub
New Orleans’ preeminent Irish pub and sports bar, Finn McCool’s serves as neighborhood hangout, (non-American) football zone, and provider of the perfect Guinness pour. There is now a beefed up menu with pub favorites like fish and chips, Scotch eggs, and chicken wings.
How to order: Table service is available, as well as a cordoned-off bar.
A cheerful, tiny spot that serves up the flavors of Cuba, Manolito is named for Manuel Carbajo Aguilar, a longtime bartender at Havana’s famed Floridita bar. Try the frozen Jazz Daiquiri, richly flavored and textured with the blended addition of whole coffee beans and granulated sugar. Or the Papa Doble, a frozen version of the Hemingway daiquiri. Right now, since the small space is not conducive for social distancing, everything is to-go, by the cup or gallon. For food, the bar hosts pop-ups on Monday and Tuesday, and its own Cuban-inspired menu Thursday-Sunday.
How to order: Order to-go food and drinks or make a reservation for 2-8 people by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erin Rose has the feel of a real locals joint, with simple-but-potent beverages, and one of the best Bloody Marys in the city. On a hot day (or any day, really), there is nothing better than the frozen Irish coffee, which you can now acquire to go at the walk-up window. If you’re on the other side of the Quarter (on lower Decatur), check out Molly’s at the Market for the frozen Irish coffee to go.
How to order: Order takeout food and drinks from the walk-up window.
Jewel Of The South
This love letter to (very) old New Orleans was inspired by Joseph Santini, a barkeep who owned a tavern of the same name in the mid-19th century, Jewel of the South also honors Santini’s contribution to the New Orleans cocktail canon: the Brandy Crusta. In addition to the Crusta, other cocktail classics are tweaked ever so slightly by pros and co-owners Chris Hannah and Nick Detrich. The historic space in a 1830s Creole cottage has been offering “The Cocktail Hour” as it wades back into a post-COVID world, which is a limited seating that requires advance reservation and a $45pp ticket that includes three drinks and various snacks. Five specific areas in the restaurant are available for parties between 2-6 people. Recently, this cocktail bar has expanded to a large adjoining space called “The Park” which is 4,000 square feet of outdoor socially distant space with roving “cocktail dim sum” carts and food.
How to order: Make reservations through Tock or purchase to-go cups and bottled cocktails.
This is a laid back French-style wine bistro with unusual grapes from unusual places, a small bar, and a beautiful backyard. It’s like discovering a magical place that’s hiding in plain sight—there’s no current signage, but it still has the old Sugar Park neon sign blazing out front. The wines by the glass range in provenance from France and Oregon to Slovenia and the Czech Republic. On the cocktail front, the eponymous St-Germain spritz combines the lovely elderflower liqueur with sparkling wine and lemon and is served by the pitcher.
How to order: Enjoy drinks and a newly expanded snack menu in the spacious and relaxing courtyard.
Housed in a former rectory as part of the new Hotel Peter and Paul, the stunning restoration feels simultaneously sophisticated and homey. The religious iconography is a nod to its previous life, and the light casts a golden glow. A low-proof aperitivo cocktail outside on a warm autumn evening is a lovely experience.
How to order: Book a table through Resy for the patio or neighboring renovated church for socially distanced cocktails and bites or order food and drinks to-go.
It’s like you’re going to a friend’s house, if your friend had a full bar, killer cocktail list, great food, and made you pay for all that. (Worth it, though.) It’s a cozy space with a pretty courtyard, and it’s easy to settle in and get comfortable. Munch on elevated tavern fare while enjoying a wide variety of creative house cocktails, wine, and beer.
How to order: Seating inside and out is socially distanced, and there’s a great to-go set up with a separate entrance at the right hand set of doors.
Effervescence bubbles & bites
It’s all about Champagne wishes and caviar dreams at New Orleans’ first-ever bubbles-dedicated bar. There are 18 sparkling varieties from around the world served by the glass, including hard to find vintages as well as prosecco on tap and sparkling-based cocktails like the French 75. The food menu has been beefed up with bites available all day, brunch on Sundays, and special prix-fixe dinners over the weekend.
How to order: Reservations through Tock are strongly recommended, though some walk-in tables may be available. Gorgeous courtyard and socially distanced indoor seating is available.
Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29
Open since 2014, Latitude 29 doesn’t focus on classic New Orleans cocktails (Sazeracs, brandy milk punch, etc.) but the traditional tiki vibe was definitely a huge addition to the city. Owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry wanted to augment the city’s proximity to the tropics and opened this bar to cement that connection—and serve crazy-cool concoctions, like the Navy Grog and the Suffering Bastard.
How to order: Ordering the cheeky pan-Asian bar food is necessary to enjoy the drinks, and reservations through Resy are strongly recommended, since space is limited. But getting some tiki to go-go is also an option.
This is the weirdest and most wonderful wine bar in the world. You enter this unassuming spot through what looks like a perfectly normal-looking shop. But once you’re in, it's like a whole other dimension. Buy a bottle or beer—at retail, not restaurant price—and bring it outside into the courtyard where live music plays every night. It bills itself as the city’s “backyard party” and definitely lives up to that hype.
How to order: Its courtyard lends itself perfectly to socially distant partying, now with reservations required through Resy and time limits.
The Bakery Bar serves up doberge alongside creative cocktails and a great beer & wine selection. (For those who aren’t local, doberge is a classic New Orleans cake involving many layers put together with custard and then covered in icing.) Over the years, it’s also developed a solid bar menu that is worth a try—the biscuit board and trash fries look mighty tempting.
How to order: There is limited seating indoors, but everything is available to-go. A 15% gratuity will be added to every order to support the staff.
It took a little while for Barrel Proof to get into the groove after the COVID-19 closures, but pivoting to a full service restaurant (partnering with Matchbook Kitchen and Que Pasta) and the return of to-go drinks has helped things along. Stop by for happy hour from 4-5pm for a $5 Old Fashioned or frozen margarita.
How to order: There is socially distant, first-come, first-served seating and drinks to-go. No bar seating/standing, and food required for ordering drinks.
This is where to get delicious, daring, carefully composed cocktails, both original recipes and classics. In 2009, Cure opened on Freret Street when it was still reeling from post-Katrina abandonment and ushered in the golden age of modern cocktails in the city. The renovation of a former fire station made it possible to display its liquor on five long shelves stretching up over 14 feet high, truly an impressive sight. While in the neighborhood, grab a taco and marg at Vals (run by the same folks as Cure), a former gas station setup specifically for takeout and outdoor dining.
How to order: Both the indoor and outdoor spaces are set up according to social distancing measures and reservations through OpenTable are recommended. A 20 percent gratuity is automatically added to the bill to ensure that the new “light-contact” service protocols don’t affect the servers’ incomes.
Twelve Mile Limit
This the place to go when you want a high-quality mixed drink at a reasonable price. Twelve Mile Limit has grown steadily since it opened in 2011 in a former corner dive that now serves world-class quaffs. Its kitchen and outdoor space are perfect to welcome back customers from the Covid doldrums. As this is a welcoming neighborhood joint, the bartenders are as happy to sell you a PBR t- go as they are to mix up an original cocktail like the Baudin (bourbon, honey, lemon, and Tabasco).
How to order: Drinks are available to-go by the cup or gallon (if you bring your to-go cups for recycling, you get 50 cents off your next drink). Order food and adult beverages or hang out on the patio for drinks and a nosh.
The Avenue Pub has one of the best-curated beer lists in the country, but folks who drink shots of whiskey with their Abita are welcome, too. There’s room for everyone at the Pub, be they beer geeks, whiskey aficionados, sports fans, tourists, etc. Longtime fans and customers will notice a significant upgrade in decor—lighter, brighter, and cleaner.
How to order: A provisional restaurant license allows the bar to seat in limited capacity both inside and out between 8am-11pm, and a newly installed UV scrubber system ensures clean air filtering through the space.
This spot is over-the-top French sophistication in decor and hella creative when it comes to cocktails. There’s a speakeasy vibe (it’s separated from the hotel by a fake bookcase door) and everywhere you look is lush, sultry, and downright seductive. Newly opened after a multi-month hiatus, its latest offering is a prix-fixe $45 Deux Fois Deux cocktail pairing that includes two cocktails and two small plates.
How to order:Reservations are strongly recommended, and it’s a 90-minute maximum at each table.