The Best Bars in New Orleans Right Now
If there's anything New Orleans has a lot of, it's bars. From the birthplaces of historic cocktails and tacky Bourbon Street walk-ups to expansive brewpubs and cozy dives, we take our drinking establishments seriously. Because it's nearly impossible to get a consensus from locals on which are the greatest, we've rounded up the best variety -- a mix of new, old, and infamous -- to check out in the Big Easy. Champagne, cocktails, and general revelry are in the city’s DNA, making it the perfect place to celebrate, well, just about anything.
Absinthe and glamour on Bourbon Street
Behind the Old Absinthe House, a new super-glam bar (and restaurant) has sprung up and it has classed Bourbon Street up. The bar serves sophisticated cocktails -- with absinthe and without -- courtesy of bar manager/historian Laura Bellucci and fantastic French-influenced small plates from chef Hayley VanVleet. It’s a sexy spot with dim lighting, comfy couches, and high-top tables. But the bar, with its multiple absinthe fountains, is the place to be -- especially if you’re curious about the fabled spirit. If you’re a fan of the green fairy, try an Ear and Loathing, which combines St. George absinthe with barrel-aged gin, Cocci Americano, passion fruit, and Peychaud’s or a straight up absinthe frappe, called The Cayetano. (Pair your drinks with the French onion soup dumpling. You won’t be sorry.)
Next best thing to actually being in Havana
A cheerful, tiny spot that serves up the flavors of Cuba, Manolito is named for Manuel Carbajo Aguilar, a longtime bartender at Havana’s fame 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 with segments of fresh grapefruit dropped through the blender and multiple rums layered atop it in a hurricane glass. There are only 24 seats in Manolito (with some outdoor options, weather permitting), so if you snag a spot, you’ll feel like a part of the atmosphere for however long you linger.
Honoring an obscure locally created cocktail
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. It’s all about honoring local history in other ways, as well. The modest Creole cottage in which it’s housed dates back to the 1830s and the magnificent copper top bar that anchors the low-lit interior was made in the 1880s. In addition to the Crusta, other cocktail classics are tweaked ever so slightly by pros and co-owners Chris Hannah and Nick Detrich. Apparently Santini’s Jewel of the South was the first place in New Orleans to sell gumbo to the public, so there will always be a version available on its frequently changing menu.
French-casual wine garden
This is a laid back French-style wine bistro with unusual grapes from unusual places, a small bar, and a beautiful backyard courtyard. 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, with a gorgeous Txakolina rose from the Basque region of Spain that should be jumped on. 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.
Like the Moulin Rouge of bars
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 it’s in by a fake bookcase door) and everywhere you look is lush, sultry, and downright seductive. Fancy a cocktail? Try a Jardin de Meme, a blend of green chartreuse, St. Germain, absinthe, lime, and basil. The wine list is all French vintages and the beer menu is (mostly) regional. You could while away hours feeling fancy and Continental and have fascinating conversations with the most dashing individuals.
Beer for every taste and occasion
New Orleans has a lot more breweries than they used to, and this one, tucked behind one of the busiest traffic hubs of the city (Washington and South Broad) is the newest. The hand-crafted wood accents on the wall and serving as furniture is a sign this place is something special, and that’s confirmed when you try one of the many diverse beers on tap. There’s a focus on cutting edge experimentation with barrel aging, sours, pastry beers, and hazy IPAs, but there’s something for every palate. Located inside the historic Gem Theater, Zony Mash also provides regular entertainment like movies, music, comedy, and burlesque trivia. Naturally.
Try wine, buy wine
The cheerful blue corrugated metal building mysteriously tucked away on a side street in Broadmoor is home to an unpretentious wine bar, where glasses of interesting vintages accompany cheese and charcuterie. The Independent Caveau also has a retail shop where you can purchase all the items you loved, or didn’t get around to trying while bellied up to the blonde wood bar. The entire room is wallpapered for a vintage feel, but in a badass way. “Independent” also refers to the kind of vineyards the owners source from, keeping the focus on small producers and underappreciated grapes and regions.
Aperitifs and then some
Housed in a former rectory as part of the new Hotel Peter and Paul, the stunning restoration feels simultaneously sophisticated and homey. There are several sitting rooms up front to enjoy a cocktail and snack, and the back bar is a sumptuous affair with a swooping carved wooden arch over and walls patterned in geometric shapes. The religious iconography is a nod to its previous life, and the light casts a golden glow. While cocktails of all types are excellent here, the Elysian Bar is special because of the attention paid to flavorful, low-proof aperitifs available all night long, but try to hit the daily Aperitif Hour from 3-6pm for a variety of spritzes and fancy vermouth and tonics for $7.
Outdoor beer garden on the Lafitte Greenway
The 2.6 mile-long bike and pedestrian path cuts from the edge of the French Quarter, through the Treme and Bayou St. John before ending in the heart of Mid City, and that kind of exercise will surely leave you parched. The Wrong Iron is here to slake your thirst with a selection of nearly 50 beers, several cocktails, and even frozen drinks -- all on tap. There’s a bike parking lot and a beer garden patio with a great view of the urban restoration project New Orleans has created (and finished)!
Neighborhood tavern vibe in the middle of the hectic Quarter
It’s like you’re going to a friend’s house, if your friend had a full bar, killer cocktail list, fantastic food, and made you pay for all that. (Worth it, though.) It’s a cozy space with a killer courtyard, and it’s easy to settle in and get comfortable. The cocktail list is a split between New Orleans classics and lesser-known riffs, with everything from a Sazerac to a sherry cobbler to a grapefruit forward drink called Pamp and Circumstance. Munch on elevated tavern fare, like a Gulf fish crudo, country pate, or Parmesan and anchovy croquettes. Great spot for a quiet drink that’s anything but boring.
Est. 2017 | French Quarter
This bubble lover’s spot serves Champagne and a lot more
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 vintages like Veuve Ambal Brut Blanc de Blancs, Taittinger "La Francaise" Brut, Veuve Clicquot, and Louis Roederer "Cristal" Brut, as well as prosecco on tap and sparkling-based cocktails like the French 75.
Est. 2016 | Lower Garden District
Cake + booze = genius
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.) At the Bakery Bar, enjoy the dessert in all flavors and sizes, thanks to the team behind Debbie Does Doberge. It's the perfect place for folks who want a low-key night with delicious and geeky fun.
Est. 2014 | Garden District
For a glass full of brown liquor with no judgment
Whiskey, whiskey, and more whiskey is what you'll find here. With a long bar in a dark space and hundreds of spirits available, all Barrel Proof is missing is a young Tom Waits drinking alone in a corner. The boilermakers are great, but classic whiskey preparations like the Manhattan, boulevardier, or Old Fashioned really shine. Or you can just drink your poison straight up, maybe with a Schlitz to wash it down. Your call.
Est. 2014 | French Quarter
Modern tiki presented by the world’s foremost expert on the subject
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 New Orleans' proximity to the tropics and opened this bar to cement that connection -- and serve crazy-cool concoctions, like the Navy Grog and Pearl Diver.
Est. 2011 | Mid-City
A neighborhood bar with a surprising cocktail program
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. Although the old pool table, video poker machine, and kick-ass jukebox remain, the kitchen and outdoor space have expanded to better meet the needs of the new customers. As this is a welcoming neighborhood joint, the bartenders are as happy to sell you a PBR as they are to mix up an original cocktail like the Baudin (bourbon, honey, lemon, and Tabasco).
Est. 2009 | Uptown
The granddaddy of craft cocktail culture in New Orleans
The folks at Cure upped the cocktail game for the modern age in New Orleans. In 2009, business partners Neal Bodenheimer and Kirk Estopinal opened this establishment on Freret Street when it was still reeling from post-Katrina abandonment. 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.
Est. 2006 | Garden District
Unpretentious world-class craft beer and whiskey bar
Open 24 hours almost every day of the year, 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. The hours and atmosphere make it popular with the service industry, emergency workers, medical professionals, and anyone else who doesn't work a 9-to-5, but there's room for everyone at the Pub, be they beer geeks, whiskey aficionados, sports fans, tourists, etc.
Est. 2003 | French Quarter
A classic Creole bar with an upscale twist
This is an old-school New Orleans bar named for the champagne cocktail, and it still feels like a step back in time. Attached to Arnaud's, one of the city's Creole grande dame restaurants, the spot's decor is lush, the light is dim, and has many liquor options besides the eponymous drink. However, the bubbly French 75 is the perfect beverage to toast any occasion.
Est. 2002 | Bywater
Mash-up of wine store, bar, music venue, and restaurant
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. Plus it’s right on the Mississippi River which means prime fireworks real estate. The backyard is terrific for live music, of course.
Est. 1980s | French Quarter
The French Quarter's neighborhood bar
Erin Rose has the feel of a real locals joint, with a lot of regulars, an amazing jukebox, simple-but-potent beverages, and one of the best Bloody Marys in the city. Visitors and residents hang out at the dark bar, elbow to elbow, and on a hot day, there's nothing better than the frozen Irish coffee. Plus, the innovative, delicious restaurant Killer PoBoys serves up sandwiches in the back bar every day except Tuesday from noon till midnight. It’s the perfect place to duck in during French Quarter revelry, either as a respite from the madness of Bourbon Street, or as a place to settle in, drink, and people-watch.
Est. 1949 | French Quarter
Round and round we go in the literally spinning bar
The Carousel is a local and tourist favorite attached to one of the city's most iconic hotels, the Monteleone. The bar is intricately designed and slowly rotates around while the veteran staffers serve you newly inspired cocktails and the classics. (As a fun bit of trivia, it's actually where the Vieux Carré was invented.) The fact that it feels like the world is revolving around you makes this high-class merry-go-round a must-visit.
Est. 1930s | CBD
Classic hotel bar with fancy leather seating
These high-class cocktail digs inside the Roosevelt Hotel provide deliciousness all year-round, but the winter wonderland in the hotel’s lobby makes it extra awesome for the holidays. Although the Sazerac has a wide selection of classic and creative cocktails all year round, during the holidays, you can toast the new year with specially themed drinks like the Cranhattan or the Holiday Fashioned.
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