Food & Drink

The Best Cocktail Bars in New Orleans

Published On 07/12/2016 Published On 07/12/2016
Latitude 29

Latitude 29

French Quarter

Tiki devotees flock to this bar, owned by noted expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. The decor is like a Polynesian fever dream, and the drink menu includes riffs on traditional Tiki classics (think Mai Tais and Zombies), as well as innovative cocktails like Davy Jones’ Lager, a mix of Antigua gold rum, Japanese beer, Curaçao, and spiced cane syrup.

Cafe Adelaide

Swizzle Stick Bar at the Cafe Adelaide

Warehouse District

The bar is a sight to behold, what with its super-high ceilings and hand-chipped ice (the making of which is always an attention-getting show). This place feels more relaxed than many other serious cocktail bars -- it's OK to maybe talk a little loud in here; it’s not like a church or a library, after all. Named for the carefree, exuberant (now deceased) Adelaide Brennan, the Swizzle Stick seeks to honor the bawdy-debutante dichotomy that she lived.

Cure

Uptown/Freret

This is the granddaddy of the modern New Orleans cocktail bar. When Cure opened in 2008, it was a game-changer on Freret St, both in starting the neighborhood revival as well as bringing a fresh take on cocktail culture to a city that can sometimes get stuck in its own past. The space is gorgeous, the cocktail list esoteric (although there are always a few familiar names), and the staff is attentive to the craft.

The Roosevelt Hotel

The Sazerac Bar

CBD

Located in The Roosevelt, a favorite of hotel of former Louisiana governor Huey P. Long, The Sazerac Bar's dim lighting and leather upholstery create the illusion that The Kingfish and his cronies are still around, making backroom deals, drinking bourbon, and smoking cigars. Have one of the eponymous beverages, or branch off into creative riffs on the classics, like the basil julep or The Southern Gentleman, which combines bourbon with muddled blackberries and mint.

Oxalis

Bywater

This whiskey-focused bar, located in a cozy, faded beauty of a converted corner shop, also offers a gorgeous hidden courtyard. It's the perfect place to enjoy cocktails like the Black Thai White Noise, made with rum, serrano & bell pepper syrup, basil, lime, and coconut milk. Or go with a fruit-muddled Old Fashioned with any of the "plastic cap" menu whiskeys. Bonus: the food's legit, too, and if you show up for happy hour, $5 will get you some excellent snacks.

El Libre

French Quarter

This rum bar focuses on the Cuban rum traditions. It's the place to stop in and get the city’s best mojito, or a classic Hemingway daiquiri. The tiny bar/cafe does have seating, but it feels more like a to-go stand, which is certainly convenient.

Catahoula Hotel

Catahoula Hotel Bar

Warehouse District

Nathan Dalton, the mad genius that put Tiki Tolteca together, brings his undying love of pisco to the Catahoula Hotel Bar. With Bazil Zerinsky (who co-owns El Libre) and the rest of his pisco-loving crew, Dalton has put together a cocktail list that doubles as a love letter to the Peruvian grape-based spirit. Look for classics like the pisco sour, as well as more creative concoctions like the Coolest Kid In Class, which blends chamomile-infused pisco, sherry, apple, and honey, and comes served in a juice pouch in a brown lunch bag... with a snack and a note from Mom.

Victory

CBD

Owner and head bartender Daniel Victory is serious about his cocktails. But don’t worry, he wants you to have fun while drinking them. Two things of note: 1) every night there’s a featured cocktail, and the bartender will give you a sample of it to try before you order; and 2) Daniel is so dedicated to the art of the cocktail craft that he opened a space next door called the New Orleans Drink Lab, which offers classes on the history and preparation of classic cocktails. See? Serious stuff. Seriously good stuff.

Courtesy of Compere Lapin

Compère Lapin

Warehouse District

Although a restaurant first and foremost, Compère Lapin has assembled a baller cocktail team from the start, showing this town how serious this team is about libations. Bar manager Abigail Gullo brings her love for sherry into some of her creations, like the Gentleman Caller, made with gin and Fino en Rama. But in the summer heat, go straight for one of the bar’s trademark frozen drinks, like the Abuelita daiquiri, made with cachaca, lime, plantains, and coffee -- or their creative takes on the piña colada and the frozen strawberry daiquiri.

Arnaud's French 75

French Quarter

It may actually be illegal to have a list of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans without including this service-focused, Chris Hannah-led team of white-tuxedoed bartenders attached to Arnaud’s Restaurant, one of the grand dames of New Orleans creole fine dining. The execution of classic drinks like the Old Fashioned, Sidecar, and of course the French 75 is flawless, but you can always ask for something a bit out of the scope of the cocktail tradition.

Twelve Mile Limit

Twelve Mile Limit

Mid City

Neighborhood bar meets craft cocktail lounge with pretense-free, affordable, creative, and deliciously executed drinks. Even more than great cocktails, Twelve Mile Limit provides trivia, free food on Monday nights, pool, a badass jukebox, live dating games, dance parties, and loaded tater tots. Try the Baudin, a bourbon drink with honey and hot sauce.

Cane & Table

French Quarter

Nick Detrich’s island-vibe French Quarter hideaway is so low-key, it doesn’t even have a sign out front (look for the line at Coop’s on Decatur, it’s next door). The cocktail recipes celebrated here influenced the mid-century American Tiki craze, started in 1934 with Don the Beachcomber. Sometimes you might even get your delicious cocktail inside a pineapple or coconut shell, just for extra-sheer joy.

2014 Neil Alexander/neilphoto.com

Loa

CBD

One of the sexiest spaces in the Central Business District, Loa offers an extensive selection of cocktails that combine the city’s historic drinks with new and creative takes on the craft, like the Cuban Sazerac, or the Wild Birdfeed Old Fashioned. The drink descriptions all contain stories, which are hella entertaining.

The Hotel Monteleone

Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone

French Quarter

The Carousel Bar is named quite accurately: the entire bar rotates constantly, a sensation that can be disconcerting at first, but you really do find yourself getting into it. Historically, this is a place to have a quiet, dignified cocktail, but this spot is a lot more raucous these days. Still, go get that Vieux Carre you’ve been thinking about, which is made here with Bulleit Rye and Hennessey... it’ll cure whatever ails ya.

Barrel Proof

Barrel Proof

LGD

This is a low-key spot where people who like to drink whiskey can do exactly that. They don’t have a cocktail list per se, but will expertly make any cocktail you ask, so it’s a great time to try that bourbon-based cocktail you’ve been interested in. Plus, there are dozens of sipping whiskeys to enjoy, as well as beer and non-whiskey spirits, should you really feel so inclined.

Empire Bar

Empire Bar at Broussard’s

French Quarter

Paul Gustings is a goddamn national treasure. Rather like the honey badger in nature, Gustings' gruff personality is accompanied by decades of making cocktails, so if you're a cocktail nerd, pay attention to what he says and does -- you'll totally learn something you want to know. And if he’s grumpy at you, just remember that it’s all part of the Paul Gustings experience, as is an expertly prepared cocktail or glass of punch. Try one of his signature Napoléon brandy-based cocktails, or roll with something more tropical like the Leite de Onça, a cachaça-based cocktail with toasted coconut shavings, pineapple syrup, heavy cream, condensed milk, and Mexican chocolate. You can also just ask him to make you whatever he’s in the mood for.

Bar 38 at Dryades Market

Central City

Named for McDonough 38 school, the converted building in which Dryades Market is now housed, Bar 38 is set up in the middle, serving beer, wine, cocktails, and snacks. The cocktail menu takes its cue from school-based puns, and the menu comes bound in what looks like a grade-school composition book. Try a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned or French 75 from the "History Lessons" section, or try a cocktail named "Study Break," "Final Exam," or "Hall Pass." N.B.: it's not our fault if you have a nightmare about missing an important test.

The lobby bar of Ace Hotel

Warehouse District

This area’s swanky new hotel actually has two bars of note: the lobby bar, and the rooftop bar, called Alt, both with cocktail menus created by local bartending legend Lucinda Weed. At the lobby bar, grab a seat and order a cocktail up like TGI-RYEday, made with rye whiskey, curaçao, and apple brandy. If you want something lighter, go for the White Port & Tonic. The upstairs bar has a pool, and there is an entry charge for non-guests, but once inside, you can order tropical-themed cocktails with ingredients like pineapple, mint, grapefruit... and not one but two frozen boozy drinks.

SoBou

SoBou

French Quarter

Lead bartender Laura Bellucci adds a distinctly literary vibe to the booziness at SoBou’s bar. Great literature is what inspires her cocktail recipes and names, and she runs the Literary and Drinking Round Table on the third Thursday of every month. Books aside, SoBou always has something tasty in the punch bowl, and an outstanding list of creative cocktails. Pro tip: go for a giant flask of brunch Hooch on the weekends.

Willa Jean

Willa Jean

Warehouse District

This bakery-focused restaurant offers an extensive menu of coffee- and tea-based cocktails. If you're a tea lover, go for the Dirty Water, which is made with green tea, mint, bourbon, lemon, and simple syrup, and if you're more into coffee, grab an Afternoon Delight, made with the house Intelligentsia coffee, vodka, Licor 43, vanilla milk, and orange peel.

Bar Tonique

French Quarter

If you want to know what defines a cocktail, as opposed to a punch, sour, or sling, you'll find out when you belly up to the bar at Bar Tonique and look at its cocktail menu. This place divides all boozy beverages into their proper classes, then lists all the drinks of each type you can order underneath the definition... or just go for an amazing Frenchmen’s Dark & Stormy.

Three Muses

Three Muses

Marigny

Cocktails, food, and music all come together at Frenchmen Street’s Three Muses. Local bartending hero Kimberly Patton-Bragg has taken her extreme depth of knowledge of whiskey, tequila, and mezcal, and created delicious sippers that are unique... but also damn easy to finish.

Tiki Tolteca

Tiki Tolteca

French Quarter

Located on the second floor, above Felipe’s Taqueria, Tiki Tolteca is decorated like a dream Polynesian setup from back in Tiki cocktails' original heyday. The drink menu, however, draws from both Tiki and Latin American flavor profiles and traditions.

Revel Cafe & Bar

Mid City

Local cocktail legend Chris McMillian has finally hung out his own shingle with Revel, a small craft cocktail bar with a great wine list and food menu as well. Order a classic like the mint julep, mojito, or a Ramos Gin Fizz, and watch the master at work as he prepares your drink.

Palace Cafe

Palace Cafe’s Black Duck Bar

French Quarter

Obviously, we New Orleanians take our rum seriously, but maybe no one takes it as seriously as the New Orleans Rum Society’s headquarters, located in the newly renovated Black Duck Bar in the Palace Cafe. With at least 125 rums to choose from (the tequila list ain’t bad either), this place is a must for rum aficionados.

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1. Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29 321 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

Latitude 29 in the French Quarter is a Tiki lover's paradise. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s shrine to all things Tiki has proven itself to be a refreshing and enlightened pillar of the NOLA drinks scene due to its large menu of deliciously concocted cocktails. Check out the bar's take on classics like Mai Tai and Zombies, and for something a bit more inventive, go for the Davy Jones' Lager, which is a mix of Antigua gold rum, Japanese beer Curacao, and spiced cane syrup.

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2. Café Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar 300 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Central Business District)

This Central Business District resto & bar serves a variety of delectable food and drink options, like signature cocktail-paired brunches (concocted by Executive Chef Carl Schaubhut and Bar Chef Lu Brow), and they also dole out 25 cent martinis. Yeah, that’s a quarter of a buck, friend. The relaxed vibe of this cocktail bar makes you feel comfortable to chat with your friends, and the friendly atmosphere will make you want to stay for hours.

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3. Cure 4905 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115 (Uptown)

Cure in Uptown is one of the mainstays of the New Orleans cocktail bar scene. The lush and lavish interior invites cocktail snobs and newbies alike to indulge in the varied cocktail list with hilarious and inventive names. In addition to cocktails, Cure features great food options that range from small bites to larger entrees. The bar hosts a great happy hour every day of the week, so check its website for the ever-changing deals.

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4. Sazerac Bar 130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, LA 70112 (Central Business District)

Inside the swanky, lost-in-time Sazerac Bar, you could find yourself looking at all kinds of historical wonders: WPA-era murals by Paul Ninas, the 1878 Ascot Cup, and a bullet hole that erroneous lore credits to an assassination attempt on then-Senator Huey P. Long, who liked to sip Ramos Gin Fizzes at the bar. While you’re sipping your expertly made cocktail in the dark, well-appointed room, consider what you are not seeing: tourists in cargo shorts sipping watery beer. Even if some of your comrades in drink are tossing back domestic swill instead of, say, the bar’s namesake, the historic decor buffers it. It’s hard to imagine a prettier bar in New Orleans.

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5. Oxalis 3162 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70117 (Bywater)

Oxalis is a can't-miss when it comes to drinking in Bywater. This trendy and lively bar/eatery features a brown alcohol-focused selection of spirits with over 30 bourbons on reserve, and a myriad of classic, well-prepared cocktails. The food at Oxalis, which ranges from small plates to burgers and wings, is the kind of solid fare you'll want after knocking back a few.

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6. El Libre 508 Dumaine St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (French Quarter)

If there’s one thing New Orleans could always use more of, it’s Cuban restaurants. What, do you think we’re going to wait all year for the Cubano from Canseco's at Jazz Fest? Thankfully, we have El Libre in the French Quarter, which is snapping spicy new life into the New Orleans dining scene. Also, this spot tends to give out free shots with every Saints score if you happen to watch the game there, which might just make you a fan of our boys in black and gold (if you weren’t already).

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7. Catahoula Hotel & Bar 914 Union St, New Orleans, LA 70112 (Warehouse District)

Catahoula Hotel Bar in the Warehouse District was created by Nathan Dalton, the mastermind behind the popular and whimsical Tiki Tolteca. His cocktail list is an ode to pisco, the Peruvian grape-based spirit. Try the classic pisco sour or our favorite, The Coolest Kid in Class, which combines chamomile-infused pisco, sherry, apple, and honey, and comes served in a juice pouch in a brown lunch bag. Points for creativity.

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8. Victory 339 Baronne St, New Orleans, LA 70112 (Central Business District)

Victory in Central Business District is the perfect bar to get serious about your cocktails while also having a whole bunch of fun drinking them. Every night, there is a featured cocktail, and the bartenders are kind enough to offer you a sample to try it before ordering. Also, if you want to learn how to make the cocktails yourself, head right next door to Drink Lab New Orleans, where Daniel Victory, the owner of his namesake bar, teaches classes about history and preparation of classic cocktails.

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9. Compère Lapin 535 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Warehouse District)

Lead by Top Chef contestant Nina Compton, Compére Lapin is Caribbean-meets-Louisiana-Creole cuisine that is thoughtful and refined, but not fussy. Add a killer bar program (headed by NOLA barkeep Abigail Gullo from SoBou), and you've got yourself your next Friday night dinner reservation. Located in the Warehouse District, the space is a stunner, with exposed brick walls, wood finishes and a mosaic tile floor.

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10. Arnaud's French 75 Bar 813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112 (French Quarter)

Originally designated as a "gentlemen only area" in NOLA's early days, this cocktail bar located within Arnaud's Restaurant features drinks like the Pisco Derby (that's pisco, lavender honey syrup, lime, and grapefruit) and bar snacks like Oysters en Brochette (translation: oysters wrapped with bacon and deep fried). You'll feel extra fancy having those cocktails and snacks served to you by bartenders clad in white tuxedos. In addition to more inventive drinks, you can't go wrong with the killer Old Fashioned or Sidecar either.

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11. Twelve Mile Limit 500 S Telemachus St, New Orleans, LA 70119 (Mid City)

Twelve Mile has all the little things that make a bar feel homey. You’ve got food if you need it, places to sit and stare at the curios that catch your eye -- like the stuffed shark and squid hanging near the Hyperbole and a Half print on the wall -- a solid jukebox, pool, and personalized matchbooks to light your smokes or pass a number to someone. It’s the neighborhood bar worth leaving your actual neighborhood to adopt as your own.

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12. Cane & Table 1113 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (French Quarter)

There are many things to enjoy about this throwback Caribbean restaurant and bar -- think Navy-strength rum and house-made falernum -- but best enjoyed here is the “Boss Colada”, a long and tropical drink fashioned from fresh pineapple, lime, Baska Snäps, and Peychauds bitters, garnished with a long pineapple leaf. Be warned: this bar is so low-key that there isn't even a sign out front. To find it, look for the line at Coop's on Decatur; it's next door.

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13. LOA new orleans 221 Camp St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Central Business District)

This intimate yet sophisticated space, located in the International House Hotel, is about as romantic as a bar can get. Candlelight and plush velvet stools are aplenty, and the ambiance is only improved by the expertly crafted cocktails. The Central Business District bar believes the background of the drink is just as important as the actual libation, so each cocktail on the menu comes with extremely entertaining stories.

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14. Carousel Bar & Lounge 214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

Featuring an actual carousel bar that revolves around patrons, the French Quarter's Carousel Bar & Lounge mixes classic and contemporary cocktails like Sazeracs and Pimm's Cups, pairing them with New Orleans-style bar bites like seafood okra gumbo and po boys. Live jazz music entertains a slightly more dressed-up clientele, who'll endure a wait to snag a table at the circular bar.

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15. Barrel Proof 1201 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Garden District)

Located in the Lower Garden District, Barrel Proof features whiskey, whiskey, and more whiskey (150 bottles of it). So if you like the good brown stuff (from places like Japan, Ireland, Scotland, India [!], and of course the good ole US of A), this is the place for you. Bourbon's not the only thing on the menu, though-- cocktails here are classic libations, made by bartenders who clearly know what they're doing.

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16. The Empire Bar at Broussard's 819 Conti St, New Orleans, LA 70112 (French Quarter)

Located at the fine dining establishment Broussard's, the Empire Bar houses a lavish marble bar, behind which barman supreme Paul Gustings will be waiting to make you a Ramos Fizz, or one of the other extraordinary 'tails on the menu. Try one of Gustings' signature Napoleon brandy-based cocktails or the Leite de Onca, which is a cachaça-based cocktail with toasted coconut shavings, pineapple syrup, heavy cream, condensed milk, and Mexican chocolate.

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17. Bar 38 at Dryades Market 1307 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70113

Bar 38 is located in Dryades Market is probably the most convenient place to sip on cocktails and then immediately shop for groceries. Named after McDonough 38, which is the school that once resided in the same building, Bar 38 hosts a cocktail menu with a "Schoolhouse on the Rocks" theme. In addition to cocktails, the bar also offers bottled and draft beer, wine by the glass and a great happy hour featuring small plates every day but Sunday.

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18. The Lobby Bar of the Ace Hotel 600 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Warehouse District)

The Lobby Bar in the Ace Hotel in the Warehouse District is an extremely lavish and welcoming part of an equally exciting hotel. Grab a seat at the bar and order the inventive cocktail TGI-RYEday, made with rye whiskey, curacao, and apple brandy. In addition to the Lobby Bar, you can also go to the upstairs bar, which has a pool. There is an entry charge for non-guests, but once inside, you can order drinks of the more frozen and fruity variety.

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19. SoBou 310 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

Located inside the W Hotel, SoBou is a spirited restaurant south of Bourbon St (hence the name) feels like a modern-day Creole saloon. The restaurant and lounge is known for its hand-crafted cocktails, and serves creative spins on traditional bar snacks like crispy pork skin and spicy beer nuts, as well as some heartier dishes. SoBou also has a beer garden with beer taps in the tables and self-serve wine machines.

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20. Willa Jean Bakery 611 O'Keefe Ave, New Orleans, LA 70113 (Central Business District)

This Central Business District bakery is run by the dream team of Kelly Fields and Lisa White, who design all the baked goods for John Besh's restaurant empire. Expect Southern-style baked goods, as well as a host of eats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Willa Jean serves up Intelligentsia Coffee, and the varied cocktail menu will have you frequenting this sleek, sophisticated bakery for more than just its food.

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21. Bar Tonique 820 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (French Quarter)

While tourists are welcome at Bar Tonique, it is in the French Quarter after all, this craft cocktail bar doesn’t cater to out-of-towners and instead focuses on its encyclopedic cocktail menu. Of the 40 plus cocktails listed by classification and purpose (think “True Cocktails”, “Sours,” and “Punches”), the “True” East India Cocktail is high on our list of must-drink with its cognac, curaçao, Maraschino cherries, house-made pineapple syrup, angostura bitters, and lemon peel garnish. All visitors feel at home in this comfortable, den-like space whether you’re seated at the wrap-around bar or snuggled up by the fireplaces during the cold season, and for those of you that consider yourself whiskey aficionados ... Tuesday’s special is whiskey flights.

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22. Three Muses 536 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116

"Whiskey evangelist" Kimberly Patton-Bragg's the Three Muses was voted as one of New Orleans Magazine’s Top Bars, and if that wasn't reason enough to check it out, there's also a great small plates menu and nightly live jazz in store. Try The Muses' signature dish, fries with feta cheese and gremolata, while you sip on signature cocktails, the Spaghetti Western, which combines Bulleit bourbon muddled with Campari-soaked oranges and rosemary spirits.

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23. Tiki Tolteca 301 N. Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

Hidden above the downtown Felipe's, this tiki haven serves flaming bowls of booze, like the mezcal and tequila Escorpion Punch and the Zombie Punch that comes with a giant rum-filled gummy brain (don’t worry, the straws have spoons on the end so you can eat every bit). It looks like a Polynesian dream from Tiki cocktails' heyday in the 20th century. The drink menu itself draws from both Tiki and Latin American influences.

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24. Revel Cafe and Bar 133 N Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119 (Mid City)

Revel Cafe and Bar is a cocktail-focused bar started by legendary cocktail master Chris McMillian and his wife Laura. It offers special rotating cocktails during happy hour, as well as small snacks like smoked fish tacos or white bean hummus. Gourmet sandwiches are served with housemade bread, and bold colors on the wall add a kick of invitation for customers wanting to stay awhile.

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25. Palace Café's Black Duck Bar 605 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

Black Buck Bar in New Orleans staple Palace Cafe takes its rum very seriously. So seriously that they have at least 125 different kinds to choose from. And it is the literal headquarters of the New Orleans Rum Society. So, serious rum aficionados should hear. The name of the bar actually comes from the most notorious rum running vessel during Prohibition. The dimly lit lively atmosphere is perfect for trying the different rums, and everyone will feel welcome, even if you're just learning about rum.