Thrillist's Best (and the Rest): What You Actually Need to Know About Natural Wine
This absinthe parlor projects a speakeasy vibe with a sultry tribute to the “Green Fairy.” A variety of absinthes (try a flight if you’re interested) and absinthe-based cocktails make up most of the menu, but there are drinks featuring other spirits, as well. Old school marble absinthe fountains adorn the cypress bar, and patrons can enjoy sexy bar bites like French onion soup dumplings while seated on plush vintage pieces in the intimate space.
A little piece of Havana in the French Quarter -- this cozy, two-story bar serves up frozen rum drinks with a Caribbean flair. Manolito specializes in hand-shaken classic daiquiris and Cuban twists on well-known cocktails like the martini and Sazerac. It’s a great place to settle in and people watch, especially if seated outside watching Quarter life go by.
Housed in a renovated rectory attached to a former parish school and Catholic church, the Elysian Bar is located in the vintage yet decadent Hotel Peter and Paul. The bar follows suit, with rich colors, baroque architectural flourishes, eclectic patterns, and furniture throughout the sitting room areas and courtyard. The cocktails are as imaginative and luscious as the surroundings, and the bar has a significant and tasty low-proof amaro/aperitif drink menu.
The designers of Bar Marilou hail from Paris, and the decor reflects a European boldness and sophistication. The drinks are also daring, with cocktails like What We Do In the Shadows, made with bourbon, Amaro Sfumato, verjus, absinthe, chai syrup, and black lager. Or there’s the after dinner quaff The Lover Speaks with 100-agave tequila reposado, Frangelico, Martini Ambrato, and sesame oil. It’s the perfect place for a night of adventure.
A tavern tucked in a tiny 19th-century Creole cottage, Jewel of the South offers a romantic experience with the highest level of cocktails -- including a return to an oft-overlooked New Orleans drink creation, the Brandy Crusta. Owners and local cocktail legends Chris Hannah and Nick Dietrich have teamed up to provide a one-of-a-kind experience, tipping its hat to Joseph Santini who created the Brandy Crusta in his own bar, called Jewel of the South, in the 1850s. There are other lovingly resurrected throwbacks on the drink list from cobblers to punches to Manhattan variants.
New Orleans’ only “mezcaleria”, Espíritu focuses on showcasing the depth of flavor and the range of applications that this agave spirit provides. Mezcal has been gaining popularity with cocktail enthusiasts rapidly, and its complex smoky sweetness pairs gorgeously with other ingredients (as well as Latin American food). Try the Jaguar’s Paw, made with avocado, mezcal, and lime, or start your day with the coffee cocktail Ososito, which combines mezcal with coconut milk, coffee liqueur, and sweet plantain.
The large bar attached to this distillery on North Claiborne Avenue is filled with Seven Three’s spirits, which includes St. Roch Vodka, Irish Channel Whiskey, Gentilly Gin, and Black Pearl Rum (all named after the city’s 73 neighborhoods). Since they aim to provide a consumer-friendly experience, the distillers have created a diverse menu of classic and original cocktails to showcase their spirits. Seven Three also makes all its own bitters and amaro in-house, so it’s a real craft experience.
Named for Henry Ramos, the creator of the wildly popular (back in the day) Ramos Gin Fizz, the lobby bar at the NOPSI Hotel primarily focuses on gin-based drinks. But be sure to try original concoctions, too, like the Blueberry Hill with rosé, blueberries, and an exotic bitter called El Guapo Love Potion #9. If you’re a gin and tonic fan, this is the place to be, with over a half-dozen variations (using different flavor profiles, various tonics, and adjunct ingredients). Enjoy the build-your-own-martini option as well.
As its food menu does with exotic Southeast Asian flavors combined with Southern Louisiana flair, the cocktail menu at Maypop delivers intriguing and well-executed drinks that make you rethink whatever you know about flavor combinations and your own palate. Try the Bangkok Mule, a take on the classic vodka drink that adds lemongrass and lime to house-made ginger beer, or the Pikapika with thai chili-infused tequila, ginger liqueur, turmeric, lime, and korean chili salt. Maypop is in a great location, too -- close to theaters, the Superdome, Poydras Street, and the art galleries of Julia Street.
Lower Garden District
While the chef-centric dining dominates downstairs (literally -- the seats all surround the open kitchen), the upstairs at Gris-Gris features a gorgeous bar with a sophisticated cocktail menu created by local pro Ferrel Dugas. It’s a beautiful spot to relax, and the building’s rejuvenated Creole townhouse vibe includes floor-to-ceiling windows and a vintage fireplace. The cocktails themselves are creative, flavorful, and fun.
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 and the historical, long lost Lapu Lapu), as well as innovative cocktails. Share a Beachbum Bowl, which combines three Caribbean rums and ten Asian spices.
This is the granddaddy of the modern New Orleans cocktail bar. When Cure opened in 2008, it was a game-changer on Freret Street, 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 extremely attentive to the craft.
Located in The Roosevelt, a favorite 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 that change with the seasons.
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: Every night there’s a featured cocktail, and the bartender will give you a sample of it to try before you order. And Victory is so dedicated to the art of the cocktail craft there’s a space next door called the New Orleans Drink Lab, which offers classes on the history and preparation of classic cocktails. See? Serious stuff.
Although a restaurant first and foremost, Compère Lapin has assembled a baller cocktail team from the start. The Crow’s Nest is a fun drink, combining brandy and vermouth with roasted banana and thyme. In the New Orleans heat, go straight for one of the bar’s trademark frozen drinks, like the Ramos Gin Freeze. If you order the Copper Bunny, a mule variation that adds pineapple-jalapeño tequila and bubbles to the vodka/ginger beer classic, don’t even think about trying to boost the actual copper bunny it’s served in. They will hunt you down and find you.
It may actually be illegal to have a list of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans without including this service-focused team of white-tuxedoed bartenders attached to Arnaud’s Restaurant, one of the grand dames of New Orleans creole fine dining. The execution of classics 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, which are equally as impressive.
If a neighborhood bar and a cocktail lounge had a baby, the result would be this pretense-free, affordable, creative spot with deliciously executed drinks. Even more than great cocktails, Twelve Mile Limit provides trivia, pool, a badass jukebox, live dating games, dance parties, and Cuban-Italian fusion food. Try the Mr. Big Shot, a tropical riff on the classic Old Fashioned. The cocktail menu changes seasonally, so be ready for anything.
This island-vibe hideaway is so low-key, it doesn’t even have a sign out front. (Look for the line at Coop’s on Decatur, and it’s right 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, just for extra joy.
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, since its expansion and subsequent surge of popularity. 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.
This is a low-key spot where people who like to drink whiskey can do exactly that. Barrel Proof doesn’t have a cocktail list per se, but its bartenders 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 feel so inclined.
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 proper classes, then lists all the drinks of each type you can order underneath the definition. Or you can eschew all that and just go for an amazing Frenchmen's Dark & Stormy. Plus, the made-from-scratch Bacon Bloody Mary is available only on Saturdays (for $5!) and it usually sells out quickly, so hustle on over to try one.
Located on the second floor above Felipe’s Taqueria, Tiki Tolteca is decorated like a nostalgic, Polynesian dream. The drink menu, however, draws from both tiki and Latin American flavor profiles and traditions.
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.