Of all the cultural contributions bestowed upon the world by the city of New Orleans, perhaps none is as significant as the cocktail (though we’re pretty proud of jazz, po-boys, and the Higgins landing craft, too). With that in mind, we've compiled a list of the greatest & most iconic mixeds the Big Easy has produced, as well as the best places to score them...
1) The Sazerac
It’s the first cocktail in American history -- a delicate balance of whiskey, bitters, and sugar served straight up in a chilled, absinthe-laced rocks glass with a lemon twist -- and it’s still one of the best. There are really only two versions of this concoction: a Sazerac, and a bad Sazerac. Any self-respecting New Orleans bartender should be able to make one properly, but if you want the original, you obviously need to head to the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel.
2) The Hurricane
This was invented by Pat O’Brien at his namesake bar in the 1940’s as a way to dispose of all the rum that liquor distributors forced him to buy to get at the more popular scotch and bourbon. Pat’s is the original, albeit on the sweet side. For a fresh version of the classic, made with real passion fruit juice, make your way Felipe’s Taqueria in the Quarter (also: tacos!).
3) Arnaud's French 75
It’s difficult to go wrong ordering a drink that bears the name of the bar that serves it; Arnaud’s, home of the French 75 Bar, has been fixing up their mix of cognac, citrus, and champagne for the better part of a century, currently under the direction of master mixologist Chris Hannah.
4) The Ramos Gin Fizz
A properly executed Ramos Gin Fizz means at least a solid 10-12min of vigorous shaking & whipping to get the mixture of gin, citrus, orange flower water, egg whites, sugar, and cream into a perfect, foamy, intoxicating tongue-joyride. Invented by Henry Ramos in 1888 and favored by none other than Huey P. Long, it was popularized at the Roosevelt Hotel, where you can still find a great one today. One of the better modern incarnations comes from famed mixologist Paul Gusting, formerly at Tujagues, and soon enough behind the bar at the renovated Broussard’s restaurant when they re-open.
5) Pimm's Cup
It may be served in a glass, but the Pimms Cup's famed deliciousness and refreshing nature is no lie. The most well known version is at the Napoleon House, which is always a treat, but you can find an awesome variation (served in a wine goblet and filled with seasonal berries) at Kingfish.
6) Frozen Daiquiri
Being in NOLA means you're inevitably going to have a frozen daiquiri at some point. Not all fro-daiqs are created equal, however; the slushie joints along Bourbon St. and its environs tend to load theirs up with sugar, which we all know leads to a soul-crushing hangover, so for fresh fruit juice versions, hit up St. Lawrence, or Booty’s Street Food in the Bywater.
7) Milk Punch
Frequently beating out the Bloody as the Sunday brunch cocktail of choice, the brandy/bourbon milk punch currently comes in its most perfect form at the Bourbon House.
8) Vieux Carré
The term “Vieux Carré” isn’t just French for "Old Square"; it’s also the name of one New Orleans’ best classic cocktails, a potent rye/benedictine/bitters/vermouth-combo that's kissing cousins with the Old Fashioned & the Manhattan. You'll find it in most decent French Quarter bars and restos (most notably the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone), but don’t miss the barrel-aged version (made with 125-proof white rye!) at SoBou, courtesy of bar chef Abigail Gullo.
1. Sazerac Bar130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans
2. Felipe's Taqueria301 N Peters St (at Bienville), New Orleans
3. Arnaud's French 75 Bar813 Bienville St, New Orleans
4. Tujague's823 Decatur St, New Orleans
5. Broussard's Restaurant & Courtyard819 Conti St, New Orleans
6. Napoleon House Bar & Cafe500 Chartres St, New Orleans
7. Kingfish337 Chartres, New Orleans
8. St. Lawrence219 N Peters St, New Orleans
9. Booty's Street Food800 Louisa St, New Orleans
10. Bourbon House144 Bourbon St, New Orleans
11. Hotel Monteleone214 Royal St, New Orleans
12. SoBou310 Chartres St, New Orleans
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.
Serving authentic Mexican fare and Latin American craft cocktails, Felipe's Taqueria is a favorite spot amongst tourists and locals alike. This unassuming eatery serves amazing fresh burritos and tacos made from scratch, plus vegetarian options. The cocktail list is always expanding; from the Mezcal Flight to the El Presidente, all the drinks are hand-crafted with house-made liquors, bitters, and fresh fruit.
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.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Tujague's is the second oldest restaurant in NOLA, a fact evidenced by a timeless, extensive old-school menu that focuses around traditional Creole fare. The place also houses one of the most iconic bars in the country, and invented the minty post-dinner Grasshopper cocktail, which is delicious, and contains no actual grasshoppers.
Broussard’s offers a slightly different interpretation of French-Creole cuisine than other illustrious New Orleans fine dining establishments: contemporary interpretations give traditional dishes a new lease on life. Sweet potatoes are whipped with ginger, fried chicken is glazed with red chili and perched on a sweet potato biscuit, and the chicken fricassee is flavored with truffle and artichokes. Broussard’s is also home to the Empire Bar, where mixologist Paul Gustings pours up his signature Ramos Gin Fizz.
As if the beautifully aged, faded walls of this space weren't a giveaway, this family-owned creole spot is a classic New Orleans standby, offering the best muffaletta and Pimm's Cup in the city. Other remarkable dishes include gumbo and jambalaya, which you can enjoy in either the interior courtyard, or the historical bar room, whose Neapolitan portraits and gilded frames add to the classic dining experience.
Thibodaux native, Chef Nathan Richard, created a menu at the casual Kingfish restaurant that combines the Cajun reverence for honoring ingredients and culinary history with a sophisticated, often playful take on modern trends that excite visitors and natives alike. The plateau de fruits des mer is this spots take on a traditional meat charcuterie board, using local seafood to create all manner of fresh and cured sausages, terrines, and smoked items.
Saint Lawrence is a late night restaurant, gastropub, and beer garden. This is the perfect spot to get some truly excellent locally and regionally sourced bar food, rotating local craft beers on tap, and frozen cocktails like Pimm's Cup daiquiris and Louisiana Muscadine White Sangria. Also noteworthy, there are some delicious desserts on the menu, with vegan and vegetarian options as well.
Booty's serves up affordable street food from around the globe, concocts a variety of specialty cocktails, and brews Stumptown Coffee in a pleasant ambiance.
Bourbon House is a prime exemplar of what NOLA's all about, cuisine wise-- it serves up fresh seasonal, seafood dishes, has a great oyster bar on hand, and is home to more kinds of bourbon than you ever knew existed. This place is legit. The New Orleans Bourbon Society was created there, and continues to meet to discuss bourbon, drink bourbon, and even eat bourbon-themed meals.
The 50-suite Hotel Monteleone's a 19th-century Royal St landmark. The suites are capped with a 24-hour fitness center, spa, and heated rooftop pool, and night-capped by the haunted lobby's historic revolving Carousel Bar.
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.