Some bars end up having a little more punch than others. And while there’s some dispute about whether or not the cocktail was actually invented in the Big Easy, there’s no denying that we mastered and perfected it, and some of the places in which that happened are still around today... which makes these bars important not just to New Orleans, but to the world at large. So from dives to martini bars, here are the drinkeries that have had the most impact on the Crescent City.
The 16 Most Important Bars in New Orleans
It would be something of heresy to omit the bar named after the official cocktail of the City of New Orleans. Originally located in the Fairmont Hotel, The Sazerac Bar is currently stationed in The Roosevelt, as is, naturally, Domenica. Having a Sazerac at The Sazerac is always a delightful and elegant experience, especially during the holidays, when the halls of The Roosevelt are decked in spectacular fashion.
It may look like your standard neighborhood pub both inside and out, and it really would be, if the cocktail game at Twelve Mile wasn’t one of the best in the city. Too often, imaginative cocktails go hand in hand with mixological snootiness, but there’s none of that here, just fantastic drinks in a fun, friendly, low-key environment, not to mention comedy nights, movie nights, and often free food like fried chicken or meatball subs.
You can’t leave out the oldest structure in America serving as a bar (having been built somewhere around 1722), and we certainly won’t do that here. Legend has it, famous privateer Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre conspired here to organize their smuggling business. These days, it’s more famous for it’s “purple drank” (its “Voodoo daiquiri) than for piracy, but the live piano tunes are consistently an excellent source of amusement, and it’s popular for locals as a meet-up spot during heavy traffic times in the Quarter. If you ever get separated from your pals, “Meet back at Lafitte’s” is a common refrain.
It might be a newcomer on the NOLA bar scene, but it’s difficult to deny that Jeff “Beachbum” Berry has become the Tiki God of New Orleans (thankfully, a jolly one, rather than wrathful). Berry gleefully reimagines classic Tiki cocktails like the Missionary’s Downfall and the Nui Nui, and serves up excellent pub grub to boot, including Hawaiian loco moco, a squid Caesar, and Tahitian steak frites. Bow down, for we are not worthy.
Sadly, this relatively new FQ eatery doesn’t have beloved local chef Greg Sonnier in the kitchen any longer, but its outstanding bar program still boasts the efforts of Chris McMillian, one of the finest (and most amusingly loquacious) cocktail craftsmen in the city. Get his version of the Pimm’s Cup, served in a wine goblet and filled with seasonal berries.
Is it classy? Is it exclusive? Does it have bartenders with arm garters and handlebar mustaches who make their own durian bitters from scratch? Nope, nope, and definitely nope. But this emporium of hooch slushies is NOLA institution, and if you disagree, you’ve clearly never had an icy Rum Runner on a blistering summer day here. It has dozens of flavors and it might be difficult to choose your poison, but don’t worry, we tasted ALL OF THEM for you. You’re welcome.
This gorgeous, marble-topped bar inside Broussard’s -- one of the old Grand Dame restaurants of the French Quarter -- has been masterfully rebuilt, but the atmosphere is only a piece of what you’ll want to experience here. Mostly, it’s all about the work of Paul Gustings, a local bartending legend. Basically, the man is cocktail Gandalf. Even if it’s notoriously difficult to get him to to crack a smile, he’ll never serve a Ramos Fizz until properly shaken to perfect fluffy, frothy goodness. It’s truly magical.
A quintessential neighborhood joint and the fourth-oldest bar in New Orleans, Henry’s has been going strong since 1900, which says a lot about how much people dig this place, even if it stubbornly refuses to accept anything other than cash. It’s more a “shot of whiskey and a High Life” bar rather than a bespoke cocktail emporium, and for that we’re eternally grateful. Also, it once 86’ed Lee Harvey Oswald. True story.
Home of the Brandy Crusta, monkey lamps, and mixologist/cocktail historian extraordinaire Chris Hannah, it’s nigh impossible to deny the charms of French 75 at Arnaud’s. Order one of its namesake cocktails, pair it with an order of the restaurant’s magical souffle potatoes, and you absolutely cannot go wrong.
Sure, it might be loaded with loaded tourists, but Pat O’s has some serious history (including being the place where the parents of a certain Thrillist New Orleans correspondent first met). It’s the home of the Hurricane, a drink that’s become synonymous with the bacchanalia atmosphere of Bourbon St, and don’t forget to check out the copper-topped dueling piano bar, and to request a little Dr. John or Professor Longhair while you’re at it.
One of the oldest restaurants in the city (over 150 years and going strong) houses a standing-only bar that invented the Grasshopper cocktail and makes one of the best Sazeracs in town. Standing and sipping at the bar downstairs at Tujague's is partaking in a beautiful piece of history, with a guestbook including everyone from John D. Rockefeller to Ty Cobb, Charles de Gaulle, numerous US presidents, and Han Solo.
It’s noteworthy that the famous revolving bar at the Hotel Monteleone did not, in fact, invent the Vieux Carre cocktail... but it was invented in that hotel before the existence of the Carousel, and is the home base for Tales of the Cocktail, the largest and most heralded booze industry convention in America. Any trip to New Orleans should involve at least a couple of revolutions and a stiff libation here. Lucky for you, if you’ve had a couple of pre-Prohibition cocktails, the bar revolves very slowly, so you probably won’t get vertigo. Probably.
Lower Garden District
Simply put, the Avenue is the finest bar for beer in New Orleans. There are hundreds of brew options both on draught and by the bottle (and a beer menu the size of a phone book), the service is always amiable, and the atmosphere is welcoming. Beer snobs need not darken its doors, but beer geeks are always welcome. Plus, on a nice night, a pint of Belgian farmhouse ale on the second-story balcony overlooking St. Charles Ave can be a magical thing.
What used to be a quaint little wine shop with great food served on paper plates and live music has become something of a phenomenon, and for good reason. Even when it’s jam-packed with every variety of NOLA hipster transplant, it’s nearly impossible to have a bad time here, especially if you’re an oenophile.
You can drink for free if you get naked. It is always Christmas, and always lit solely with stringed holiday lights. For years there was a doorman who looked exactly like Santa Claus. Legend has it that a guy got shot here, and in return received free drinks for life. What more needs to be said about one of the best dive bars in America?
As the saying goes, “There’s pride on Bourbon St.” Amidst all the frozen daiquiri joints, gentlemen’s clubs, and bad house music is one of the more legendary bars in the city, with a history going back some 200 years. Its slogan, tellingly, is “Everyone you’ve ever known or ever will know eventually ends up at the Old Absinthe House.” And, if you’re from NOLA or just moved here, that statement is pretty much true, which is one of the many reasons to love it.
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1. Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel123 Baronne Street,, New Orleans
2. Twelve Mile Limit500 S Telemachus St, New Orleans
3. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop941 Bourbon St, New Orleans
4. Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29321 N Peters St, New Orleans
5. Kingfish337 Chartres, New Orleans
6. The Empire Bar at Broussard's819 Conti St, New Orleans
7. Henry’s Uptown Bar5101 Magazine St, New Orleans
8. Arnaud's French 75 Bar813 Bienville St, New Orleans
9. Pat O'Brien's718 Saint Peter St, New Orleans
10. Tujague's823 Decatur St, New Orleans
11. The Carousel Bar & Lounge214 Royal St, New Orleans
12. The Avenue Pub1732 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans
13. Bacchanal Wine600 Poland Ave, New Orleans
14. Snake and Jake's Christmas Club Lounge7612 Oak St, New Orleans
15. The Old Absinthe House240 Bourbon St, New Orleans
Renowned for teaching Northerners how to drink a gin fizz, The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel recreates old southern charm with elegant wood and pincushion furniture, and has a knack for hand-crafted cocktails. A favorite of Huey P Long, Sazerac still serves its former charismatic governor's old standby, the Ramos Gin Fizz, along with 20 other creative cocktails. The dim lighting and leather upholstery gives this cocktail bar a highly sophisticated atmosphere.
At this Mid-City craft cocktail lounge, affordable, creative and deliciously crafted drinks might be the main draw, but cheap beers are also served in equal numbers. In addition to fantastic cocktails, this bar provides trivia, pool, a jukebox, and loaded destination tater tots.
This tavern's located inside a building that was originally constructed around 1772, making it one of the oldest structures in NOLA. The cocktail selection's not bad either.
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.
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.
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.
Henry’s has been pouring them up for thirsty locals for well over a hundred years, and that doesn’t look to change any time soon. Yes, it’s a total old-man dive. Yes, they have cheap drinks, and plenty of them. Yes, you should go there.
Originally designated as a "gentlemen only area" in NOLA's early days, this cocktail bar located within Arnaud's Restaurant features cocktails 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). Feel fancy as you sip your drinks that are served to you by white tuxedo-wearing bartenders. In addition to the more inventive drinks, you can't go wrong with the killer Old Fashioned or Sidecar.
What do you get when you combine a fun-loving Irish bar with the wildness of Bourbon St? Pat O'Brien's bar, of course. We also would have accepted "an inebriated evening" or "hungover the following day".
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.
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.
Located in the Lower Garden District, this American craft beer pub is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The tap list is heavy on one-and-done offerings with enough rarities to keep the beer nerds at bay, while the bottle list is about as thick as a small-town phone book, offering up everything from Belgian farmhouses to all-American IPAs, all of which taste considerably better when paired with the famous bechamel and pork Dump Truck Fries.
Customization is what makes Bywater Bacchanal a fun dining experience. You personally pick a wine bottle straight from their wine cellar and pair it with as many pieces of cheese as you can stomach. Head out to the backyard for live jazz and string-light ambience, and a waiter will deliver your cheese selections with complimentary bread, preserves and nuts. If you want a more substantial meal, Bacchanal also offers an extensive fine dining menu.
If you're looking for a strangely named dive bar that's been voted the best in NOLA, and also has a bar cat and a laid back vibe, look no further than Snake and Jake's.
Dating back to 1806, it’s an old Bourbon St favorite. Famous patrons have included Oscar Wilde, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, General Robert E. Lee, Franklin Roosevelt, AND Liza Minnelli. The copper bar is a sight to see. And, yes, they have plenty of absinthe for you.