Bourbon, bourbon everywhere... and so many drops to drink. American bourbon whiskey is so ingrained in New Orleans culture that they named a street after it! (Yeah, OK, it’s named for the royal French family from way back in the day... but it may as well be after our favorite booze.) People in New Orleans love a bourbon neat, bourbon-based cocktails, sharing a bottle of bourbon... we like bourbon here, OK? It warms you when you’re down, it keeps you going through the night, and it’s found in many of our favorite cocktails. Here are 10 places in town that do bourbon better than anywhere else. They all have great selections, killer atmospheres, and bartenders that are more than happy to talk whiskey until the sun literally rises.
Lower Garden District
This place came out of the gate with both bourbon barrels blazing, and it hasn’t let up since. They pack 272 whiskeys into this dark, cozy (OK, windowless) spot. But not only is this a bourbon-forward bar, but the cocktails -- both classic and house-created -- are made with the knowledge and care of folks who are intimately aware of the subtle nuances of each batch of bourbon.
It’s right there in the name: this restaurant/bar has long been a bourbon lover’s paradise. The New Orleans Bourbon Society was created there, and continues to meet to discuss bourbon, drink bourbon, and have events like bourbon-paired meals. It’s been named one of the 55 best bourbon bars in the country by the Bourbon Review, which is a highly legit credential. Owner Dickie Brennan even claims to have created the Bourbon House specifically to honor the spirit -- that’s hardcore, my friends.
The new kid in town, Kenton’s swooped into the wilds of Uptown with a serious bourbon fetish, and proceeded to crush it immediately with their bourbon selection, service, and presentation. If you get the prix fixe lunch special, your dessert options are either ice cream or a shot of bourbon... and I’ve never seen anyone choose the ice cream.
Here’s your historic bourbon badass. The Sazerac Bar is located off the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, and has a long and storied history of serving the famous and infamous... like Huey P. Long (who was assuredly both). The swank factor is high here: you can sense it when you enter the dark, wood-paneled room. Although the eponymous cocktail is made with rye whiskey, not bourbon, the Sazerac Bar has an impressive selection of bourbons and other whiskeys to sip neat (perhaps with a branch water back) while pretending to be a dandy or debutante from the old days.
With over 30 bourbons, this quietly excellent, whiskey-focused bar has made many service industry friends with its "plastic cap" economy list of whiskeys, which includes plenty of bourbons, including selections from Four Roses, Old Gran-Dad, Jim Beam, and Evan Williams. If you’re feeling a little more flush, there are more sophisticated vintages to choose from... and they also have a killer boilermaker menu.
Kimberly Patton-Bragg has been dubbed in the national press as a "whiskey evangelist," and the quality whiskey and bourbon programs she has set in motion all over town are a testament to that title. Now at Three Muses, she runs the bar with a quality bourbon program, offering 30 or so bourbons, and spotlights the spirit in one of her signature cocktails, the Spaghetti Western, which combines Bulleit bourbon muddled with Campari-soaked oranges and rosemary spirits. Check out the whiskey flights on the menu as well.
Lower Garden District
One of the best beer bars in New Orleans, the Avenue Pub is well known for its stellar beer selection, and is getting noticed more and more for its carefully curated and wide ranging bourbon (and whiskey) selection. The Pub is getting real bourbon geeks with its high-level whiskey game, and the service is top notch as well, with bartenders able to discuss the selections in depth.
The hundreds of bottles lining the back wall of Cure contains dozens of whiskeys, and some pretty rare ones at that, due to the management’s excellent taste, as well as its participation in the New Orleans Spirits Exchange which gives several committed businesses the opportunity to pool resources to purchase bourbon (or other spirits) by the barrel -- Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon, for example, or Four Roses Bourbon Cask Strength OESK. Pro tip: if you’re only having one cocktail, make your way to the Reserve cocktail menu, and order the 22-year-old Old Fashioned made with Lost Prophet 22 Year.
Donald Link’s homage to Louisiana country food offers amazing meat and seafood, and a hell of a bourbon list. The bourbons range from everyday to rare vintages, and the bar staff loves talking about all of them. Get a bourbon flight in order to sample the bounty available -- pair that with an order of the wood fired oysters, and settle in for an afternoon or evening of pure Cajun happiness.
1. Barrel Proof1201 Magazine St, New Orleans
2. Bourbon House144 Bourbon St, New Orleans
3. Kenton's5757 Magazine St. Suite A, New Orleans
4. Sazerac Bar130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans
5. Oxalis3162 Dauphine St, New Orleans
6. Three Muses536 Frenchmen St, New Orleans
7. The Avenue Pub1732 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans
8. Cochon Butcher930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
9. Cure4905 Freret St, New Orleans
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.
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 clean elegance of this Magazine Street restaurant and bar might seem overly formal at first glance, but once you settle in with a whiskey cocktail and a plate of oysters, you'll feel right at home. Named after the founder of Maysville, Kentucky (an early bourbon hub), the restaurant focuses on its vast collection of American whiskey, whose 150-plus bottles include some from its own label. As for food, expect raw and fried oysters, crispy grits, and smoked and roasted meats.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
Cochon's generalist meat offshoot, Cochon Butcher, is a hybrid butcher shop, deli counter, and wine bar in the same warehouse building as its pork-centric sibling. There are house-cured meats, sausages, and terrines to take home, but you're really here for the sandwiches, precisely the Muffuletta, stacked with nearly an inch of pink-hued, salty meats (pastrami, mortadella, Genoa salami), creamy provolone, and olive salad. You can order it to-go, but if you're staying, make sure to pair with a side of pancetta mac & cheese.
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.