I have doled out a lot of travel advise lately — which I love. From Fredericksburg, Texas to Philadelphia, PA, vacation plans are taking shape for friends and I love to give ideas to help. Not to mention, I am making plans for my own upcoming visit to New York City. But what’s got me in overdrive is advising a first-time visitor to New Orleans. I have so many ideas!
So even though I have not finished my Seattle blogs, I find myself in a NOLA mindset. And to help me organize my thoughts, I decided it was time for another New Orleans article.
I am going to start with libations, because what is a good trip to New Orleans without a delightful cocktail? Sounds like a missed opportunity in my opinion.
But allow for me to offer some advise first. On a recent visit, we were walking along a French Quarter street and I overheard newly minted 21-year-old novices making fun of their friend for drinking water – as if she were not cool enough to keep up with their alcohol intake. What utter stupidity! The best experience enjoying a fine spirit in the city will involve hydration and a healthy balance. Your visit will be an aspirin popping, head pounding mess if you stick to sugary, low quality booze in large quantities — especially if you do not drink water.
Be a mature responsible adult, order serious cocktails and drink water.
On the other hand, you can have a lovely vacation that includes fine spirits, healthy eating, activities and ache-free brains if you stick to quality libations in moderation and have a glass of water with every drink. Maybe even two. No need to hit Bourbon street dump bars with neon drinking cups and “big a$$ beers,” there are so many better options where you get ambiance and classic drinks. So here are my top cocktail choices that are unique to the city, as well as my top spots to grab a drink too. Obviously you don’t have to try them all in one visit, but I can’t blame you for trying.
Classic New Orleans cocktails:
Invented in New Orleans, this is our top classic cocktail choice. Herbsaint, Bourbon, and bitters make up the main ingredients though each bartender usually has his own twist.
Also invented in New Orleans, this drink is likely the most photogenic of all the classic concoctions. Bright red in a tall glass with an orange and cherry garnish, this drink is very sweet. Rum, fruit juice and syrup make up the main components.
While it was not invented in New Orleans (London actually), the Pimm’s Cup was adopted by the city. Served in a tall, icy glass with cucumber, Sprite and lemonade, it is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day.
Brandy Milk Punch
Not for the lactose intolerant, and often associated with the holiday season, this creamy liquid delight’s invention was created by Brennan’s but available at many fine bars and brunch destinations. This drink is made with brandy and milk and a nutmeg sprinkle.
Ramos Gin Fizz
Invented in 1888, this drink combines gin with cream and egg whites. It takes time to make as it requires a good deal of shaking, so you will probably know when a bartender is making one.
Best places to get a drink in New Orleans:
Located in the emerging neighborhood of Freret Street, Cure describes its approach as “when cocktails grew out of medicine and home remedies, our idea at Cure is to reintroduce our guests to another time where the experience of having a cocktail and a bite to eat was both healthful and enjoyable.” And while the price point is not cheap, the bartenders take a lot of time creating concoctions of love. Our favorite drink is the Sazerac but any drink ordered here is going to satisfy your taste buds. I recommend that you sit at the bar and watch the bartenders in action.
Though located on the edge of the French Quarter, this bar still has a neighborhood feel. And with a happy hour from noon to five on weekdays, as well as daily specials, it definitely is a friendly place for locals and visitors alike. The menu also includes a cocktail history lesson with details on the origins of the drink along with the ingredients. The Brandy Milk Punch stood out to me, but the daily punch special was also a winner. With one bartender on our visit, we did call upon our patience but it was well worth it. Patience and water young grasshopper.
Located inside the Hotel Monteleone, this once small bar was renovated to open up the space but the heart of the bar is one round, rotating carousel decorated bar where stools that turn with the bartender are a hot commodity. With the new addition of space, the funky old section meets a modern open space with room for live music and helpful cocktail waitresses that serve good drinks. If nothing else, walk in and see the bar area. We usually find a fluffy couch or chair to rest our feet and charge our iPhones here.
LAFFITES BLACKSMITH SHOP
Don’t expect the best drinks in the city at this historic establishment, but do make an exception to my Bourbon Street rule and head to this dark and spooky destination for its unique ambiance, especially at night. Known as the oldest bar in the United States, this establishment dates back to the days of pirates. At night when the bar is lit by candles and comes alive with piano music, it almost feels like the ghosts of the past are sharing in the good times of today. Order a drink that is difficult to mess up, like a beer, as the service here is about speed and not handcrafted cocktails. For sugary hard liquor, try their Hurricane or Black VooDoo slush drink but don’t say I didn’t warn ya. Go ahead and order water too.
While the drinks are not bad here, this too is about the setting and not about quality of drink concoctions. In fact, your service will be much more swift at this popular destination if you stick with beer or wine. I usually opt for a vodka tonic beverage that is difficult to mess up. But with live music entertainment on the weekend and an iconic mansion setting on Saint Charles street car line, this is about an overall cocktail experience and not the booze.
OK, OK I know this is a tourist stop, but how can it not go on the list? Here is the thing, those Hurricanes are really, really sweet, so share it with a friend and don’t forget to return the glass for your drink refund. But how can it not be on your drink stop list at least once? The Fuzzy Leprechaun is also a fun drink choice.
Future Stops & To-Drinks:
Created in 1814 as a haven for Napoleon Bonaparte after his exile, unfortunately, he never stepped foot in his namesake and now the The Napoleon House is known for the Pimms Cup instead. Reviews don’t love the food or the service with attitude but everyone loves the beloved summer refreshment.
SWIZZLE STICK BAR
Located in the Loews New Orleans Hotel, next to the Arts District, The Swizzle Stick Bar part of the Brennans restaurant family and is known for not having a typical hotel bar feel. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the Southern hospitality of the bar which features cocktail creations such as the Adelaide Swizzle and Zen Garden. An ice block sits in the center of the bar that surely deserves a photo.
Located in Arnaud’s Restaurant, this is where you go to get a French 75, a heady concoction of brandy and champagne. The bar was originally a “gentlemen only” area and has a vintage vibe and famous bartender that creates a cozy retreat away from Bourbon Street.
Like taking a step back in time, this famous bar in the Roosevelt Hotel not only has New Orleans charm but it also serves quality drinks. In fact, the bar boasts the rights to inventing both the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz.
Based on the recommendations in the TripAdvisor forum, I am making an addition to future Postcard Plans drink destinations in New Orleans. It seems that the frozen Irish coffee should be on my radar here, not to mention the highly recommended Killer Po-Boys located at the back of the bar too. Happy to have a new destination for our November trip.