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NOLA for the cocktail lover
10 ways to sip yourself through the city
Much has changed in New Orleans since its founding in the 1700s, but one thing has remained the same—the city’s love affair with cocktails. Sip classic creations made famous in the Big Easy while diving into its boozy past. From bar-hopping in the French Quarter to cocktail-making classes, there are countless places to go and things to do in New Orleans that let you get your drink on.
New Orleans Classic Cocktails Tour
For an overview of everything that makes New Orleans the drinking capital of the country, look no further than the Classic Cocktail Tour with New Orleans Culinary History Tours. With a local guide, visit renowned watering holes around Bourbon Street, sampling sips of famous libations like the French 75 and the Sazerac. The latter, a whiskey-based drink made with absinthe, is thought to the oldest cocktail in the US and is now the official drink of the city.
The Sazerac at the Sazerac Bar
For a more in-depth experience of the country’s first cocktail, head to the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel. Initially opened in 1938, the bar was restored to its original grandeur—hand-painted murals, African walnut, and plush leather chairs—after Hurricane Katrina. Today, it serves roughly 40,000 Sazeracs every year. Order one of their namesake creations as you chat with the resident mixologist and historian. Learn about the original recipe from the 1800s, how it’s been transformed through the years, and how the bar makes it today.
The Vieux Carré at the Carousel Bar & Lounge
Travel down the street to the Carousel Bar for another one of NOLA’s famous cocktails—the Vieux Carré. The magnificent merry-go-round bar in the Hotel Monteleone is the birthplace of the creation, first poured in 1938. Since then, the cocktail—whose name means Old Quarter in French—has become synonymous with New Orleans itself. Made with equal parts rye, cognac, and sweet vermouth, plus a splash of Benedictine, the Vieux Carré is at once powerfully potent and delightfully complex, just like the Big Easy.
New Orleans Cocktail Experience Tour
For a different perspective, go behind the bar with the experts at New Orleans Secrets Tours. This unique cocktail-making experience teaches you how to craft the perfect drink, from fizzes and cobblers to Collins and slings. Meet your guide on the outskirts of the French Quarter to explore some of the ritziest bars in the neighborhood. Learn to mix, muddle, and strain classics like the tropical hurricane, brandy milk punch, and, of course, the Sazerac.
The Grasshopper at Tujague’s Restaurant
Often thought to have stemmed from the disco-era cocktail trend of the 1970s, the chocolatey, minty grasshopper actually dates back to New Orleans in 1919. The after-dinner drink was invented at Tujague’s Restaurant, the second-oldest eatery in the city. While the funky libation earned a bad rap in the mid-20th century for being overly cloying, it’s gotten cool again thanks to retooled recipes and quality ingredients. Head to its birthplace for their take on the classic, which includes a brandy float to cut the sweetness.
The Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s
A trip to NOLA wouldn’t be complete with a stop at Pat O’Brien’s, the preeminent rum bar in the city. Here, during World War II, the rum-forward hurricane was created when other liquors were in low supply. Grab a seat on the outdoor patio next to the flaming fountain and order a round served in delightfully gaudy cups. With a whopping 4 ounces (118 ml) of rum hidden beneath juice, grenadine, and sugar, it’s best to exercise caution—these are easy to suck down but pack a category-5 punch.
French Quarter Cocktail Walking Tour
On this guided cocktail tour with Gray Line New Orleans, go behind the scenes at historic bars, saloons, and the city’s oldest wine cellar. From centuries-old taverns to hip new watering holes, you’re given a snapshot of NOLA’s cocktail culture from its beginnings to present day. Order a classic like the Ramos gin fizz—first invented at the bygone Imperial Cabinet Saloon—which boasts an unmistakable egg white foam. Learn how the drink’s popularity and 12-minute mixing time at one point forced the Imperial to staff 32 bartenders at once.
The Champagne Cocktail at Brennan’s
Simple and refreshing, the traditional champagne cocktail is beloved for a reason—and there are few better places to order one than at Brennan’s. Originally established in 1946, the swanky spot closed in 2013, underwent a $20-million revamp, and reopened at the end of 2014. Don’t miss a chance to sip one of their festive creations in the oasis-like courtyard. For a special experience, make your way to the Bubbles at Brennan’s happy hour, where they saber a champagne bottle every Friday at 5.
Voodoo Daiquiri at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
A visit to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is more about the atmosphere than the actual cocktails, but it’s a must nonetheless. Founded by a pirate in 1775, Lafitte’s is the oldest bar in the American South. Order a round of their grape-flavored voodoo daiquiris and keep your eyes peeled for Lafitte. Word on the street is the ghost of the pirate still watches over his patrons to this day.
Craft Cocktail & Jazz Tour
There are tons of things to do in New Orleans, but for an experience unlike any other, combine 2 of the city’s most emblematic traditions—cocktails and jazz. Join the NOLA Brew Bus for a tour to 3 chic spots, where iconic drinks and “America’s classical music” await you. At each location you visit, a mixologist is ready to whip you up a drink either invented or made popular in New Orleans, including the Sazerac, the Pimm’s cup, and the French 75. Linger over your libations while you soak in the spectacular sounds of live jazz.
Where are you favorite spots to drink in New Orleans?
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