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Eight of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans

America's cocktail capital is mixing things up with a new generation of bars, from the reignited Freret neighbourhood to the sizzling French Quarter.

By Jonathan Thompson
Published 25 Aug 2021, 06:07 BST, Updated 26 Aug 2021, 09:29 BST
Jewel of the South, an elegant tavern tucked into an old Creole cottage in a tranquil ...

Jewel of the South, an elegant tavern tucked into an old Creole cottage in a tranquil corner of the French Quarter, is the brainchild of co-owner Chris Hannah — one of the doyens of the city’s cocktail scene.

Photograph by James Breeden

1. Cure

Best for: top-drawer drinks
Housed in a magnificent Edwardian former fire station, Cure opened its doors in 2009, reigniting the Freret neighbourhood and sparking New Orleans’ current cocktail renaissance. Still considered one of the finest mixology spots in town, the cocktail menu here seeks to reinvent the classics while rebooting long-forgotten gems. The elite ‘reserve cocktails’ (referred to informally as ‘baller cocktails’) are a particular treat, particularly the 1980s martini, made with genuine vintage Plymouth Gin from this decade.

2. Jewel of the South

Best for: resurrected classics
An elegant tavern tucked into an old Creole cottage in a tranquil corner of the French Quarter, Jewel of the South is a treat just to sit in, never mind drink in. The brainchild of co-owner Chris Hannah — one of the doyens of the city’s cocktail scene — its menu changes monthly, but always contains the house special, brandy crusta: a refreshing blend of Cognac and citrus, garnished with lemon peel and a sugared rim.

Read more: A city guide to New Orleans, America's cocktail capital

3. Carousel Bar & Lounge

Best for: spinning tales
Part drinking establishment, part fairground ride, the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone has been a New Orleans staple since 1949. Its centrepiece is a 25-seat, circular bar built into a grand, gold-and-red merry-go-round, which takes 15 minutes to make a complete turn. Famed for its Vieux Carré cocktail (rye whiskey, Cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and bitters). The trick is to make each drink last a full two turns — and to recognise when your head starts spinning faster than the bar.

4. The Chloe

Best for: porch sundowners
Lying on an oak-lined avenue in the city’s bucolic Garden District, boutique hotel The Chloe opened in October 2020. At its heart is an understated but outstanding cocktail bar, where you should grab a delicious pre-dinner drink (ask bar manager Jason Sorbet to mix yours, but don’t let him hustle you at dominoes), before moving to the rocking chairs on the picture-perfect front porch. It’s a great spot to toast a New Orleans sunset in true Big Easy style.

New for New Orleans' Garden District, boutique hotel The Chloe opened in autumn 2020.

Photograph by Brittany Conerly

5. French 75 Bar

Best for: old-world charm
Oozing historical elegance, drinkers flock to this refined establishment — part of feted French restaurant Arnaud’s — for its eponymous signature French 75 cocktail: a delicate blend of Cognac and Champagne. The whole place, right down to the bar staff in their immaculate, white tuxedos, feels like throwback to a sophisticated Parisian brasserie of the 1930s. Meanwhile, the bar is also home to a little-known secret: upstairs is a quirky museum of ornate Mardi Gras gowns, collected over the past century.

6. Hot Tin

Best for: showstopping views
The Hot Tin rooftop bar boasts one of the most astonishing skyline views you’ll find anywhere in New Orleans. Situated atop the stylish Pontchartrain Hotel in the Garden District, it’s adorned with a wonderfully eclectic selection of paintings, photographs and objets d’art (apparently, the designers drove here from Chicago with an empty van, stopping at every thrift store they passed on their 925-mile journey). Hot Tin is indisputably a party bar (one of its best sellers is a feisty tequila number called chasing sunrise), but it also boasts an impressive selection of delicious mocktails. 

7. Peychaud’s

Best for: outdoor drinking
This sleek, stylish establishment — the latest French Quarter cocktail bar — from the team behind Cure is situated in the former home of Antoine Peychaud, the father of the sazerac. Just a few yards from the bacchanalian bombardment of Bourbon Street, its hidden, fountain-adorned courtyard (part of the Maison de Ville hotel) feels like a genuine oasis. The cocktails — conceived by award-winning mixologist Nick Jarrett — are of the understated blockbuster variety. Perhaps start off with a peychaud’s fizz, a deliciously refreshing twist on a Pimm’s cup.

8. The Sazerac Restaurant

Best for: solo drinkers
The list of distinguished names who’ve enjoyed drinks at the bar of The Roosevelt New Orleans’ The Sazerac Restaurant over the decades — from Orson Welles and John Wayne to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley — is borderline ridiculous. But this grand dame of New Orleans’ cocktail-making remains a remarkably relaxed establishment, dominated by its long, curved, walnut counter. A combination of affable, laid-back staff and the fact that pretty much everyone sits at the bar itself, makes this a superb spot for drinking solo. The smart money, of course, is on the sazerac itself or the silken ramos gin fizz — shaken (and shaken and shaken) to perfection. 

Published in the September 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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