According to many, New Orleans is the city where the cocktail, as we know it, was first invented. As the legend goes, in the 19th century, Creole apothecary owner Antoine Amadie Peychaud mixed up a concoction of French brandy, bitters, water and sugar and created a drink that would later become known as The Sazerac. This cocktail is now the official cocktail of New Orleans.
Unfortunately, the story that New Orleans was the first place to call it a “cocktail” has been debunked. However, there is no doubt that New Orleanians love to imbibe a delectable drink every now and then, whether it’s after a long day at work or just unwinding on the weekend.
Because New Orleans is packed with amazing cocktail bars (and their signature drinks), I decided to make it a bit easier for you to narrow down some places you might want to check out, next time you feel like a night (or afternoon) out. For this Top 5-04 list, it’s all about the drinks and where to get them.
Here are 5 cocktail bars and recipes for you to check out:
Mood: The dive bar atmosphere with cocktail bar tastes.
Twelve Mile Limit
Twelve Mile Limit is a dive bar with a cocktail bar soul. This neighborhood spot is the perfect place to unwind after a long day, especially if you’re in the mood for a fancy drink. Owner, T. Cole Newton has created the perfect cross between cocktail bar and dive bar where everyone feels welcome.
Cocktail: The Baudin
This cocktail was created by T. Cole Newton, owner of Twelve Mile Limit and The Domino.
He said, “Since I created The Baudin, for the first cocktail list at Twelve Mile Limit when we opened in 2010, it’s gone on to become something of a modern classic; popping up on cocktail lists around the city and in New Orleans themed bars as far away as Los Angeles. It’s named for the bar’s cross street, which itself is named for a French hydrographer.”
1.5 oz bourbon
0.75 oz honey syrup
0.5 oz lemon juice
1 dash Tabasco
lemon peel garnish
To make honey syrup, thin two parts unfiltered local honey with one-part hot water. Allow to cool and refrigerate to store. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon peel
Mood: A date spot that has a hint of glamour and sophistication.
Cure has an upscale atmosphere, minus the snobbery. You’ll feel at home here, whether you prefer a complicated cocktail or a whiskey and Coke. Whenever I’ve been here, the bartenders have been patient with helping me decide the perfect cocktail for me and they are sure to help you find your perfect drink.
Cocktail: Vitamin C
Created by head bartender Colin Bugbee, the inspiration for Vitamin C came from the functional need to use the juice from the many peeled oranges our bar creates. Several popular classic and modern cocktails require the peels of oranges, and we are overrun with orange juice. OJ is sweet and a little flat, so the light acidity of manzanilla sherry made it an obvious pairing to brighten it. Orgeat, a rich syrup made from toasted almonds, lengthens the concentrated herbal notes in the orange bitters and a touch of apple brandy brought the whole thing together.
Tasting notes: “Vitamin C is a refreshing sherry cobbler that pairs bitter orange with a crisp backbone of Manzanilla.”
1.5 Manzanilla Sherry
0.75 Orange juice
0.5 Regan’s Orange Bitters
0.5 House-made Orgeat syrup
0.25 Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
4 drops of citric acid (3:1 citric acid:water)
Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake without ice. Pour into wine glass and add pebbled or crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Mood: The views- look out onto the city while enjoy something fancy and fresh.
If you’re looking for a bar with a cool view, look no further than Hot Tin. Located in the Pontchartrain Hotel, I love Hot Tin because of the upscale vibe inside and a cityscape that is photo-ready.
Cocktail: The Ruby Slipper
This vibrant cocktail, created by bartender Brian Chambliss, is made with Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, lemon juice, grapefruit shrub and topped with Champagne. Well-balanced and refreshing, The Ruby Slipper is the perfect concoction to enjoy during the hot summer months.
1 oz Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka
¼ oz Lemon Juice
¾ oz Grapefruit Shrub
1 Dash of Angostura Bitters
Shake and double strain Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, lemon juice, and grapefruit shrub into a Champagne Flute. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a dash angostura bitters.
Mood: A taste of old New Orleans mixed with a modern flair. Here you can sip the afternoon away on a tropical courtyard tucked in an almost secret hideout.
Jewel of the South
If you’re looking for the New Orleans feel of a courtyard mixed with a bit of the past, Jewel of the South is the place for you. The subtropical plants in a secret garden (there’s even a loquat tree) is the perfect place to sip a delicious cocktail and unwind. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic cocktail or one of Jewel of the South’s original concoctions, you’re sure to find the perfect drink to cool you down this summer.
Cocktail: Brandy Crusta
The Brandy Crusta was the invention of the New Orleans bartender Joseph Santini, who served plenty of them at his 19th-century bar, Jewel of the South. Cocktail experts believe that the crusta opened the door for many of the cocktail sours to come, not least of all the Sidecar. Today, award-winning bartender Chris Hannah and partner John Stubbs, co-own a bar in the lower French Quarter called Jewel of the South, dedicated to the spirit and memory of Santini. The bar’s signature drink is of course, the Brandy Crusta.
1.75oz Remy 1738 Cognac (or Cognac VS)
.75oz lemon juice
.50oz Ferrand dry Curacao
.25oz Maraschino Liquer
2 dashes Angostura Bitters Sugar rimmed cocktail glass
Swathing peel of lemon
Pour ingredients into shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a Crusta glass rimmed with sugar and ground Ethiopian coffee. Garnish with a lemon peel.
Mood: Happy hour and hang; something to enjoy after work.
Auction House Market
You’ve worked a long day and now you’re ready to unwind with a cocktail and maybe a snack. Look no further than Auction House Market. This food hall has a beautiful bar with a tasty cocktail menu and multiple food vendors, close at hand, make it the perfect spot to enjoy that post-work wind-down.
Cocktail: The Salty Iguana
The Salty Iguana was a creation of the original bar team at Auction House Market.
“A longtime favorite of Auction House Market, The Salty Iguana is an upscale, margarita-esque refresher,” said Beverage Director Taylor DuPre. “Housemade preserved lemons come together with tequila, mezcal, and a beautiful pamplemousse vermouth to create a drink that washes away the humidity of the city and transports you to a resort in Mexico.”
1 oz Tequila
1 oz Mezcal
.5 oz Mommenpop d’Pampe Vermouth
.5 oz Lemon
2 slices of preserved lemon
Combine all ingredients, including the preserved lemons, in shaker and shake shake shake. Dump into your rocks glass and garnish with a big slice of grapefruit!
Preserved lemons are made by combining 2 cups of kosher salt, 1 cup of white sugar, and 10 lemons (sliced into 10-12 slices ea.). Place in a larger container of water and turn sous vide to 183 degrees for 60 minutes.
A little lagniappe…
Because New Orleans is SUCH a cocktail town, it’s hard to narrow the list down to JUST five cocktail bars- here’s a few more where you can enjoy a tasty drink.
Mood: A cocktail bar where you feel like you’re at home, whether you’re watching the game or you’re on a date.
The Rusty Nail
I feel like everybody has a Rusty Nail story. Whether you have been to a crawfish boil here or you’ve had some drinks while waiting for a Mardi Gras parade (or just on a night out), The Rusty Nail is a cocktail bar that has become almost a homestead for locals and visitors alike. With a gorgeous patio, you can sip your evening away under the stars.
Cocktail: El Portador
Former bartender/current manager Nathanael Sprague came up with it a few years ago in an effort to create a drinkable version of one of his favorite summer treats: cold-grilled apricots. It’s a delicately balanced smoky, fruity sour, not too sweet and delicious year-round.
Tequila Mezcal Sour
House Made Apricot Vanilla Tea Syrup
Mood: The flavors of Cuba in your own backyard while enjoying daiquiris, margaritas and other drinks inspired by the Caribbean.
If you’re looking for an exotic getaway, minus the airfare, look no further than Manolio. This restaurant and cocktail bar celebrates Cuba and serves as a tribute to Havana’s El Floridita, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite Cuban watering hole.
“What inspired the Bywater cocktail were all the cocktails named for boroughs in New York and the lack thereof we had down here in New Orleans,” Chris Hannah, co-owner of Manolito, explained. “We had the Vieux Carre, but that was it. I realized I could make the ‘Brooklyn’ cocktail again, because at the time there was no Amer Picon. Back in 2008, my bartender friends working in Manhattan but living in Brooklyn, reminded me of all my coworkers and friends, in the service industry, working the Quarter, but living in the lively neighborhood of Bywater. Bywater was my Brooklyn. I decided to make a Rum version of the ‘Brooklyn’, with a tip of the hat to our age-old saying ‘we’re the northernmost Caribbean City’.”
El Dorado Rum
8 Year Averna
Mood: Something sweet and tropical in a spot that feels like a mini-escape.
Portside Lounge is a fun neighborhood tiki bar that has been serving fruity and festive cocktails since 2017. The vibe here is a cross between a tiki bar and a friend’s fancy basement and I love that it feels a little like a mini-getaway. With regular vinyl nights, bands on stage and food by Queen Trini Lisa, you can’t go wrong enjoying an evening at Portside.
MORE: Portside Lounge is the uncharted “North Caribbean” watering hole of Central City
Cocktail: St. Lucian Sunrise
“This cocktail was inspired by the most beautiful sunrise I saw when visiting there some years ago,” bartender and cocktail creator Craig Ycaza, said.