Watch Us In Your Living Room
Enjoy Very Local on the big screen.
Visit your favorite app store to download.

Double Dealer, New Orleans’ speakeasy bar is ‘poetically’ and literally underground

The underground speakeasy features decor, spirited drinks, live music and throwbacks to the '20s in the Orpheum theater's old ice pit.

by Angela Calonder
October 9, 2021

“He tried to spit out the truth;
“Dry mouthed at first,
“He drooled and slobbered in the end;
“Truth dribbling his chin.”

This is the text of the Ernest Hemingway poem “Ultimately”, a piece that once appeared in a short-lived early 20th-century New Orleans publication called The Double Dealer. Today, the poem lends its name to a gin, cucumber water, lime juice, and jalapeño simple syrup cocktail, and the publication lends its name to the new speakeasy where said cocktail can be found. The Double Dealer opened in January 2020, and it just might be the coolest new bar in New Orleans.

How To Get In: No Secret Password Needed

It’s thoughtful New Orleans-centric touches, such as these, that set the Double Dealer apart, not to mention a handful of secretive and whimsical elements one would hope to find in a place that brands itself a speakeasy. That said, you don’t need a secret password to enter. You’ll find the entrance hiding in plain sight to the right of the main entrance of the Orpheum Theater on Roosevelt Way in the CBD. There’s a stylized poster reading “Double Dealer” on the façade of the theater, as though it were a forthcoming show, and one next to it that reads “Under the Orpheum,” which is exactly where you’ll find the Double Dealer, in what was once the theater’s ice pit. An ice pit in the basement was the source of the very modern convenience of air conditioning in large buildings a century ago, which is about how old the theater is (construction began in 1918 and was completed in 1921).

Poetic Cocktails

Like “Ultimately,” each of the specialty cocktails on the Double Dealer’s menu derives its name from a piece that ran in the eponymous publication. There’s the “Dying Gladiator,” for instance — first a William Faulkner poem, and now a dark rum cocktail made with Meletti, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. Or the achingly romantic title of a sparkling wine and pomegranate syrup cocktail: “Looking at the Moon and Thinking of One Far Away,” from the collection “Three Poems From the Chinese” that appeared in Volume 5 of the Double Dealer in 1922 (the poem is by Chang Chiu-Ling and was translated by Witter Bynner and Kiang Kang-Hu).

The Underground Sound

The fun doesn’t stop with the cocktails, though. The first thing you’re bound to notice upon entering the bar are the two enormous infinity mirrors branded with the Double Dealer’s signature tarot-inspired Orpheus figure.

When the time is right, the mirrors swing open to reveal the large ‘Green Room’ where the bar hosts live entertainment, usually with a vaudeville theme to honor the theater’s origins.

Mounted along the walls of this lounge area are original costumes from the ‘20s. There’s also an original player piano featured prominently on stage.

A Little Privacy

The main bar area is flanked by booths with plush red curtains that are original stage curtains from the Orpheum’s sister theater in St. Louis, Missouri, and which can be drawn for clandestine tête-à-têtes. Guests need not leave the privacy of the booth even to order drinks; there’s a button at each booth that illuminates a red light above it, signaling to the bartender that you’re ready for another round.

Similarly, there’s a row of private two-tops behind the bar, each with a mirrored porthole that opens to the bar. Hit the button to illuminate the light on the bar-side of your porthole, and the bartender can serve you directly through the opening.

In The Back

Then there’s the back whiskey bar, which is wallpapered with pieces of old theater backdrops from early productions at the Orpheum, and whose light fixture connects to vintage pulleys that were used at the theater.

There’s also the ‘poker room’, where the centerpiece of the table is a tribute to Barry, a dedicated Orpheum stagehand who met a tragic demise in a car accident after a long shift in the ‘70s, and whose ghost is said to benignly haunt the place. (The tribute is, of course, a cocktail crafted with Black Feather Bourbon, “the spirit of the ERG Family of Companies.” ERG Enterprises owns the Orpheum and the Double Dealer.)

So the next time you’re feeling dry-mouthed, head to this sophisticatedly quirky watering hole. Revel in the historical and literary features; stay, perhaps, until truth dribbles your chin.

Angela Calonder is a globetrotting photographer and blogger who is happy to call New Orleans home.

More Local Stories

Stitch: Inspiring Stories About Sports and Community

Sports create pockets of communities all across our country. For people of all ages who love the game, it’s more than just exercise: it can give hope, support, inspiration and a future

Tue. May 17 Primary Election Day in Pittsburgh

Tuesday is Election Day in Pittsburgh – we’ve got the details on where to vote and who is on the ballot

Eat Play Stay: Brews and Bigfoot in Portland, ME

Catch your very own lobsters, sample donuts and oysters, and take a selfie with Bigfoot in this booming New England seaport.

Friday the 13th: A guide to the history behind common superstitions

Why does a black cat mean trouble? Will your mama’s back really break if you step on a crack?

Hometown Tragedy Season 2 Premieres June 8

Hometown Tragedy’s second season investigates true crimes that rocked communities across America, exploring the impact on those left to seek justice. The cases range from cold-blooded murder to domestic abuse turned deadly.

Chef Dee Lavigne expands the only Black-owned cooking school in New Orleans

Deelightful Roux School of Cooking is the only African American-owned cooking school taught by a New Orleans native, and her class is a guide to New Orleans’ food culture.

Not your typical Asian takeout — a guide to international takeout food in Pittsburgh

Let’s talk international food from Korea, Thailand, India, Uzbekistan and more! This isn’t your typical takeout box.

Homestead’s Golden Age Beer Co. is ushering in a golden age of lagers

Homestead’s Golden Age Beer Company is in business to shine a light on the time-honored brews.

Where to Plan Your Next Picnic in Orlando

Take advantage of the weather by exploring some of these parks in the Orlando area to plan your next picnic.

Guide to Every Comic Book Store in Pittsburgh

Your complete guide to Pittsburgh comic book stores, including comics written and drawn by Pittsburgh creators.

Chef Dee Lavigne expands the only Black-owned cooking school in New Orleans

Deelightful Roux School of Cooking is the only African American-owned cooking school taught by a New Orleans native, and her class is a guide to New Orleans’ food culture.

Top 5-04: Where to get tacos in New Orleans

Here are a few of the many awesome taco spots we have in New Orleans.

Brunchfaced: 14 Parishes brings Jamaican flavors Uptown

One word: rummosa. From the oxtail and eggs to the jerk chicken and waffles, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation at brunch.

Brunchfaced: Jazz Fest Edition

I can’t think of any better way to help celebrate Jazz Fest’s 50 years of joy than with something else that brings me joy: BRUNCH.