There are endless ways to drink in New Orleans. There's the time-honored hurricane or daiquiri in a wacky plastic cup, enjoyed on the sidewalk along Bourbon Street (classy!). There are bottomless bloody Maries imbibed over a heaping plate of fried oysters and shrimp at Acme Oyster House. Or maybe a mimosa and beignet are more your bag? But for anyone looking to savor more unique adult beverages, NOLA is serving up some fantastic new cocktails in unique settings. Here are five of them.
What's that? You're heading to the Big Easy for Super Bowl XLVII? Well, get a pen—you'll want to write these down.
The bar at Restaurant R'evolution, aptly named Bar R'evolution, is a study in old world elegance—dark wood, green stained glass, and heavy deco frames adorn this enclave, which is separate from the main dining area, and gas lights hang from the ceiling. The cocktail list is an amalgamation of the speakeasy and the mixology lab (with a healthy wine list to boot). Of particular note is The Doktor, a bitter yet juicy concoction of Don Q rum, absinthe, Cruzan Black Strap, and lime juice. The bar's most popular drink—the Belle Epoque—is light and not too sweet: Evan Williams Black, Peach Ratafia, champagne, and lemon syrup.
Of the bars on this list, Bellocq, located at the brand spanking new Hotel Modern, is closest to the "cocktail lounge." Dimly lit, and filled with plush armchairs and giant ottomans, as well as a rather sexy be-draped nook, Bellocq is a sort of steam-punk take on classic punch drinks. Try one of their cobblers—a take on a traditional "tipple" made with crushed ice, citrus, berries, and seasonal fruit. The Bonal Gentiane Quinine with grapefruit zest was served in a silver mug, refreshing and icy.
Abigail Gullo of New York City's The Beagle Bar is bar chef at new French Quarter eatery SoBou, which mixes clean lines and monochromatic hues with an alchemist's feel (countless glass bottles line the walls, and behind the bar sits a giant block of ice from which the bartenders shave pieces into your beverage). Gullo's approach to the drinks here was simple, accessible ingredients with a nod to cocktail culture (which unlike in the rest of the country, she says, never left New Orleans.) One of their top sellers is the Fauborg Tall Boy: Earl Grey-infused gin, cassis, lemon, and sparkling wine. These takes on the tiki seem trendy right now in NOLA, and the drink wasn't far off from R'evolution's Doktor—citrusy without being sweet. For something a little more passionate, try the Blood and Sand: Dewars, Cherry Heering, orange juice, and sweet vermouth.
Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone
Ok, so Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone is not technically new. In fact it's a bit of a NOLA staple. The rotating bar did, however, undergo a recent renovation, changing the color scheme around the bar, replacing the bar top, the furniture, and the floor, and adding more lighting. Enjoy the new look while sipping their Monteleone Cocktail, featuring (ri)1 Whiskey, Domain de Canton, St. Germaine, orange bitters, and ginger ale.
Perestroika at Pravda
When you first walk into Perestroika, located at the former site of the popular Pravda vodka bar, you might feel the urge to turn and walk right back out. Don't. The peeling grey paint and Soviet images are a little off-putting and only conceal the charm of the open courtyard at the back of the building. But just trust us—sit down and grab the cocktail menu, because they make some of the most interesting drinks in town. The owners behind Cure bar and Bellocq bought the bar last September, and we hear it's set for renovation in 2013; that may also include a change to the cocktail menu, so get there while you can and try the Literary Reference #2, a blush-colored mystery comprised of house-infused sage vodka, Dolin Blanc, and Peychaud's Bitters. Words fail to describe its taste; you kind of just have to try it. For something a little less unfathomable, there's the Sunday Under Glass: gin, orange, lemon, cinnamon, tiki bitters, and absinthe. Sweet, citrusy, delicious...you get it.
Deanna Cioppa is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. When not in the air or on the road, she can be found bellied up to a raw bar, martini in hand, or in the mountains, martini in pack. She's a regular contributor and guest editor of Fodors.com, and has written for BudgetTravel.com, ShermansTravel.com, GO Magazine, and others. www.deannacioppa.com or @likeitsmyjob
Photo credits: Carousel Bar and Perestroika courtesy of Deirdre Synan; all other images courtesy of Deanna Cioppa