Where to drink right now in New Orleans

Post-Mardi Gras and before Tales of the Cocktail is the best time to visit NOLA: The cocktail scene is hot, and the weather not-yet swampy.

The Brandy Crusta is the crown jewel of Jewel of the South. Facebook.com/jewelfothesouthnola photo

Bar Stars

Jewel of the South

A 20-year vet of the New Orleans bar scene, co-owner Chris Hannah presides most nights over this restaurant bar, shaking up his perfected Brandy Crusta and other iconic drinks. Though you can hit it on a Wednesday for Casual Caviar happy hour, or dine lavishly on the likes of tripe, pig head and beef tongue made into savoury dinner plates, the bar itself hits hard enough to have landed at No. 5 on North America’s 50 Best Bars and be named the Best Bar in the South in 2023.

The lobby bar at the Four Seasons New Orleans features a gigantic crystal chandelier. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons New Orleans

Chandelier Bar

This gem of a lobby bar the Four Seasons New Orleans serves a Chandelier Martini as glittering and towering as the room’s gigantic crystal crown. Three gins (a London Dry, a wetter botanical and an Old Tom). Three garnishes (a pick of olives, a fat lemon zest and a strip of pickled mirliton, a NOLA delicacy that’s jicama or chayote-like). Add 24 stirs and six dashes of something called Chandelier Magic (a house bitters, in which local Herbsaint liqueur plays a role) in a chilled glass approaching fishbowl size, and it’s a choose-your-own adventure in drinking. That’s the only drink you’ll need, but from the As the Legend Goes menu, choose a refreshing Roffignac (a Cognac-and-raspberry highball spritzed with soda), a refreshing classic on the come-up.

Manolito has perfected the art of frozen and blended drinks. Instagram.com/manolitonola photo


Hannah co-founded this French Quarter Cuban-themed bar, named for a beloved colleague who presided at Havana’s legendary La Floridita bar. Manolito not only sees no stigma in frozen and blended drinks, it perfects the art: Just try the frozen amaretto sour and try to deny it. The tiny bar will be briefly closed this spring while it mercifully renovates and expands from the existing two dozen seats.

The Side Quest cocktail at Cure. Charlene Rooke photo


After the wrath of Hurricane Katrina receded, the local culinary scene was reborn: Cure is widely regarded as the site of the cocktail-aissance. The entry is lined with cabinets of dusties and curiosities collected by owner Neal Bodenheimer, and the reserve cocktails list is rich with rare options like a Mai Tai with rum from Jamaica, Martinique and Grenada that never make it to Canadian shores. On the current seasonal drinks list: a buttery-soft, rice-washed Magnolia Martini (featuring a floral-kissed gin from Wonderbird Spirits in Mississippi, created by brand ambassador and Cure bartender Gina Hoover) is a standout. Bodenheimer also owns Peychaud’s, a tony bar named for the cocktail-bitter pioneer.

The cocktails at Cane and Table explore the dark and complicated history of of the rum trade. Charlene Rooke photo

Cane & Table

The so-called proto tiki movement may have been born here, at this modern Caribbean restaurant (also founded by Bodenheimer) serving a respectful look at the dark and complicated history of the rum trade and associated cocktail history. For instance, the Common Ground combines American Bourbon and Caribbean rum with tiki-staple orgeat and citrus for an entirely nouveau highball. Other drinks use Mexican sotol and Japanese whisky inventively with tropical flavours from banana to nuts. Or just order the house Hurricane & Table, many cuts above the Bourbon Street staple.

Look Beyond the Signs

The Reserve Martini at Emeril’s is a winning choice. Charlene Rooke photo

Yes, the posh spot next to the flagship Warehouse District Emeril’s is called The Wine Bar at Emeril’s, but you’d best order the Reserve Martini: vodka fat-washed in local-fave Zapp’s chips, caper-infused gin and garnished with a bump of caviar on balanced on a chip. The Chicory Manhattan with sweet potato, pecan and cane vinegar is another knockout.

Instagram.com/barrelproofnola photo

Barrel Proof touts itself as a whiskey bar—and indeed, has 400-plus on the back bar—but it’s so much more. It eschews the old-school men’s club thing for cool Garden District dive-bar vibes, so while your fellow patrons sip cheap Mexican lager and craft IPA, gorge on rare Japanese drams or unfamiliar amari, like the wicked Marseille from Brooklyn’s Forthave Spirits.

The Classics

The Outcast of the Islands cocktail at Latitude 29. Charlene Rooke photo

No cocktail tour of NOLA is complete without a stop at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, a tropical cocktail historian’s fever dream with great happy hour snacks, and beyond-canon drinks like a spicy, gin-based Outcast of the Islands served on a grog-cone of shaved ice. A namesake drink at the dark, moodily muraled Sazerac Bar is a must, as is A Drink (one drink only!) at the busy, buzzy revolving Carousel Bar, where more than one tipple risks tipping over upon exit. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop bar, named for a privateer (some say pirate) and located in one of the oldest bar buildings in the U.S., is at the edge of the French Quarter and makes a good nightcap spot, though the purple Voodoo Daiquiri is not a gentle goodnight drink. Arnaud’s French 75 Bar is a great place to sip classics and snack on snacks like soufflé potatoes, from one of the city’s great old-school restaurants.

—by Charlene Rooke

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