Recently, Alice and I partook in a small Southern US road trip. A friend of ours was having a wedding in Macon, GA and as we’d never done much Southern traveling, we decided to rent a car, start in New Orleans and cruise to Macon. Naturally, we couldn’t not try new bars and check out the cocktail scene. Here are a few places that we can recommend for quality craft cocktails in New Orleans.
The Victory Bar is a solid little spot in the Business District, just outside of the French Quarter (which, if you’re like us, means it’s a great place to visit because it’s not a madhouse).
When we went, it was a weekday and there were a few regulars, with plenty of open seats for thirsty travelers like ourselves. As is our habit, we sat at the bar so would could chat with the bartender.
What’s the point in going to a specialist if you’re not actually going to engage them and ask about their skills?
As for their cocktails? Well, just check out their cocktail list. It’s fun and unique.
We tried the Poncho Villa and their specialty of the day a Sweet Tea Old Fashioned. They know how to balance sweet, bitter, spicy and all of the cocktails components quite well.
Of all the places we visited, I think Bar Tonique was my favorite for the pure cocktail drinking experience. It’s located on the northwestern edge of the French Quarter, just off where all the craziness happens. While the Victory made great modern cocktails, Bar Tonique is spectacular because they’re sticking with the classics.
Seriously, check out their cocktail menu. You get the date the cocktail was invented and what goes in it. Sure, they adapt many of their cocktails (I mean, come on, I want them to tweak them. Tastes have changed.), but they respect the classics and update them thoughtfully.
Their interior is another in the long line of ideally dark, but cozy, drinking establishments. I’ve never been a fan of anyplace too bright or a little too welcoming. I’m not looking for Cheers or a TGI McAwesome’s Ultra Bar here, I’m looking for a place where I can drink and unwind from the day.
When we went, the bar was (understandably) full, so we sat ourselves in the back among the benches. We tried their Pimm’s Cup (which is apparently a big thing in New Orleans we discovered), Sidecar and Corpse Reviver #2. Seriously, I could have stayed here all night.
The Loa Bar is back in the Business District (yeah, we were trying to avoid the madness of Bourbon), located in the International House Hotel. That little tip will help, as we walked by the place three or four times before walking into the hotel in frustration.
This is what I’d call an Ultra Lounge (pew pew!). What I mean by that is it’s the kind of place that you could imagine in Vegas: clean, fancy and a little bit cutting edge. However, unlike Vegas, what you can do here is relax and unwind.
Are you noticing a trend? If you’re going to go out drinking, it should be a pleasant, fun and (stay with me here) relaxing experience. You shouldn’t have to battle people for a spot or yell your order.
Their cocktails are seasonal (awesome) and rotating (also awesome), so what we got might not help you when you go. Still, we got the Old Fashioned (which had mole bitters!), the Lady Sazerac and the Chien et Loup.
Each of their cocktails is a thoughtful combination where they really consider each ingredient and how it’ll work together.
The thing about New Orleans is there are a ton of places to drink — that’s true of most all towns if we’re honest. However, the trick is, you need to ask yourself what you’re looking for in your drinks. Do you just want to get drunk? Well, these might not be the places for you. Are you, however, looking for a place that makes a fantastic cocktail, with some story, some finesse, can provide you with witty conversation and a place to relax? If that’s the case, then yeah, we can heartily and happily recommend you check out all of these places.
Let us know what places we missed this time so we know where to go next time!