Pick your poison
New Orleans is known for it’s all night parties, drinking in the streets, and for Mardi Gras.
What the outside world knows less about is the sophisicated cocktail culture and history behind some of their signature drinks. Let’s start where most visitors do, on Bourbon Street.
Up and down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter are shops selling sweet alcoholic drinks.
The Hand Grenade is a potent drink served in a long green plastic container. Tropical Isle has five locations across the Quarter serving up the drink. It is served iced or frozen and is made up of melon liquer, vodka, gin, grain alcohol, and rum.
Another one that won’t feel the next day is the Hurricane. The rum-based drink is fruity and served in a “hurricane” cup. Head to Pat O’Briens on Bourbon or just off on St. Peter Street next to the jazz institution, Preservation Hall, for the original Hurricane.
Hurricane from Pat O’Briens
While originally an English drink, the Pimm’s Cup is a popular and refreshing hot weather drink around New Orleans. It’s a gin-based drink made with 7Up, Lemonade, and a cucumber slice. Try one at the historic Napoleon House in the French Quarter.
Sazerac is arguably the world’s first cocktail and the signature drink of New Orleans. In 1838, Creole apothecary Antoine Peychaud invented the Sazerac in his shop at 437 Royal Street. The name of the drink comes from Peychaud’s favorite French brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et fils. Further along, American Rye-whiskey replaced cognac. In 1873, bartender Leon Lamothe added absinthe. 40 years later, absinthe was banned in the United States and the drink was adapted using Peychaud’s special bitters in its place.
This is the drink to try in New Orleans. Recently, the Sazerac House opened on the corners of Magazine and Canal Streets which is a great place to learn more history behind the drink. The must-try location is in the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel, serving the drink since 1938.
The Sazerac House on Canal Street
Other Great Bars and Traditions
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
At the far end of Bourbon Street at the corner of St. Philip Street, there’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Dating back to 1772, Lafitte’s was originally owned and operated by privateer Jean Lafitte and is reputedly haunted by the ghosts of customers from times past. Cocktail lovers can have some daytime fun by starting with a spicy Bloody Mary from one of the city’s top brunch spots.
Inside of the Hotel Monteleone is the home to the Carousel Bar which is an actual revolving indoor carousel. Their martinis were a favorite of Ernest Hemingway and Tennesse Williams.
Old Absinthe House
In its location since 1807, the Old Absinthe House has been famous for serving absinthe throughout its long and complicated history. The interior of the building has the same musty brick walls, the same ornate wooden fixtures, and the same water-dripping fountains for serving absinthe as it did when a pirate and a general passed through its doors to discuss their plans to secure a nation’s future. Once a meeting place for pirates like Jean Lafitte to Americdan presidents, this bar is a piece of history.
The Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone
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At KiKO Japan, we seek the deeper experience of travel. Our New Orleans tour celebrates the culture, influence, and region that have made New Orleans the world’s treasure that it is. We will spend our days touring the city and the region learning its history from slavery, plantations, to life on the Bayou, all while taking in the best food, drinks, and music of NOLA.
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