New Orleans is my favourite city in the world. I was fortunate to live (and bartend) here from 1996-2000. I’ve been going back on a regular basis ever since. My guide to New Orleans is by no way the definitive authority on Tales of the Cocktail or the city itself but I hope a few interesting tips for you to consider.
Today the city is famous for its partying and Bourbon Street, food, music, architecture and its festivals, ghost tours, voodoo, cemeteries and swamps etc. Therefore if you do have any free time away from your TOTC schedule then you won’t get bored.
This famous port city was founded by the French in 1718, briefly ceded to the Spanish before the whole territory of Louisiana was sold to America in 1803. The two beautiful historical areas of the city are the French Quarter (Downtown) and Uptown. The architecture and feel of the city is completely different in both areas.
The people here really have that “live for the day” spirit and when you understand the numerous examples of war, hurricanes, disease, famine, crime and poverty that have befallen the city then you start to understand why.
July is the off-season for the simple reason of the oppressive heat. Most days the heat index will be over 40c/100f therefore if you’re not at a seminar in the afternoon I suggest hitting the pool. The following hotels all have great pools (with bars) which are easy to get into.
If you’re not a guest then buy a few drinks, its just good manners!
The following bars are famous for their historical link to a great classic cocktail. Worth checking out are
Monteleone Hotel (Vieux Carre)
Roosevelt Hotel (Ramos Gin fizz & Sazerac)
Brennan’s Rest. (Brandy Milk Punch)
Old Absinthe House (Absinthe Frappe)
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar (French 75)
Pat O’Briens* (Hurricane).
*The Hurricanes here are made from pre-mix and way too sweet. However, still a fun bar to go to.
Other bars/dive bars
On most nights there will be several brand parties going on. If you can get a ticket for these then definitely go. I can personally vouch for the Absolut, Jameson & Pernod Ricard USA events from my company all being amazing! These tend to finish before midnight so as this is a 24hr drinking city there is more partying to be done. Most people head back into the French Quarter. At this point I would go to French 75 or Old Absinthe House. For a slower pace try Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (top end of Bourbon Street). This is the oldest bar in North America and worth seeing.
Late night (usually after 1am) many people will end up at one of the 24hr dive bars. Alibi Bar is still the most popular haunt and many UK raconteurs like Jake Burger and Seb Hamilton-Mudge will be holding court. I always try and pace myself and leave by 3am. Never happens! Leaving here at 10am is not unheard of!
Famous New Orleans dishes include jambalaya, boiled crawfish, po-boys, Gumbo, red beans & rice, blackened catfish and muffulatas to name but a few. For quick, easy delicious local food I suggest the following – for in or close to the French Quarter:
Coop’s Place (Creole cooking)
Yo Mama’s (Burger)
Central Grocery (Muffulatas)
Verti Marte (24hrs)(Po-Boys)
Did you know?
All bars in New Orleans have an automatic 24 hr license although most don’t use it.
You don’t have to finish your drink before leaving, just grab a plastic ‘to go cup’ and finish it on your way to the next bar!
There are drive-through Daiquiri bars in New Orleans! Yes people really do drive up and order drinks!
The city is an island but most of it is beneath sea level! The city is protected from flooding by levees.
There are 4 million people buried in the city (most above ground in tombs). The living population (400,000) is outnumbered 10-1. Unsurprisingly its very haunted!
Voodoo witchcraft is still practised in the city. There are several voodoo shops in the French Quarter.
The most famous festival occurs in Feb/March and is called Mardi Gras. The locals prefer Jazzfest in April/May.
So many great movies were filmed here: The Pelican Brief, The Big Easy, Interview with a Vampire, Live and Let Die, Déjà vu, Double Jeopardy to name but a few.
It has one of the worst crime rates in the U.S. You should be safe in the French Quarter but please stay alert at all times.
If you get a chance…
Go to St Louis Cemetery No.1 – Built in 1789 and borders the French Quarter. Impressive small town of vaults and mausoleums of famous locals including Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveaux
Take the historic green street car from Canal St uptown to St Charles Av. ($1.50 exact money) I used to live here and in my opinion it is the best part of the City. Take a tour of the Garden District or have a drink on the terrace of the Columns Hotel. Stunning Old Southern architecture dominates this part of the city.
Go on a ghost tour or a voodoo tour. Your hotel will have details.
Go to famous Preservation Hall for a jazz concert. It only lasts an hour but is incredible.
Go on a swamp tour and feed the alligators.
Go to famous 24hr Café Du Monde for coffee and beignets.
I hope you have an amazing time in this incredible city and you find the above guide useful. One last thing, the locals pronounce it N’awlins.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this amazing place firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Huckle is Brand Ambassador, Pernod Ricard UK