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New Orleans 2024: Bars

In this post we were in New Orleans for travel. Known for their rampant drinking we made sure to experience the city and culture as per the party stereotype.

Being fans of spirits and liquors ourselves we made sure to try as many of their unique and themed offerings as possible. Here is that list in the order that we visited.

Cafe Lafitte in Exile
Reading that the Cafe Lafitte in Exile was
America’s Oldest gay bar, I wanted to take a peek in. Marked with rainbow flags and an upper balcony decorated with large paper blooms it was eye catching. And more so with their projector broadcasting music videos that corresponded to the music they were playing.

The interior is bathed in red, there is no food or drink menu. And only one topless male bartender serving. You tell him what you want and he mixes. It.

He noted they are known for their slushes so we got a couple of Hurricane Slushies, which is one of New Orleans’ most famous drinks. These were nothing special nor were they even strong. My girl friend was watching him mix and she swears that for one of them he forgot to add in a shot.

This was a pretty disappointing spot for the lack of history, service, and one of the dirtiest washrooms we visited all trip. Perhaps it was because we weren’t the normal demographic, either way I would not recommend.

I insisted we moved on so that I could find a more hygienic washroom. None would be to my standards, but at least much better than the one above. Which will forever be horrifically ingrained into my brain.

The Old Absinthe House
The Old Absinthe House had a very lived-in decor with walls covered in bent and torn business cards of those that have visited before. They contrasted all the helmets that hung from the ceiling.

We started with another one of New Orleans’ national drinks the Sazerac, made with Rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters, and Herbsaint rinse.

And seeing as it was in their name I had to try some of their absinthe done the traditional way with melted sugar cube. We had a choice and I went with the highest proof. The Butterfly Classic from Switzerland described as “a modern Suisse rendition of a classic pre-prohibition absinthe produced in Boston in the early 1900s. Produced using grande wormwood, petite Wormwood, hyssop, peppermint, star anise, fennel, and citrus. Butterfly combines the best of both worlds: American heritage and recipe with Swiss “know how” and ingredients”.

Sadly I am aware that I am not a fan of black liquorice, but could miss out on this opportunity to try this. I didn’t finish it, but no regrets.

Big Easy Daiquiri
On Bourbon Street there are shops offering slushes on every corner, and we just happened in on Big Easy Daiquiri for one. You are able to drink on the streets of New Orleans so long as it is in a plastic vessel. And here you can get it in either a long bong-like cup, or a cute teddy bear, with your choice of colours for both. I went for the latter in green.

The have over 10 different flavours of slushes including hurricane, every tropical fruit, and piña colada. I went for king’s cake, which is one of their traditional desserts made into liquid sugar. Vanilla cream and no hint of alcohol. I would later learn that this is how they hide the taste of the bottom shelf alcohol they often use to keep costs low.

The fun was in the novelty and the vessel did contribute to that.

Ghost Bar
I wanted to visit Ghost Bar for the name alone, even though I am horribly afraid of ghosts. Sadly they were closed, but just as well as from what I can see online there is no theme to the name and nothing that really stands out about it.

Carousel Bar
The Carousel Bar at least delivered on its name. The bar is centred around an old carousel, minus the horses that you would sit on to ride. Although if they had those in place of barstools that would be a pretty unique concept in my books.

Long story short, the line and wait to get a seat at the actual bar, under the roof of the carousel was too long with no seating limit for those already there; so we decided to move on after this photo.

Had we of stayed we would have gotten the Vieux Carre. Created and first served in the 1930s by Walter Bergeron, a bartender from the Hotel Monteleone, in which the bar was situated in. As explained by the menu “Vioux Carró means “old square” in French and refors to the city’s French Quarter neighborhood.” It is a mix of Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura, and Peychaud Bitters.

Tropical Isle
Seeing enough of them pass by, I had to try a Hand Grenade, advertised as the strongest drink on Bourbon Street. Served in what looks like a neon green bong, topped with an ornamental plastic grenade for show.

And speaking of show, our bartender put one on by juggling for us as he mixed. The result was a walking-ready drink that was a sweet slush that hid any would be alcohol flavour. You really have to like sugary drinks to enjoy this and any other slush.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
This one came recommended to me, and I was interested in seeing this bar refurbished from an actual old blacksmith shop. It was also the busiest of all the bars we ventured into. There, their cocktails came with pirate themed names, but we went the slushie route again and got their Voodoo purple daiquiri. It came in a branded styrofoam cup, tasted like grape kool-aid, and seemed forever to drink down.

At the back bar they had live music, with seats around a piano. We took time here to pause and enjoy a seated drink. We even tipped the singer so that we could request a song. Although that opportunity never came, as he told us that it was a minimum of $5 for a song request. At this point I would have walked away, but my host called him out. She got her request of Journey, but out of spite he played an obscure song that no one knew or could sing along with. Soured by the experience we were quick to leave after.

And as a night cap for one evening we ventured into a convenience store and picked up a cigar and of Four Loko USA at 13.3%. Had to do it just to say we did and because we could. The spiked energy drink tasted awful, as potent as it was artificial. Never again.

Pat O’Brien’s
One of the tourist bars to visit is Pat O’Brien’s Bar. An expansive sports bar, circa 1933 and known as the originators of one of New Orleans historic drinks: The Hurricane, the non-slush version.

I enjoyed a full tall glass (as intended) in their picturesque court yard. I was given a table right by the fountain to enjoy and people watch. The drink itself is basically a fruit punch and it packs a punch. This was the least sweet version of this I have had during my trip, and therefore the best.

Vampire Bar
I wanted to stop and grab a drink at this themed bar, but it was too busy when I visited in the afternoon. The food menu doesn’t really speak to the gothic tone of the decor, nor does it have anything really “bloody”. What they do have is wine served in “blood bags” with a straw for easy drink-walking.

NOLA Distillery
My travel mate and host got us a Groupon for a distillery tour. NOLA Distillery that not only makes their own spirits, but manufactures and bottles for others as well. Here, we learned the history of the brand, got a walk through of their operations, before tasting some of what they have to offer. But more on our experience in a separate post.

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