Drinking in the Spirits of New Orleans

September 30, 2021
When my friends come to town, invariably their first question is “Where is an interesting and unique place to go for a drink?” shortly followed by “Will you meet us there?” Therefore I thought it may be helpful to share two of my favorite new bars, as well as one of my most beloved staples from the past decade.

Tucked away in the heart of French Quarter, Peychaud’s at the Maison Deville is an elegant respite, offering classic and signature cocktails prepared by head bartender Nick Jarrett. Honoring the legacy of the bar’s namesake and location, Peychaud’s is housed in what was formerly the 1830s residence of Antoine Peychaud. He opened a legendary Creole apothecary in 1832 where he prescribed and dispensed his patented herbal bitters, Peychaud’s Bitters. Originally, they were medicinal, brought by Peychaud to New Orleans as he and many others fled the slave revolts in Saint-Domingue, on what is now Haiti. This mass migration deeply changed the fabric of the Crescent City: the colorful Creole cottages, iconic foodways, Second Line parade traditions, and famous wrought-iron balconies, all developed thanks to the influx of Haitians in these decades. Purportedly, it was Peychaud who began splashing his bitters into a popular brandy of the day, Sazerac de Forge & Fils, creating the first cocktail. The recipe has morphed into a concoction of Sazerac rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters, a sugar cube, and a glass rinsed in absinthe. We now know this as the Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans. Today, those same bitters are an essential ingredient in hundreds of classic and modern cocktails, yet only in New Orleans can it be sipped in Antoine Peychaud’s former home.

Peychaud’s opened in the Spring of 2021 by the group behind the award-winning Cane & Table. The menu by Nicholas Jarrett (of Cure and The Saint) focuses solely on the city’s most storied recipes. “There is no singular person who has had more influence in shaping cocktails in New Orleans than Antoine Peychaud; it is a unique opportunity to honor his legacy,” exclaims Neal Bodenheimer, co-owner and founder of three of the city’s most respected dining and drinking spots.

A refreshing Peychaud’s Fizz (a citrus peel-infused Peychaud’s aperitivo with fresh lemon, a touch of sugar, strawberry, cucumber, and soda), a Ramos Gin Fizz, a Pimm’s Cup, or a French 75 are best sipped in the charming courtyard alongside the three-tiered black antique fountain, tropical foliage, and a spirit-discerning crowd. Open daily at 4pm except Tuesdays at 727 Toulouse Street. maisondeville.com

For a sip of pleasure in the heart of the Vieux Carré, Patrick’s Bar Vin is the quintessential wine bar, offering a robust wine selection and a cozy and intimate atmosphere that is unlike any other in the city. Dapper Belgium-born local celebrity Patrick Van Hoorebeek, a French Quarter bon vivant, holds court at his wine bar with large, cozy yet intimate seating areas both inside and outside in the quaint courtyard. Wines by the glass are the specialty, with a special offer of seven wines at $7 a glass. Just ask for Patrick’s Best Kept Secret! Among the many classic cocktails served are Bar Vin Kiss (a shot of Veuve Cliquot,) a Champagne Cocktail, French 75, Bar Vin Royale, French Sangria, and Bar Vin Sazerac. Domestic, local, imported and draft beers are served including beers from France, Denmark and many from Belgium, including several on draft. Patrick says most people who visit “start with a glass of wine and later switch to bubbles.” There are over twenty different kinds of champagne to choose from! Merci! Only a few steps from Bourbon Street, Bar Vin has a uniquely European ambiance. Discover celebrated wines, plush leather seating, a cozy brick courtyard for al fresco sipping, and joie de vivre that can be hard to find outside of Europe. It offers guests personalized, climate-controlled wine lockers in which they can store their own bottles to celebrate life at any time!

The bar is a perennial award winner and was recently awarded Gayot’s top ten wine bars in the United States for 2021. Though Patrick’s Bar Vin recently celebrated their tenth anniversary, Patrick has been at the top of the restaurant industry since he moved here from Belgium in 1986. Patrick’s Bar Vin is the place to tailgate in style for an upscale football experience. You may notice what appear to be elegant mirrors in the sitting area; those are televisions! Enjoy sitting in a comfy leather chair while imbibing in an excellent bottle of wine, champagne, cocktail, or beer while cheering on your favorite team. Opens at 4pm on Thursday and 2pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 730 Bienville Street. patricksbarvin.com

For an authentic New Orleans experience, Mahogany Jazz Hall is a premier jazz club that is presently the most reliable venue in the French Quarter to hear the best traditional jazz in town. The ambience has a pre-Prohibition feel to it, a step back into a bygone era.

Co-owner Kate Fulton arrived right after Katrina from the Czech Republic to work with what would become her family at a local renowned jazz hall. She came to know all of the traditional jazz performers in town, developed a true passion for jazz, and even married a premier trumpeter, Mike Fulton. Kate and her friend Jun Yoshizaki, another jazz aficionado from Japan, often spent their afternoons together reflecting on life during the pandemic. They both enjoy drinking mezcal and frequently drank a unique lavender cocktail they concocted using mezcal, lemon, maraschino liqueur, and Crème de Violette. This led to daydreams about their future, and ultimately the decision to open their own jazz club serving pre-Prohibition style cocktails and a dozen varieties of absinthe, beer, and wine. Try the cocktail that Kate and Jun adored on those afternoons, appropriately named Proprietress! Maybe Death in the Afternoon will suit you with absinthe and bubbles. Or perhaps Bee’s Knees, made with gin, lemon, and honey.

Between the 1860s and 1920, when prohibitions on alcohol went into effect, American bartending came into its own. There existed a whole set of drinks and an entire style of bartending before Prohibition that fell into obscurity for decades. In the thirteen years of federal prohibition, all the great bartenders moved to Europe or went underground to work for a speakeasy. The real golden age for cocktails sat between 1860 and the start of prohibition.

Kate and Jun found an older bar to fully remodel, making a place where their family and staff of musicians would be happy to play and work. The setting is intimate with great acoustics and top-of-the-line musicians. Treat yourself and visit on a Friday or Saturday for the added delight of tasteful burlesque to accompany the traditional jazz. Open daily at 5pm at 125 Chartres Street. mjhnola.com

A stroll on Magazine St. just isn’t complete without a stop at The Press Room bar. Every day, they serve up light bites and delicious craft cocktails in the lobby lounge of The Eliza Jane, an impeccably stylish boutique hotel from the Unbound Collection by Hyatt. Paneled walls and bookshelves in The Press Room and an intimate, living room inspired lounge gives a nod to the building’s ties to The Daily Picayune newspaper with sourced antiques and books, typewriters, and other accessories filling the numerous shelves. Cozy leather and multi-hued velvet seating are positioned around the marble fireplace. Inspired by the 19th century local poet turned publisher Eliza Jane Nicholson, guests can imbibe surrounded by remnants of the property’s former life as a printing house. Try the magical Lemon Drop, a cocktail with potato vodka, fresh lemon juice, perfectly finished with a splash of Combier Bleu, and served with a sugared rim. Lemon fresh with a touch of sweetness, it is an exquisitely crafted cocktail. Open daily, 4 to 12pm. at 315 Magazine Street, theelizajane.com.

Take a stroll and drop in for a refreshment in these local establishments for a taste of Southern hospitality! Treat yourself by relaxing in a charming tropical courtyard, enjoying live local jazz, and savoring the ambience and history of the French Quarter.