Lift a Glass to Springtime in New Orleans

March 07, 2022
Photo by Randy Schmidt
Springtime in New Orleans is one vibrant celebration after another, and we are all more than eager to get out and kick up our heels! Flowers are blooming, the days are longer, we feel the first teases of summer weather, and we have never been so ready! The French Quarter is a wonderful place to take a leisurely stroll to visit classic establishments, local favorites, and a few hidden gems!

Anna’s double-decker bar, housed in a 19th-century bank building, is designed to be your home-away-from-home in the Marigny. The name is a nod to their Bar Director, Anna Giordano, one of the grande dames of our local cocktail scene. Whether you swing by for a solid cocktail or to shoot some pool and whiskey, they look forward to hosting new friends and neighbors seven nights a week. Dog-friendly Anna’s is a locals’ spot turned destination dive. The drinks aren’t fancy, the food is better than it should be, and you can always come as you are. Whether you’re popping in for just one or settling in for far more, they welcome you from Happy Hour well into the night. Happy Hour is 4 to 6 p.m. daily, including $6 menu cocktails and half-off glasses of wine with an exceptional list of Spanish wines and sherry! Every Sunday, Anna’s hosts Spanish classical guitar sets from 7 to 9 p.m. Every Monday, Anna’s offers a complimentary plate of red beans and rice with the purchase of a drink. Every month, there is a movie screening and each ticket comes with a cocktail and popcorn. Try a sherry Negroni, or Aigua de Valencia, a cocktail made with gin, vodka, cava and orange juice. Savor a few bites from their tapas-style menu which some have called “fine diving.” Anna’s boasts specialties in Spanish flavors across the drink and food menus.

A decade ago, in anticipation of her upcoming move to the Crescent City, Anna Giordano visited New Orleans with her mother. On their first night out, they wandered into Mimi’s in the Marigny, the well-loved bar that previously occupied the same space. Drinking from an opulent martini glass, her mom commented, “This is the bomb.” Since that serendipitous evening, Anna has honed her skills at Josephine Estelle, Meauxbar, Jewel of the South, and Bar Tonique, eventually earning the title of Bar Director for Longway Tavern. The winner of numerous cocktail competitions, Anna finds inspiration in the world of art and design, co-founding the Salon d’Whatever pop-up gallery and curating glassware-cocktail pairings as the founder of Five Finger Beverage. As Anna’s Bar Director, she hopes to draw on the many influences and experiences she has absorbed during her time in New Orleans, while recreating the instant sense of comfort she so fondly remembers from that first night in town. 2601 Royal Street, Sunday-Thursday 4pm-2am, Friday-Saturday: 12 p.m.–4 a.m.

Jewel of the South is a modern, elegant New Orleans tavern featuring elite hospitality in a comfortable environment. It is named for a 19th-century local bar that was among the first in the city to serve cocktails. The heated and cooled secret-garden courtyard in the colorful 1830’s Creole cottage in the lower French Quarter, provides a lovely place to relax, imbibe, and have a bite on a beautiful Spring day … or any day! It’s a haven for cocktail geeks and curious history-lovers. The food and drink menu spotlights innovative takes on classic items, immaculately executed by Beverage Director & co-founder Chris Hannah and Chef Phil Whitmarsh. The bar received accolades from Condé Nast Magazine and was listed in USA Today’s Top Ten Bars.

Jewel’s signature cocktail is their version of the Brandy Crusta. The Crusta was created in the 19th century by Joseph Santini at the original Jewel of the South. It’s one of the original cocktails served in New Orleans. The Crusta was the first to employ citrus juice and is credited with inspiring many others, including the Margarita and Sidecar. After falling into obscurity, the cocktail was reintroduced and perfected here at Jewel of the South. The classic brandy version is a must-drink made with brandy, curaçao, fresh lemon juice and bitters. Other popular choices include the modern classics that helped Chris Hannah win a James Beard Award: include the Night Tripper, Bywater, and Winter Waltz. My favorite is the perfectly balanced cocktail called Tuxedo Tails, an elegant riff on a gin martini with Manzanilla sherry, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters, and a pickled quail egg garnish. All the cocktails are off the charts! Sours and cobblers add to the list, one of the most esoteric and exciting in town.

They also offer spectacular eats! Phil Whitmarsh’s New American food program perfectly complements the drink offerings. Among their gorgeously composed plates, there’s miso-roasted eggplant with tofu creme and salted plums and Italian roast pork with pickled chanterelles served on yesterday’s toasted bread. Jewel’s menu changes regularly depending on the freshest ingredients available. However, two regular favorites are the Bone Marrow with parsley, shallot, and capers, with focaccia and Burrata with salted cucumber, bitter lemon puree, and herbs. The restaurant launched Sunday brunch in November 2021, serving dishes like eggs Florentine, baked beans on toast, and French toast with rum syrup and Chantilly cream. Wednesdays are “Casual Caviar” with specials on caviar, champagne, and vodka. Thursdays are Steak Nights, featuring rare cuts and unique preparations as well as a special martini menu. 1026 St Louis Street near Armstrong Park, reservations recommended. Wednesday–Thursday, 5–11 p.m.; Friday, 4–11 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday 10:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 4–11 p.m.

Once upon a time, on the edge of the Bywater, Bacchanal was just a little wine shop with a yard. Its first jazz was performed by interested locals; its first food served by chefs who had lost their own kitchens in Hurricane Katrina. Today, Bacchanal has its own chef, daily jazz, and a full bar upstairs, but the original magic still remains. Bacchanal is a place where food, music, and culture blend with Holy Vino to create a unique experience. Established in 2002, Bacchanal is no longer a local’s secret. It’s on the list of James Beard nominees for Best Wine Programs in the country repeatedly and is the quintessential corner wine shop hosting the best backyard party. Live jazz is played outdoors twice daily, often three times during festival season. Check their website calendar for details.

When you enter, be aware that this is a do-it-yourself place. You’ll need to pick out a bottle from the charming shop of Old World wines and small vineyard picks arranged by region; the wine experts can help if needed. All bottles are also available for carry-out. You’ll find more unique vineyards and blends than you would at most corner stores. Pair your wine with a cheese pairing or two from the cooler. It might not look like much, but it will come out to you on a tray complete with baguette slices, toasted nuts, and other pleasing accoutrements. Grab some glasses from the rack and a make-your-own ice bucket for chilled wines on your way to the courtyard. There, other tapas-style options can be ordered at leisure. Expect Mediterranean-inspired dishes featuring fresh seafood, citrusy salads, shareable spreads, and braised meats. Upstairs, there’s a full bar that serves beer and specialty craft cocktails. The smaller tables and windows opened into the courtyard make an excellent quieter place to hang out. 600 Poland Avenue. Closed Tuesdays! Monday/Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday: noon to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: noon to 11 p.m.

Steps off Bourbon St., yet a world away, The Will & The Way opened in 2021 as an act of social restoration. After an eerily quiet year in the French Quarter, they craved the warmth that makes their neighborhood a beloved destination for locals and travelers alike. The 18th-century architecture and courtyard are a testament to the countless New Orleanians who have raised toasts and made mischief within those walls, no matter what storm, prohibition, or pandemic comes our way. The new bar’s name is a play on the expression “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” It’s an uplifting message of building back and a reflection of New Orleans’ “can-do” attitude. Bar Director Thomas Linville created a menu of eye-popping cocktails, like the Cash Money Dillionaire, a riff on a pisco sour that includes carrot-ginger shrub, dill and lemon. The Saint Giles Rookery is an exotic blend of gin, gunpowder tea, lemon and cardamom with a blackberry garnish. A list of New and Old World wines includes tasty imported bottles of house white, red, and rosé.

Their menu caters to impromptu casual dining while enjoying beautiful weather in the brick courtyard. It offers Southern-leaning small plates that range from charcuterie and handcrafted sandwiches, to salads and bar snacks. Forks and knives are optional, but everything tastes better with a friendly little pour from the bar. Whether you order pre-bottled cocktails or surprisingly tasty everyday wines, their tightly curated yet approachable drink list is sure to match the mood. So whether you stay longer than expected or swing by for just one round, their laid-back hospitality will make you feel right at home. 719 Toulouse St. Open for lunch Saturdays and Sundays. Dinner and late-night daily.

’Tis the season to treat yourself special! We’ve been cooped up all winter and we need to get out and soak up some sunshine, hear some good music, nosh and imbibe a bit. There is no better place to be than springtime in New Orleans, so saunter along and explore a few of the many hidden gems and magical ambiance to be found here.