Specialty of the House

July 27, 2017
New Orleans is a fascinating place because whether you are a local, or just visiting, you will find that some things here may not be like other American cities.

Besides being somewhat different in our customs and celebrations, we are also not always strict interpreters of history. Oftentimes, several versions of the same events from the past may be floating around. Many of these stories continue to reverberate with varying degrees of verifiable facts, even today.

One example is the fact that the first licensed pharmacist in America was here, and at the core of the profession that developed special elixirs, eventually named bitters. Each pharmacist created these additives for his clientele only, and the recipe for each bitters concoction was a closely guarded secret. Bitters continue today as one of the defining ingredients in cocktails.

New Orleans is, and always was, a cocktail town, creating and mixing the pleasant potions better than most communities anywhere in the world. Still, the birth and use of bitters is a bit cloudy in historic fact.

The French Quarter has some of the best bars and bartenders anywhere, with some tucked away in boutique hotels and other fashionable lodgings. These “under the radar” bars are often hosted by top-notch bartenders who have created, or re-created some of the best-sipping cocktails found – if you can --in the Quarter. We’ll make it easy for you…. read on!

SoBou, a “spirited restaurant,” and bar located in the Quarter’s W Hotel, opened 5 years ago. SoBou has become a wonderful choice of locals and visitors alike to enjoy some of the tastiest and most creative cocktails – and food --in town.

The quality of the bar program is in the hands of bar mistress, Laura Bellucci, a transplant to New Orleans from New England (favorite poet, fellow Bostonian, e.e. cummings). Bellucci has embraced the town like few before her, and the feeling is mutual.

Laura brings such vitality and energy to SoBou. Her delightful and open approach to her profession is difficult to quantify. She is always creating new cocktails and has the full support of SoBou’s talented executive chef, Juan Carlos Gonzalez. These two are dynamite together.

Laura’s creations are based on personal experiences, observations, curiosity, local ingredients, new processes, literature, and her newfound love of her adopted community. The names of her original cocktails beg for explanations but make no mistake, these concoctions are delicious and delightful.

A specialty of the house, created by Laura, is House of the Rind, a sour inspired by Pablo Neruda’s poem, A Lemon, which is an ode to this essential citrus fruit.

“The sour has survived the test of time because of its balance and refreshing nature,” said Laura. “This is the most decadent sour I have been able to produce and it still maintains an invigorating, citrus zing.”

With a fine casual dining restaurant as part of the offerings, expect the Bar Bite program to be a perfect complement to the cocktail program.

There is also a full wine and beer tap system at SoBou which keeps the party rolling particularly for those who have different beverage preferences.

SoBou, 310 Rue Chartres, New Orleans, LA 504-552-4095

The Bombay Club, located in the Prince Conti Hotel, does not require a membership, but it is very “clubby.” Wood paneling, bookshelves, large center-room bar, winged leather chairs, and live music every evening,

Further adding to the intimacy of the Bombay is the fact that the entrance is a bit hidden. There’s a driveway off Conti Street alongside the Prince Conti Hotel. A short walk to the end of that driveway is the entrance to Bombay Club.

As you would expect from such a place, the Martini is the drink of choice, although the talented bar staff, headed by Blake Kaiser, can do it all.

Kaiser’s “specialty of the house” is The Bombay Club Martini, a twist on the traditional cocktail, of which the Bombay Club has 52 variations on its drink menu.

“It’s nicely balanced,” he said. “It has citrusy, orange notes, a touch of sweetness and some nice spices.” Kaiser uses Old Raj Blue Label Gin as the base spirit, which gives off notes of white pepper.

“The drink’s vermouth, Cocchi di Torino, made from an Italian family’s recipe 100 years ago, is very good,” said Kaiser, who adds a touch of Luxardo maraschino liqueur, a couple of dashes of Regan’s orange bitters, and a squeeze and garnish of orange peel to the drink.

The Bombay Club is also renowned as a fine dining destination. Chef Phillip Todd is an excellent interpreter of Louisiana cuisine. Added bonus: guests can enjoy a truly private dining experience in one of the curtained booths.

With Chef Todd’s influence, the Bar Bites at Bombay Club’s 4-7 p.m. daily Happy Hours offers a most impressive line-up, along with other Happy Hour specials

The Bombay Club, 830 Conti St., New Orleans, LA
504-577-2237 www.bombayclubneworleans.com

While Bourbon Street, that 24-hour, never-ending party for which New Orleans is justly famous, is a sight to behold, there are times when it can be a bit overwhelming. A good solution to the overload, however, is at Bourbon O Bar, a true oasis, located in the Bourbon Orleans Hotel

What makes Bourbon O the perfect respite, besides the staff that makes every patron feel at home, is that the place is another expression of a French Quarter celebration.

Bar Director Cheryl Charming is quite the cocktail talent, tending bar since 1980, and the author of 15, and counting, cocktail books. Her 16th published book, Cocktails FAQ, is set for release this September.

Of the many drinks she could feature as the “Specialty of the House,” the current cooler is the French Quarter Float, made with artisan root beer, vanilla bean ice cream and Flor de Caña rum.

Other specialties of the house include the Torched Rosemary Bloody Mary, served with a mini-Muffaletta slider. Reyka Vodka is added to the drink mix, made-from scratch, in-house, with a torched rosemary sprig garnish.

Another favorite -- especially for celebrants – is a group-sharing Volcano Tiki Bowl, made from quality rums, fresh-squeezed juices, and tropical syrups. And just to make it even more celebratory, the volcano in the center is set on fire with 151 rum!

The bar also honors other New Orleans-created legendary cocktails, but Cheryl and her staff can explain the history of the Sazerac, the Vieux Carre, the Grasshopper, the French 75, and Pimm’s Cup, all drinks invented here, or associated with the city.

There‘s also traditional jazz music nightly, sectional sofas for large parties, delicious nibbles, and USB outlets for your mobile devices.

Bourbon O Bar, 730 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA
504-571-4685 www.bourbono.com

Since every city has its own array of celebrity characters, it is logical that New Orleans would have a most fascinating line-up given this city’s colorful lifestyles.

A true bon vivant, Patrick van Hoorebeck, French Belgian by birth, New Orleanian by temperament, is an icon, in a town with no end of either. Patrick’s Bar Vin, located in the Mazarin Hotel, has become a go-to establishment for those discerning lovers of wine and fine spirits, as well as Belgian beers and relaxing environs.

Located just a few steps from Bourbon Street, the bar encompasses an outdoor patio, interior well-appointed meeting space, and accesses the covered courtyard of the hotel on Bienville Street, between Bourbon and Royal Streets.

“Many of the drinks offered are wine-centric,” said Patrick. “We try to make drinks with wine or wine liqueur, like Between the Sheets, Lisa’s Temptations, La Vie en Rose, Bar Vin Kiss, and Tonight’s Nitecap, among the favorites.”

However, Patrick’s current “Specialty of the House,” is French Sangria, a cocktail not to be missed. Patrick combines Lillet Blanc or Rouge with fresh fruit, lime juice, and lemon-lime soda.

Perhaps Patrick’s – and his patrons -- fondness for Champagne and sparkling wine are surely another attraction along with the comfortable setting, the artwork and other décor that add to the ambiance.

Patrick stocks the wine locker with 16 different labels of sparkling wines and Champagnes, and at least 21 each of white and red wines.

Bar Vin also serves as the meeting spot for the Krewe of Cork, a carnival marching organization formed by Patrick, especially for lovers of wine and the good life. Patrick is the permanent King of the group. We hear his costume parties are legendary! No surprise there.

Patrick’s Bar Vin, 730 Bienville St., New Orleans, LA
504-200-3180 www.patricksbarvin.com