A Spirited Season

November 06, 2017
The holiday spirit is all around us! It’s the spirit that flows from reverent choir groups, the fresh aroma of just-cut Christmas trees, a roast turkey just out of the oven, sparkling holiday decorations, door wreaths, shopping center hoopla, hugs from your family members and best friends, the tinkling of jingle bells, and Santa’s hardy “ho-ho-ho” to smiling children.

There’s also the other kind of flowing holiday spirits. Think about it: What are your favorite adult beverages for the season? Does Anyone out there still drink eggnog? What about those Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s toasts? when your favorite college or pro football team wins the game that sends them to a bowl? And those rum or bourbon laced hot toddys just before bedtime? Or those glasses of aged Port, aside of some crumbling Roquefort cheese?

Here in New Orleans, where celebrations, parties, and parades are everyday experiences, that both locals and visitors enjoy the events, especially those that favor savory food and drink. Wine paired with food, cocktails paired with bar bites or other nibbles.; The food pairings are can also be quite flavorsome as well as, providing a base for the adult drinks.

In looking over many bar menus, and happy hour bar bites and beverages, we found a quite a few that serve some exciting seasonal cocktails and dishes for pairings.

One of the city’s most highly regarded eateries and bars, Mr. B’s Bistro, has a superb range of interim dishes and other munchies available for bar patrons during all the bistro’s open hours.

Mr. B’s chief barman, Dean Phillips, headlines the restaurant’s popular bar, which is often full from opening to closing hours. “We get a lot of customers who ask for Sazeracs, Brandy Milk Punch, Pimm’s Cup and other drinks associated with New Orleans,” he said, “but we always have a few special cocktails for celebrating the holiday season, and some goodies to enjoy along with them.”

“Our White Christmas Martini that we initially brought out as a seasonal cocktail is so popular that we have to offer it year ‘round,” Phillips noted. Mr. B’s Orange Julius is another cocktail that was originally a seasonal cocktail, but the “adult milkshake,” as it’s been dubbed, creates lots of requests during Mr. B’s lunch time patrons.

Another drink that Phillips finds great for the holiday season is a Sidecar, a drink created in Europe during World War I, perhaps a century old. Blood oranges are in season during the holidays, so Phillips serves a Blood Orange Margarita infused with the fruit’s delicious puree. Customers can accompany any Mr. B’s bar beverages, including wine, with a variety of bar bites such as: appetizer barbequed shrimp, crispy fried oysters, jumbo lump crab cake, duck spring rolls, Mr. B’s gumbo, and the Bistro salad. These are available both after lunch service and after dinner service.

Mr. B’s Bistro, 201 Royal St., New Orleans (504) 523-2078

New Orleans’ Bombay Club & Martini Bar, just a half block off Bourbon Street, offers a different vibe from the French Quarter’s Mardi Gras-like street atmosphere.

A great place for dining and drinking, Bombay is laid-back, sporting a spectacular, rectangular bar that is the centerpiece of the club. The martini bar’s interior decor is super club-y with wood paneling, book shelves, and leather wing-back chairs. The bar is surrounded with comfortable seating, a few private booths, and dining tables overlooking a small, charming patio. There’s also live music nightly, and hot Happy Hours from 4 p.m.-7 p.m., 7 days a week.

The Bombay Club’s dining room showcases excellent cuisine by top-notch Executive Chef, Philip Todd. Blake Kaiser, the head bartender, overseas Bombay Club’s excellent bar program, which has a reputation as one of the country’s top-rated martini bars.

A twist on the usual cocktail, the Bombay Club Martini, is one of 52 variations of the beloved drink. While Martinis are the customers’ go-to cocktails, the bar has an extensive selection of single malt scotches, ports, reserved bourbons, and many other special spirits.

Between Blake, bartender Bret Daniel, and other talented bartenders measure, mix, stir, shake, pour, and serve more than 100 cocktails during daily Happy Hours.

For this season, Bret created new dark rum cocktail he calls Victoria.; He describes it as “smooth, sexy, rich and classic,” like Victoria, a 1963 Playboy Playmate who lived in the French Quarter for some time. It’s been reported that her photo is hung on the wall in the men’s room. Check it out…oh…and the cocktail, of course!

Bombay Club, 830 Conti St., 504 577-2237.

The classic steakhouse, with its posh setting, grand dining experience, and great hospitality has also been cited for its swanky bar, a perfect place to begin and end the evening with an ideal after-dinner drink. Some customers who prefer a more casual dining experience, look to the bar where the full menu is available during dinner hours.

Bar snacks are also served during bar hours: a steakhouse bacon cheeseburger, the Cowboy Burger, beef sliders, steak frites with New Orleans Bordelaise sauce, and Miss Katie’s Shrimp Biscuits.

Among the vast seasonal cocktails the bartenders are making, some customer favorites include the Boulevardier, Dark & Stormy, and the Bull Shot. Specialty cocktails served are vodka-based Pontchartrain Lemonade, rum-based Saving Grace, gin-based in La Maree.; Bulleit Rye-based Conspiracy Theory, vodka-Gentilly Tea, the tequila-based Jalapeno Margarita, and newly created Bywater Cider.

Mocktails, The Gemini and Piroutte, are also available.

For select $5 cocktails and bar snacks, the bar’s Happy Hours are from 5 -7 p.m. daily. Dark & Stormy, and MacAfee’s Manhattan are the usual choice. Snacks include Gulf shrimp spring rolls, tomato, bacon, and shrimp Napoleon, Miss Katie’s shrimp biscuits, and daily house grilled flatbread.

For wine lovers, Sommelier Chris Schneider noted that Dickie Brennan’s has an extensive wine program with 31 wines by-the-glass, and a large cellar list.

The restaurant and bar also has a Coravin system that withdraws wine from–usually high end bottles–keeping the remainder of the wine fresh in the bottle until the last pour.

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, 716 Iberville St. 504 522-2467

Patrick’s Bar Vin in New Orleans‘ French Quarter was recently named one of the “ten best wine bars in the country,” by Gayot/Fox, of the Gayot Guide Books.

European-born, New Orleans’ bon vivant Patrick Van Hoorebeek, runs his elegant bar in the Hotel Mazarin. A charismatic and cordial maître d’ for many of New Orleans top restaurants, he follows in the footsteps of his Belgian father who also worked in the hospitality and restaurant industry.

Patrick’s Bar Vin is certainly one of the most charming and comfortable bars in the French Quarter, perhaps more wine centric than cocktail, and also exhibits a fondness for beer with 14 imported including 3 on tap and 8 domestic. Nibbles are cheese and charcuterie plates.

The holiday season is always a time for celebration at Patrick’s with “The New Carre,” with cognac, bourbon, and a splash of Benedictine; Sandeman Sparkler featuring Sandeman Founders Reserve, and Mumm Cordon Rouge and “The Poinsettia,” with orange liqueur, cranberry juice, and sparkling wine.

The latter cocktail will be featured at Patrick’s Jingle Bells Christmas event Friday, December 15, 3-7 p.m. One of the bar’s biggest parties of the year, patrons will receive PBV jingle bells and a complimentary poinsettia.

“New Year’s Eve, we are taking 20 percent off every bottle of sparkling,” said Patrick. As the holiday season swirls into Carnival season without missing a beat, Patrick will host a Krewe de Vieux party Friday, January 27, 5-9 p.m. with $5. Prosecco by the glass.

Don’t miss Patrick’s Happy Hours: 4-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, $4 well-spirits, $3 domestic beer, and $5 Patrick’s Best Kept Secret wines.

Patrick’s Bar Vin, 730 Bienville St. (504) 200-3180