New Orleans is a city renowned for many things: amazing cuisine, its energetic joie de vivre attitude, and a vibrant nightlife — which of course includes strong, knock-you-off-your-feet cocktails. The Big Easy is the birthplace of a number of famous concoctions that have gone on to become classics, such as the Sazerac, Hurricane, Vieux Carre, and French 75. Never a city that merely settles for anything, New Orleans continues to make a splash in the cocktail scene with some hot bars boasting gifted bartenders behind the counter and a number of exciting, innovative cocktail programs.
Leading the New Orleans cocktail scene is the well-known cocktail program at Compere Lapin. The eclectic and highly anticipated restaurant by star chef Nina Compton opened to rave reviews in 2015 inside the Old No.77 hotel. Certainly, Compere Lapin has an excellent food and speciality cocktail menu, but the real magic is in the creative, on-the-spot concoctions created by the skilled mixologists. The overall experience of conversing with someone about your flavor preferences, then having an absolutely incredible cocktail invented on the spot for you is one that’s changing the way people will drink liquor from here on out.
Another famed New Orleans cocktail program is located in the heart of the French Quarter at SoBou, the “younger, cooler sister” of the upscale Commander’s Palace. Housed within the W Hotel, SoBou offers an amazing food menu, as well as wildly inventive and delicious cocktails. The seasonal drink menu is absolutely phenomenal; each drink is exquisite in every way — a work of art in liquid form and a true testament to what the magicians behind the counter are capable of creating.
From the outside, Bar Tonique may not look like much, and that’s the whole point. Slip through the slender non-descript white door and you’ll be rewarded with wonderfully hand-crafted cocktails in an extremely low-key and subdued setting. Exceptional service and a dive bar feel are what the folks at Bar Tonique are after, but they certainly don’t skimp on the craft of mixology. Daily drink specials and great happy hour deals encourage patrons to return day after day, night after night.
In a city that relishes the classic, it’s only natural that tiki bars are making a comeback. Bars like Tiki Tolteca and Cane and Table are demonstrating that tropical, fruity drinks can indeed be classy and sophisticated. While Tiki Tolteca keeps the tiki bar vibe alive and well with luau- and Easter Island-inspired decor, the bar feels fun and inviting instead of cheesy and camp. The cocktails here are tropical, fruity, packing a punch with fun names and colorful glassware. Cane and Table foregoes the traditional tiki look and opts for a romantic aesthetic complete with candle lights, whitewashed brick walls, ragtime jazz wafting from the speakers, and an elegant marble bar that stretches out to the leafy, open courtyard in the back to highlight their excellent, predominantly rum-based cocktails.