When I mention visiting New Orleans to people, many respond that they haven’t been back since Hurricane Katrina. Well, it’s been ten years and the city is back – and probably surpassing its earlier vibrancy.
The city still has a trashy, sticky all-night party street called Bourbon (yuck!) but unless you are heading to the historic restaurants of Galatoire’s or Arnaud’s, just walk down once and take a shower. There is so much else to see in New Orleans and the city has preserved their unique architecture, hospitality and traditions in their perseverance against incredible odds.
Walk around the French Quarter and stand in line for the obligatory Café du Monde beignets and coffee…so cheap and so sugary. The French Market has plenty of souvenirs but is also a great slice of some of the local foods and home of what my local friends claim is the best Bloody Mary in a city of Bloodies at the Organic Banana Juice Bar.
Learn how to eat crawfish and grab some at one of the many casual bars serving spicy pounds of the little buggers…but ask them how to peel them and be prepared to take some time…and still be hungry.
Oysters are a cornerstone of New Orleans cuisine and they are abundant. There are whole guides of where to find the best and cheapest oysters at happy hour. My favorite is a hip brasserie called Luke where the bi-valves run you 75 cents each and cocktails like the ones below are half off. Elegant with waiter service form 3-6 pm and you can make a reservation! Also check out The Blind Pelican on Charles Street (easily accessible by charming, but sometimes crowded, historic street cars) where raw oysters run a quarter (yes .25) from 4-8 PM and these amazing chargrilled oysters (with butter and cheese and addictive) are only $7.50 a dozen. Get there early because lines will form!
After walking, eating and all the drinking (to go cups are at the exit of every bar) that makes New Orleans a place to love, a good hotel isn’t far away. Choose one of the historic properties like Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter with its classic Carousel Bar or a trendy new boutique like Q and C in the Warehouse District. The Hyatt French Quarter has the biggest pool and a super location while the W is hip and has crazy 25 cent Martinis at lunch…
Yes, New Orleans likes a good cocktail….or three and happy hour is a daily ritual. For some of the best classics, try hotel bars like the above-mentioned Carousel Bar or 21st Amendment Bar at La Louisiane or Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt. At the Q and C, my happy hour fave is a French 75 paired with amazing French Fries for $7.
The Cocktails of New Orleans
This 1930s New Orleans recipe is named after the city’s French Quarter—it’s a potent but smooth cocktail, just like the Crescent City. A staple of the famed Carousel Bar at the legendary Hotel Monteleone.
3/4 oz. rye whiskey
3/4 oz. Cognac
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1 barspoon Bénédictine
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Glass: Old Fashioned
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well, strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass and garnish. (courtesy of Imbibemagazine.com)
Named for an innovative piece of French artillery and comprising just four ingredients — gin, lemon, simple syrup, Champagne — the French 75, when made properly, features nose-tickling bubbly as the gateway to a perfectly integrated combination of floral gin and citrus.
1 oz. gin (or cognac is typical in NoLa)
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Brut Champagne or a dry sparkling white wine
Lemon twist, to garnish
Combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a glass. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist to serve. (courtesy of bar.com)
The Sazerac is the holy grail of historical cocktails, and is argued to be where the name cocktail originates (a mixture of spirits, bitters, and sugar, to be exact). Somewhere along the line, it was decided that the Sazerac must be made with surgeon-like precision, and that any variation from the recipe deems the cocktail not a Sazerac, and instead some sort of bastard cocktail unworthy of consumption.
The classic recipe calls for
2 oz Rye Whiskey
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 demerara sugar cube
Muddle the sugar and bitters, then add whiskey and ice. Stir and Strain into a chilled, Absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Twist a lemon peel over the surface and discard.
(credited to William Boothby, World Drinks and How to Mix them 1908)