When I travel, the hotel bar is always the first bar I visit. After checking in and putting away my luggage, I amble down to the bar and have a whiskey. It’s always a great place to plan out the first day of exploring, and bartenders are some of the best people to ask for itinerary suggestions. I rarely expect craft cocktails, but when the bartender can deliver a perfectly made drink, it can make that bar transcend the realm of pure necessity and become a haven for the body and mind. In New Orleans, we have some really beautiful hotel bars. They are lavish, historic properties, and often have some of the best bartenders around. People don’t usually choose what hotel they stay in based on the hotel bar, but some of these cocktail lounges make a strong argument for planning your stay around them. Read on for a few of my favorites.
Best known for its Sazeracs and Ramos Gin Fizzes, the sumptuous bar at the Roosevelt Hotel is one of the city’s most beautiful. You never know who you’ll run into at this huge bar frequented by New Orleans lawyers, businessmen and travelers. Try the Southern Gentleman, a delightful mixture of Bourbon, blackberries, lemon juice and mint.
The Polo Club Lounge
Upscale is not the right word. The Polo is downright posh. Here, at the Windsor Court Hotel, you can rub shoulders (and I have) with the owner of ESPN, an up-and-coming actor or local politicians. Roger, the longstanding bartender, mans the bar here and does an impeccable job at making sure that you never want for a thing.
This sexy cocktail bar, located at the International House Hotel, is one of the most eclectic in New Orleans. This is because it’s manned by legendary bartender Alan Walters. He routinely includes ingredients in the cocktails that you never thought possible—and they taste fantastic. And I do mean eclectic: strange ingredients have included Spanish moss, catnip, and bamboo.
Named after famous New Orleans photographer EJ Bellocq, this beautiful cocktail bar is located inside of the Hotel Modern. Namely a cobbler bar—cobblers being a type of fortified-wine-based cocktail—the bartenders here are masters of decadent cocktails. They're all amazing to try—though their sweet Brandy Milk Punch has many fans—but be sure to take note of the incredible pewter, octopus punch bowl that sits on display on the center of the bar.
The name says it all. This bar in the Hotel Monteleone slowly revolves around the bartenders at a pace of about 15 minutes per revolution. And those bartenders have their work cut out for them, because when they take a drink order, by the time the drink is finished, their guests have moved 10 feet. The Vieux Carre (featuring rye, Benedictine cognac and bitters) is the cocktail to order here. Go early in the day and ask for bartender Marvin Allen.