A bar is more than just a factory for cocktails. A really great bar, the kind you come back to over and over again, is a magical and almost indescribable whirlwind of sensory experiences. We have had bars in New Orleans for hundreds of years. A few of them are still here. And with that kind of pedigree comes a local appreciation for fine drinking establishments. First, a bit on service: Really good service should theoretically go unnoticed. It should be a blank canvas for the atmosphere, conversation, and the drinks. At these bars the cocktails are always delicious, they are always consistent (no matter which bartender serves you), and they are promptly prepared and well balanced. New Orleans is a drinking city. It’s an eccentric, delightful, crazy, and stylish place. These bars are the city’s best, the ones that hold the bar industry to the highest level, and in this town, that is saying quite a lot.
Cane & Table
Holding up lower Decatur is a great ‘Proto-Tiki’ bar that staffs some of the best bartenders in the city. The food is Caribbean inspired and the whole fish preparations are fantastic. For drinks try the Banana Manhattan or the Boss Colada, and make sure to order the Crispy Rum Ribs as a snack.
Arnaud’s French 75
It’s almost impossible to write about drinks in this town without mentioning Chris Hannah and the 75. Manned by Hannah and his team of skilled bartenders, you can order just about anything with delicious results. It is also one of the last places in town where you can smoke a cigar indoors. Here, order the Sazerac or French 75.
When Neal Bodenheimer opened Cure in 2009 he changed Freret Street forever. What was once a cultural void blossomed into the bustling Freret neighborhood. A more modern take on the cocktail bar, Cure features classically inspired craft cocktails prepared by world-class bartenders. Order anything off the menu, or ask the bartender for suggestions based on personal taste.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, this rock & roll cocktail mecca nails the atmosphere portion of the cocktail bar, and the drinks portion, and the service… It’s easy to see why they have one of the lowest staff turnovers in the city. Come for the cocktails, stay for the whiskey.
Another spot, opened by the guys behind Sylvain, is Barrel Proof. This bar stocks one of the most comprehensive whiskey selections in the city. Old Grandad 100 Bonded Whiskey is a favorite here among the regulars, and they often follow shots of it with tasty brews from the carefully written beer list.