Thursday, July 9, 2015

15 Drinks to Try in New Orleans

New Orleans is the town of the cocktail.  Cocktails are so important in New Orleans, in fact, there is even an official drink of New Orleans, the Sazerac.  There are two ways to drink in New Orleans.  The first is to haunt Bourbon Street, drinking sugar-filled Hurricane’s and Huge Ass Beers all night.  The second way, the Passports & Cocktails way, is to take the opportunity to try all of the popular and classic New Orleans drinks around the city.  Here is a primer to 15 drinks to try in New Orleans.


Sazerac at The Bombay Club Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Sazerac at The Bombay Club
The Sazerac was declared the official cocktail of New Orleans by the Louisiana Legislature in 2008.   The Sazerac, sometimes called America’s first cocktail, is a drink invented in New Orleans in the 1800s.  The original Sazerac recipe included Sazerac de Forge et Fils (a cognac), absinthe, sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, and a lemon rind.  The Sazerac changed when absinthe was banned and taxes on cognac rose.  Rye whiskey and Herbsaint were used instead.  Herbsaint is the New Orleans version of absinthe and doesn’t contain wormwood.  Sazeracs are on almost every New Orleans cocktail menu.  Of course a popular place to get a Sazerac is The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt, one of the best New Orleans hotel bars.  Another great place for the perfect Sazerac is Arnaud’s original bar Richeleux.  Richeleux makes their Sazerac with rye whiskey, Herbsaint, which is pretty much used to provide a rinse of the glass, Paychaud bitters, sugar, and a twist of lemon served up in a chilled tumbler.  If you haven’t had a Sazerac before, be aware that the drink is a short pour, so it might feel like you’re getting ripped off, but that is how the drink is traditionally served and it is strong.

Peychaud’s Bitters

Peychaud's Bitters at New Orleans Pharmacy Museum Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Peychaud's Bitters at New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
A New Orleans cocktail article couldn’t exist without Peychaud’s Bitters.  Peychaud’s Bitters isn’t a New Orleans cocktail, but many of New Orleans’ drinks are made with Peychaud’s Bitters.  We have a pharmacist to thank for New Orleans’ great cocktail history.  Antoine Peychaud operated an apothecary on Royal Street in the mid-1800s.  He would serve his male guests a mixture of brandy and his bitters, Peychaud’s Bitters, as a pre-dinner drink to aid in digestion.  The drinks were served in egg cups called coquetier in French.  While some say this is the origin of the word cocktail, the first instance of the word cocktail when referring to an alcoholic beverage occurred when Peychaud was 11.  But even if the word cocktail did not come from him, the basis of many New Orleans cocktails did.


Hurricane at Broussard's Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Hurricane at Broussard's
Possibly the best-known cocktail of New Orleans is the Hurricane.  Pat O’Brien’s is the original home of the Hurricane.  If you want a Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane, the trick is to use the St. Peter Street entrance, buy it from the locals’ bar, then cross the street with your go-cup to the piano bar, where Hurricanes are more expensive.  However, be aware that the Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s is no longer made with the original recipe and is mostly sugar now, sure to cause an immense headache.  If you want to know what the original Hurricane tasted like, head over to Broussard’s.  Broussard’s bartender Paul Gustings is a local celebrity in New Orleans.  He’s been bartending for over 35 years and is the one all other bartenders in New Orleans go to see for a cocktail.  Paul makes his Hurricane as similar to the original recipe as possible with passion fruit juice, white rum, dark rum, lemon juice, Peychaud’s bitters, honey syrup, and apricot brandy.

Vieux Carre

Vieux Carre at The Carousel Bar Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Vieux Carre (left) at The Carousel Bar
The Vieux Carre is the signature cocktail of The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, first mixed by Walter Berferon in 1938.  It was also a favorite drink of Tennessee Williams.  Their Vieux Carre is made with Bulleit Rye whiskey, Hennessey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura bitters, and Peychaud’s Bitters.

Bourbon Milk Punch

Bourbon Milk Punch at The Columns Hotel Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Bourbon Milk Punch at The Columns Hotel
A popular New Orleans drink is the Bourbon Milk Punch.  The recipe for the Bourbon Milk Punch was first published in Jerry Thomas’ 1962 Bartenders Guide.  The ingredients are Maker’s Mark bourbon or Delacour brandy, half and half, and simple syrup.  It’s like an alcoholic milkshake.  Excellent Bourbon Milk Punches are served at The Carousel Bar and The Victorian Lounge at The Columns Hotel.  

Ramos Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz at The Sazerac Bar Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Ramos Gin Fizz at The Sazerac Bar
A very traditional New Orleans cocktail is the Ramos Gin Fizz.  When you order a Ramos Gin Fizz, you are not only getting a drink, you’re getting a show.  The Ramos Gin Fizz was invented in New Orleans by Henry C. Ramos.  The cocktail contains gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, egg whites, heavy cream, and orange flower water.  That combination is shaken until fizzy and then poured into a chilled glass.  After it settles, the drink is topped with soda water.  In the old days, shaker boys were hired specifically to shake gin fizzes and a properly shaken gin fizz was shaken for eight to 10 minutes.  The Sazerac Bar is said to make the best Ramos Gin Fizz, but The Carousel Bar is another fine place to order this fancy beverage.

Café Brulot Diabolique

Café Brulot Diabolique at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Café Brulot Diabolique at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum
This flaming coffee drink was invented by Jules Alciatore, the son of the founder of Antoine’s Restaurant.  Flaming drinks were popular in France at the time and Jules decided to bring the trend to New Orleans.  The drink was especially popular during Prohibition when many were concealing their alcohol in coffee.  The ingredients of Café Brulot Diabolique include sugar cubes, orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, whole cloves, brandy or bourbon, and hot dark roast chicory coffee.  The ingredients are combined in a bowl, set aflame, and then poured over the sugar cubes in demitasse cups.

Bayou Bash

Bayou Bash at The Court of Two Sisters Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Bayou Bash at The Court of Two Sisters
A signature drink of The Court of Two Sisters is the Bayou Bash.  The Bayou Bush is made with Southern Comfort (which was created in New Orleans), orange juice, pineapple juice, cherry juice, sweet and sour mix, red wine, and Grenadine.  The ingredients are poured in layers, which should be mixed together before drinking and the cocktail tastes kind of like Sangria.

Brandy Crusta

The Brandy Crusta is another cocktail invented in New Orleans, though it didn’t appear on many of the New Orleans cocktail menus we saw.  A Brandy Crusta contains cognac, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, orange liqueur, simple syrup, and Peychaud’s Bitters.  The drink is served in a sugar-rimmed glass garnished with a lemon peel.


Grasshopper at Bourbon "O" Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Grasshopper at Bourbon "O"
I had never thought of this bright green drink as being a New Orleans cocktail, but the Grasshopper is yet another cocktail that is said to have originated in New Orleans.  A Grasshopper is made with crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and fresh cream.  It tastes kind of like the inside of a YORK Peppermint Pattie.  I had my first Grasshopper at Bourbon “O” which is the only craft cocktail bar on Bourbon Street.

The Three Martini Lunch

Three Martini Lunch at Antoine's Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Three Martini Lunch at Antoine's
The three martini lunch is not a cocktail, but rather a way of life.  The three martini lunch is a term coming from the times of Mad Men when the American executive was able to have a leisurely lunch where he had time to consume more than one martini during the work day.  New Orleans is bringing back the three martini lunch, with some restaurants offering lunches which can be accompanied with up to three martinis at the price of 25 cents each.  We enjoyed our three martini lunch at Antoine’s (alongside their famous oysters, one of the traditional foods to try in New Orleans).  The martini of the day was the John Daly, an Arnold Palmer (lemonade and iced tea) with vodka.

Pimm’s Cup

Pimm’s was created in the city of London at an oyster bar owned by James Pimm in the early 1800s.  There are a number of Pimm’s products, the most popular being Pimm’s No. 1, a gin-based liqueur.  While not a New Orleans original, Pimm's Cups show up on cocktail menus around the city.  The Carousel Bar serves a drink called Pimm’s Cup. No. 1 made with Pimm’s No. 1, strawberry, cucumber, lemon juice, and simple syrup.  Marti’s Restaurant serves a different Pimm’s Cup, Pimm’s Cup 11, with Pimm’s No. 1, cucumber, lemon, and gingerale.

French 75

French 75 at Richeleux Drinks to Try in New Orleans
French 75 at Richeleux
The French 75 is such a popular New Orleans cocktail there’s a bar named after it.  French 75 is one of the bars of Arnaud’s Restaurant.  Arnaud’s was originally opened by Count Arnaud Cazenave.  When he died, the restaurant was passed on to his daughter Germaine Cazenave Wells.  Germaine was an alcoholic and her favorite drink was the French 75.  A French 75 is made with gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and sparkling wine.  St. Germain elderflower liqueur can also be added.

Big Daddy Cocktail

Big Daddy Cocktail at Commander's Palace Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Big Daddy Cocktail at Commander's Palace
The Big Daddy Cocktail is a modern New Orleans cocktail created by Chef Lu Brow of Swizzle Stick’s Bar at Café Adelaide.  We tried this popular New Orleans cocktail at Commander’s Palace.  The Big Daddy Cocktail is moonshine-based but tastes like apple pie filling with cinnamon sprinkled on top.  The cocktail is made with CatDaddy Moonshine, Grand Marnier, and fresh-squeezed lemon.


Sachmo and Pimm's Cup at Marti's Restaurant Drinks to Try in New Orleans
Sachmo (left) and Pimm's Cup (right) at Marti's Restaurant
New Orleans has a ton of traditional cocktails that have been around for a long time, but the city is also always creating new cocktails every day.  One of New Orleans’ new cocktails is the Sachmo, created by Chris Banks of Marti’s Restaurant.  The Sachmo is a smoky cocktail made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Galliano Ristretto, Braulio Amaro, and smoked paprika, all served in a glass with a salt rim.

Thank you to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Hotel Collection for hosting our trip to New Orleans and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.  For updates on what is going on in New Orleans, follow the New Orleans CVB on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

15 popular drinks to try in New Orleans.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.