Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beach Fun and Cocktails with Rum in Englewood, Florida



Winter in the American Midwest can be depressing. Snow, cold, and wind can bring on 6 months of torturous cabin fever. After the holidays there is not much to look forward to until April, and even then you could get a blizzard. Who the hell would live here? The only way to beat the awful decision we've made to live up north is to get out for a while and find palm trees and beaches. And when we untanned souls from the north find a beach our instincts tell us to (besides strip off our Wigwam socks) find fruity cocktails loaded with rum and little umbrellas. There are many beach locales to enjoy, but when I was introduced to the beaches and rum cocktails of Englewood, Florida I found my go to spot for a a break from the reality of winter.

You say you've never heard of Englewood before? You aren't alone. Englewood is one of the least "developed" communities along Florida's beautiful southwestern Gulf coast. Unlike Venice, Sarasota, and Bradenton to the north, the beaches in Englewood have no high rise condos or hotel chains. Englewood is as close to the picture of old school Florida I get in my head with it's white sand beaches and colorful local shops and eateries.

The wonderful white sands of Englewood Beach
The main beach in Englewood is, well, Englewood Beach. There are 3 other beaches on Manasota Key (the barrier island for Englewood) and those are Manasota Beach, Blind Pass Beach, and the completely undeveloped Stump Pass Beach State Park. For the duration of our time in Englewood we relaxed at Englewood Beach, but we look forward to walking the white sands of Stump Pass Beach as well in the future. Like I mentioned, Englewood Beach has little development beyond it's local bars, restaurants, and shops. So once the sun had set on our day at the beach, instead of cramming into a hotel bar, we got to walk down the street and try some local drinks at local places, YAY!

Elephant Punch!!
Our first stop was The White Elephant Pub. The White Elephant sits right across the street from Englewood Beach and it backs up to Lemon Bay which is perfect for boating in for a few drinks. The White Elephant also serves local fresh caught food to enjoy and has nightly musical entertainment. We were there for karaoke night, which after a few cocktails can always be entertaining. Unfortunately we were also there on a "cooler" evening, so sitting outside wasn't ideal. Nonetheless we forged ahead for those Florida rum cocktails. My go to drink, and recommendation for your go to, was the appropriately named Elephant Punch. This was my first beach drink and it didn't miss. The recipe for Elephant Punch was: Rum (shocker), Amaretto, Pineapple and Orange Juice, and a splash of grenadine. As the menu stated, "this is that fruity beach drink", and it didn't miss.

On to the Florida Punch!!
After we finished our drinks it was time to move one door up the beach to Flounders Restaurant and Tiki Bar. We skipped the restaurant and headed to the tiki bar, as Florida rum was the dinner of choice. Flounders was a great little place, again right across from Englewood Beach, with indoor dining and an outdoor area for drinks and music. Since it was still a cool night, Flounders had weather shades up to help keep everyone a little warmer. On warm nights though the tiki bar area is all open air, plus they've created their own little beach entertainment area on Lemon Bay for drinking and games. The drinks at Flounders were fantastic. We dove into the "Florida Punch" and "A Day at the Beach". Both drinks consisted of coconut rum and grenadine. The Florida Punch added peach schnapps and pineapple juice. A Day at the Beach was topped off with amaretto and orange juice. While we were at Flounders there was live music which is a regular occurrence at Flounders. This was our last stop of the night as the Englewood Beach bars do close by 11.

The next day we were introduced to the drink we kept hearing a lot about in Englewood, Voodoo Juice, served up at Farlow's on The Water. Farlow's is located on Rock Creek, a small inlet coming off of Lemon Bay. Farlow's is not on Englewood Beach, but it's location on the water, palm tress, and boardwalk/outdoor drinking patio gave it a great tropical vibe. We ate and had day drinks at Farlow's and both were a top notch experience. The menu was loaded with fresh caught fish I had never even heard of, and Voodoo Juice, a drink I had heard of but never tried.

The infamous Voodoo Juice of Englewood, FL
Voodoo Juice is a monster rum drink served in a souvenir bucket. The recipe for Voodoo Juice consists of 4 different rums (coconut, banana, pineapple, and guava). After the rum comes pineapple, orange, and cranberry juice. Last but not least a top off of Blackstrap Rum adds more flavor and a finishing color. To say that I loved Voodoo Juice would be an understatement. I could have drank this tropical drink from heaven all day (not really because I would have been in bed before sunset). The meal along with the drink was amazing as well. When not at the beach, day or night, Farlow's on The Water is a must hit in Englewood, and next time I can't wait to try some of their frozen drinks as well as long as the weather cooperates.

We look forward to a return to Englewood
We were "unlucky"(I use the term unlucky not as a complaint) when it came to the weather for our trip to Englewood. We ran into the coldest weather Florida had seen in years. Compared to home it was still amazing and we still filled our time with outdoor activities, but for a few days the beaches weren't a viable option and it was disappointing as the beaches are just gorgeous. Also frozen drinks were off the radar as they just don't taste the same when it's 42 degrees out at night. This obviously was not a fault of the area as the whole of Florida was under a "deep freeze". Even with a battle against mother nature our time in Englewood was fantastic, as were the drinks and places to grab them. If you are looking for a more laid back, less touristed beach locale in Florida, with some of the best sand (and rum cocktails) you need to head to this small town on Southwest Florida's Gulf Coast.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Taste of Northern California in Livermore’s Wineries

Livermore Wine Country Vineyards Northern California

There are over 100 wine regions in California.  With so many, it’s easy for a California wine region to get lost in the shuffle, especially in Northern California.  The Livermore Valley is one of California’s oldest wine regions and Livermore’s wineries range from small, family-owned operations to historic wineries that have been around for over a century.  Wine tasting in Livermore is to taste California’s wine history.

Rusted Wine Machinery at Charles R Vineyard Livermore Wineries Northern California

Livermore is a Northern California city located in the Tri-Valley area east of San Francisco and Oakland.  Livermore’s wineries are within easy driving distance of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.  Visitors to the Livermore wine region have over 40 wineries to choose from, small and large.  Unlike those in some of Northern California’s other wine regions, Livermore wineries are less crowded, less expensive, and provide a more intimate and educational wine tasting experience.  Tasting fees are usually waived with purchase and bottles of wine are many times within the $20 to $40 range.

Rolling Hills of Livermore Wine Country Northern California

During a recent visit to Tri-Valley, we went wine tasting at four Livermore wineries: Charles R Vineyards, Big White House Winery and John Evan Cellars, Nottingham Cellars, and Wente Vineyards.  These wineries illustrate the varied nature of Livermore’s wineries.  Some are small, some are big, some are in the midst of the vineyards of Livermore Valley, some are in business parks, some are new, and some have been around since the beginning.

Charles R Vineyards


Charles R Vineyards Tasting Room Livermore Wineries Northern California

As we approached the Charles R Vineyards tasting room it felt like we were going wine tasting in someone’s home.  The tasting room is nestled in amongst the tall trees at the end of a short dirt road.  Charles R Vineyards is owned and operated by the Bartlett Family and has been a part of the Livermore Valley wine region since 2002.  It isn’t unusual to see Mr. Bartlett in the tasting room.  Visitors to the winery can sample Charles R’s wines in the wine tasting room or enjoy them on the porch or the large back patio.

Charles R Vineyards Zinfandel Wine Diamonds Livermore Wineries Northern California

All of Charles R Vineyards’ wines are made with Livermore Valley grapes sourced from local growers.  Their lineup includes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Port, and four of those are SF Chronicle award winners.  We enjoyed all of Charles R’s wines, but some of them had some unique features.  The Chardonnay is aged in different barrels, half in French oak and half in America oak, and then blended after aging.  The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown in an organic vineyard.  The gold medal winning Zinfandel had something I had never seen before, wine diamonds.  Wine diamonds are caused by acid from the wine crystalizing on the cork.  I thought we had ended our wine tasting and had chosen two bottles to purchase when we were offered a tasting of the Port.  A small brownie is provided with the Port tasting.  The trick is to taste the Port, take a bite of rich chocolate brownie, and then taste the Port again.  I was sold and a third bottle of Charles R wine came home with us.

For more about Charles R Vineyards, including tasting room hours, visit their website.

Big White House Winery and John Evan Cellars


Big White House Winery and John Evan Cellars is a father-son winemaking operation.  John Marion has been making wine in his home, the Big White House, for over 20 years.  His son John Evan joined the family wine business when he was 21-years-old with John Evan Cellars.  The tasting room is a large, informal barn type structure with wine tasting in the front and barrels in the back.  The walls are covered in portraits which are original oil paintings by John Evan’s sister Laura Marion.  These portraits are also featured on the wine labels.  During the holiday season the tasting room also features an upside down Christmas tree hanging from the ceiling.

Big White House Winery and John Evan Cellars Tasting Room Livermore Wineries Northern California

Our tasting flight included 10 wines, seven from Big White House and three from John Evan Cellars.  The Big White House wines included Chardonnay, Viognier, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel, and a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet and Merlot.  The John Evan Cellars wines included a Bordeaux blend, Cabernet, and late harvest Syrah.  My favorite was the 2011 Chateau Marion Bordeaux Blend with cherry from the Cabernet and spices from the Merlot.  I love that Merlot is making its way back into wineries after its assassination in Sideways.  A unique part of the wine tasting at Big White House Winery and John Evan Cellars is the barrel samples of wine that hasn’t been bottled yet.

More information about Big White House Winery and John Evan Cellars can be found on Facebook.

Nottingham Cellars


Livermore went through a few name changes before it became Livermore, named in honor of Robert Livermore who first began planting vineyards in the valley 20 years previously.  Livermore’s first name was Nottingham, named for the local Nottingham Post Office.  Nottingham Cellars is named as a tribute to the rich history of the Livermore Wine Valley.  Nottingham Cellars is a family-owned winery started by Jeff Cranor.  Jeff’s son Collin Cranor is now Nottingham Cellars’ winemaker.  Unlike the other wineries we visited, Nottingham Cellars’ tasting room is located in an industrial park rather than in the midst of vineyards, though the vineyards are very close by.

Nottingham Cellars Wine Country Map Livermore Wineries Northern California
Nottingham Cellars works with five different varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  My favorite of Nottingham Cellars wines was Ralphi’s Red Blend, so named because Collin looked like Ralphie from A Christmas Story when he was little.  Ralphi’s Red Blend is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (yay for Merlot again!).

For more about Nottingham Cellars, including tasting room hours, visit their website.

Wente Vineyards


Wente Winemakers Studio Livermore Wineries Northern California

Wente Vineyards is one of the big guys of the Livermore Valley.  Wente Vineyards is the oldest continuously operating family-owned winery in America, established in 1883.  The first wine grapes were planted in Livermore Valley in 1840 and it became an important wine region in California with over 50 wineries.  But then Prohibition came, putting an end to wine production.  The only original wineries that survived Prohibition were Wente and Concannon, as they were allowed to remain for the purpose of making sacramental wine.  One of the great things about Livermore’s wine industry is the camaraderie between wineries and the desire for all to succeed, no matter their size.  Wente is a big part of encouraging the little guys and helping them to prosper.

Wente Vineyards Barrel Room Livermore Wineries Northern California

I was introduced to a wine that was new to me at Wente’s tasting room, Counoise.  The Counoise is a small lot hand-crafted wine.  The Small Lot wines are made from vineyards which are sustainably grown and hand-harvested.  Every step of the winemaking process is overseen by Karl Wente.  We also tasted the Small Lot Zinfandel, the Syrenity (a blend of Counoise and Syrah), and the Nth Degree Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Nth Degree line is also a line of small lot hand-crafted wines designed to reflect the terroir of the Wente vineyards.  We enjoyed Wente’s wines, but what we really loved was taking the wineblending class in Wente's Winemakers Studio.

For more about Wente Vineyards, including tasting room hours, visit their website.

Livermore Valley wine country provides tasting rooms and wines to satisfy all tastes.  Livermore is reclaiming its spot as an important piece of California’s wine history and legacy and is waiting to be discovered by more travelers.

Thank you to Visit Tri-Valley for hosting our visit to Tri-Valley and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Great Valentine's Day Cocktails and Where to Fall in Love With Them

Tis the season to fall in love. For many, nothing goes better with love than a few cocktails. Oh I know most people think about flowers and candy on Valentine's Day, but many of the relationships being celebrated on February 14th started in a place where cocktails are served. Throughout the world this Valentine's Day couples will head back to places where cocktails are served for longing looks through bottles and glasses. The question is, on this night of love, what is a perfect Valentine's Day cocktail and where does it come from? That's not a question you ask on Valentine's Day? Why not? St. Patrick has green beer and Guinness, St. New Year (made that up) has champagne, St. Nick has eggnog-why wouldn't St.Valentine have a cocktail? Actually since he's the Saint of love, shouldn't he have multiple cocktails? Here are some of my favorite Valentine's Day cocktails, with meaning, and the best place to have them if you can get there for this day of love.


Glogg

It's the cocktail of many names. Some call it mulled wine, gluhwein, or even jul glogg, but this warmed up wine is a perfect cocktail for Valentine's Day. Plus it's red, yay for Valentine's Day red cocktails! Bonus is that throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere it is still damn cold in February so a warm up is just what the doctor ordered. Extra bonus after you've taken a romantic stroll or carriage ride with your significant other in that biting cold. The recipe is simple for at home mulling- all you need is a heat source, red wine, a little brandy, some cinnamon, and fruit of your choice. Many places around the world serve this concoction of love all winter. Our choice for traditional and romantic glogg is in Prague at Cafe Bar Wigwam. Located in the Mala Strana around the corner from the John Lennon Wall and a short walk from Charles Bridge, the low lighting, warm glogg, and Best of the Doors box set on loop may just turn your girlfriend/boyfriend into your fiance at Wigwam. The magic of Prague helps add to the romance as well.


Sangria

Wait, didn't you just say that it's really cold out and you needed to drink warm wine? I did, but that's for us who are dumb enough to have not made it out of the cold places yet. For all of the smart folks (I tease, we're not dumb for enjoying cold, we just need help) traveling to warm places there is another Valentine's Day red wine cocktail. This time it's all parts refreshing vs. warm up from frostbite. Another simple recipe, this time though no heat with red wine, brandy, fruit, and a fridge to chill. Valentine's Day is all about sharing with the one you love and Sangria is all about sharing a pitcher, and it is another red cocktail like a candy heart. The best place to share this with your significant other and fall in love all over again is at any tiny table outside a bar in the kissing lanes of the Jewish Quarter in Sevilla, Spain. The narrow quiet streets allow for conversation, drinking, and special moments with little outside disruption.


Kriek Lambic

I didn't even know I had a color theme going until I got to this one. This Belgian beer, like the wines up above, is red like that sweater you're going to wear out on Valentine's Day. A kriek beer is a cherry sour beer traditionally brewed in and around Brussels, Belgium. The cherry in this lambic style brew are used in place of hops for flavoring. Stereotype "fruity beers" all you want but sharing a few of these flavorful brews on Valentine's should be high on your list. There are a few variations on the style, most commonly the sweetened vs. unsweetened. You'll readily be able to find the sweetened Lindemans Kriek Lambic around the world, but my favorite (and more elusive) is the Cantillon Kriek Lambic which happens to also be unsweetened. Best place to celebrate this style and your love on Valentine's Day is Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon in Brussels. Go to watch the brewing process, tour the museum, and hold a glass of great....I mean your loved ones hand with great beers on the table.


Old Fashioned

The original "Old Fashioned" is made with whiskey, bitters, water, sugar and orange. Some updates have been made to substitute bourbon in for the whiskey and even some inventive spots (like The Maison in New Orleans) have begun to do an orange infused bourbon to kick it up a notch. But we're talking red here, Valentine's Day isn't about orange. So my Valentine's Day old fashioned is the Wisconsin Old Fashioned! Brandy replaces whiskey and bourbon because brandy is the spirit of Wisconsin. Cherries for muddling and garnishing replace the orange and voila, your cocktail is not only has red in it but it's also the best cocktail out there (biased).  The best place to celebrate the Wisconsin Old Fashioned is at any "Supper Club" in the state. A supper club is different from a restaurant so you can't just walk in to any old place and think you're having a supper club old fashioned. You'll find a supper club on the edge of any small town, a lot of times overlooking a lake, with a big sign for Friday Fish Fry. Enjoy, der hey.


The Bloody Mary

Seems like a strange cocktail to celebrate Valentine's Day with but let's break it down a little. February 14th this year is on a Saturday. Blood Mary's are traditionally enjoyed in the morning through brunch. That means this year instead of just celebrating with the one you love at dinner time, you can celebrate your love all day long and there is no better way to do that than with some nice RED Bloody Mary's. Traditional Bloody Mary's have tomato juice, vodka, pepper, and a small garnish of olives or celery. These days though the garnish part of this cocktail has turned into an art with items such as full sausages to cheese to hamburgers adorning the new meal in a glass version of this cocktail. Do you know why else the Bloody Mary makes this fine Valentine's Day list? The original home of the Bloody Mary also happens to be the City of Love. No not Philly, Paris, and when you go to Paris to fall in love you need to check out Harry's New York Bar the home of the original Bloody Mary and watering hole to many famous 20th century artists.

So this list turned out to be tasty red drinks on Valentine's Day, hmmm. Flowers are nice, chocolates are great, but sharing a special cocktail with that special person in your life makes the night even more magical. Don't just get order your regular, order something red in a nice warm place and enjoy your Valentine's Day.





Thursday, February 5, 2015

6 of New Orleans’ Best Hotel Bars

Chimay at Patrick's Bar Vin New Orleans
Belgian Beer at Patrick's Bar Vin
New Orleans has no shortage of bars from which to choose, but something that really makes New Orleans stand out is its collection of unique hotel bars.  These aren’t your average hotel bars, where drinks are served just off the lobby.  New Orleans’ best hotel bars are steeped in history and serve some of the best cocktails in town.

Carousel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone


Hotel Monteleone New Orleans
Hotel Monteleone
It doesn’t get much more unique than a revolving merry-go-round bar.  That is exactly what the Hotel Monteleone offers with its famous Carousel Bar.  Hotel Monteleone was founded by Antonio Monteleone, a shoemaker who emigrated from Sicily to America.  Antonio Monteleone opened a cobbler shop on Royal Street (his entryway mosaic is still there), and in 1886 bought the Commercial Hotel across the street.  The hotel has gone through five renovations since 1886 and is still family owned.  Hotel Monteleone is one of only three hotels in the United States designated as an official literary landmark by the American Library Association, as famous American authors like Truman Capote, Richard Ford, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams used to frequent the hotel.

Monteleone Mosaic New Orleans
Monteleon Mosaic
The carousel was installed in 1949.  The 25-seat carousel pewter bar turns on 2,000 rollers and takes exactly 15 minutes to make a complete rotation.  Bar tenders have to climb over the bar to get out, and they have to remember the faces of their patrons as they will be in a completely different place once their cocktail is poured.  The only thing missing from the carousel is the circus animals, but they are referenced as paintings on the back of each bar stool.

Carousel Bar & Lounge New Orleans
Carousel Bar & Lounge
The Carousel Bar & Lounge is not only famous for its revolving bar, but also for its cocktails, old and new, some of which were invented at the Carousel Bar.  The Carousel Bar’s signature classic cocktail is the Vieux Carre, first mixed by Walter Berferon in 1938 and requested by Tennessee Williams.  The Vieux Carre is made with Bulliet Rye Whiskey, Hennessey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura Bitters, and Peychaud’s Bitters.  A newer cocktail, the Fleur des Lis, was created by our bartender Parker Davis in 2007 and is made with Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germaine, lemon juice, cucumber, ginger ale, and soda water.

The 21st Amendment La Louisiane at Hotel Mazarin


Cocktails at The 21st Amendment La Louisiane New Orleans
Chris McIntyre Crafting Cocktails
Hotel Mazarin’s history starts with alcohol, so it should come as no surprise that two of New Orleans’ best hotel bars belong to this hotel.  While today New Orleans is all about the cocktail, it used to be the brewing capital of the South.  The building which houses Hotel Mazarin was once part of the American Brewing Company before it was converted into a hotel and restaurant. 

The 21st Amendment La Louisiane Bar New Orleans
Mobsters Cover the Walls
The 21st Amendment La Louisiane is so named because the bar is in the previous location of the La Louisiane, a restaurant run by gangsters.  The mobster theme is celebrated at 21st Amendment, with portraits of mobsters decorating the walls.  21st Amendment is a speakeasy style bar inspired by the days of Prohibition.

21st Amendment Bar New Orleans
21st Amendment Bar
21st Amendment does two things really well, cocktails and music.  The bar features live local music every single night, with up to three bands playing on weekend evenings.  While the bar is half a block off of Bourbon Street, it does not cater to the Hurricane clientele.  21st Amendment’s craft cocktails tweak era specific recipes and contain homemade syrups, infused spirits, fresh juices made daily, and locally grown herbs, topped off with a real cherry garnish rather than brightly colored translucent ones that look like they suffered through a dose of radiation. 


Music at The 21st Amendment La Louisiane New Orleans
Live Music Every Night
21st Amendment’s head honcho Chris McIntyre was inspired by the bars of Europe, especially Belgium, where each bar served a completely different and regional beer.   21st Amendment is similar in that they make classic cocktails but are always inventing new ones.  21st Amendment’s featured cocktail is the La Louisiane, made with Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, Benedictine, Carpano Antica Vermouth, and bitters.  An unusual cocktail made with a house infusion is the Anybody Wanna Peanut, made with peanut infused Maker’s Mark, honey syrup, and Xocolatl Mole Bitters.  According to Chris the key is to not infuse the Maker’s Mark for too long.  The drink tastes even better if you order it in the voice of Andre the Giant.

Patrick’s Bar Vin at Hotel Mazarin


Wine at Patrick's Bar Vin New Orleans
Patrick's Best Kept Secret
Hotel Mazarin’s other bar is Patrick’s Bar Vin, one of only two wine bars in the French Quarter and eight in the entirety of New Orleans.  What makes Patrick’s Bar Vin one of the best hotel bars of New Orleans is its manager and namesake, Patrick Van Hoorebeek.  Patrick is well known in New Orleans for his knack for making his patrons feel welcome, at ease, and part of the family.  One gentleman at the bar described Patrick as the “finest unofficial ambassador to the rest of the civilized world.” 

La Chouffe Belgian Beer at Patrick's Bar Vin New Orleans
La Chouffe Belgian Beer
Patrick is from Belgium and has brought a piece of Belgium to the bar with the Manneken-Pis, always attired in a seasonal costume, which greets visitors when they enter the front gate.  Patrick is also the king of the Krewe of Cork.

Manneken-Pis at Patrick's Bar Vin New Orleans
Patrick Bar Vin's Very Own Manneken-Pis
While Patrick’s Bar Vin is first and foremost a wine bar, it also serves cocktails and beer.  There is only one beer on tap, Duvel Tripel, but Patrick has some special bottled Belgian beers in the back and, just like in Belgium, serves them in their matching glasses. 

Patrick's Bar Vin Wine Lockers New Orleans
A Peek Into Patrick's Bar Vin's Wine Lockers
While the bar is just off of Bourbon Street, 80% of Patrick’s Bar Vin’s clientele are locals.  Because Patrick wants to take care of the locals, in addition to wines by the glass that range anywhere from $8 to $25, Patrick keeps a white and a red on the menu at $7 a glass, simply called Patrick’s Best Kept Secret because he wants his repeat customers to be able to enjoy a good but inexpensive glass of wine when they come in to unwind after a long day at work.  Of course on the opposite end of the spectrum is Patrick’s clientele who own wine lockers in the bar.  The custom wine lockers are climate controlled and engraved with the owners’ names, and there is currently a waiting list for the privilege.

Bourbon “O” at Bourbon Orleans Hotel


Steven Lemley Bartender at Bourbon "O" New Orleans
Steven Lemley, Mixologist of the Year 2013
Bourbon “O” is the only craft cocktail bar on Bourbon Street and is part of the historic Bourbon Orleans Hotel.  In its previous lives the Bourbon Orleans Hotel was a convent, school, theater, ballroom, and government building.  It is also known as the most haunted hotel in New Orleans.

Bourbon “O” is also the only bar in New Orleans with a seasonal menu.  The ever changing drink menu is a collaborative effort by the staff with inventive creations made with house-made mixers and fresh squeezed juices.  The cocktail menu contains historic New Orleans cocktails like the Sazerac, French 75, and Grasshopper, and also has seasonal cocktails, some of which are named after the staff member who created them. 

Grasshopper Bourbon "O" New Orleans
Grasshopper
The cocktails and bartenders of Bourbon “O” are so good that New Orleans Magazine named bar director Cheryl Charming 2014 Mixologist of the Year and bartender Steven Lemley 2013 Mixologist of the Year.  These top shelf mixologists also offer cocktail classes on Fridays and Saturdays, Big Easy Cocktails with Miss Charming and Happy Hour Lab with Steven Lemley, Jr.

The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt New Orleans


The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans
The Roosevelt New Orleans
The Roosevelt New Orleans is another of New Orleans’ historic hotels.  Guests have included Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles.  Another famous resident was Huey P. Long, Governor of Louisiana in the 1920s and the source of one of The Roosevelt’s legends.  The story goes that Long kept a locked deduct box, containing funds contributed to his campaign by state employees, at his Roosevelt Hotel headquarters.  When he was killed the deduct box was never found.

Ramos Gin Fizz at Sazerac Bar New Orleans
Ramos Gin Fizz at the Sazerac Bar
Huey P. Long frequented The Roosevelt’s Sazerac Bar.  The Sazerac Bar is dark with an African walnut bar and Paul Ninas murals adorning the walls.  Bartenders wear black ties and white jackets while concocting the Sazerac Bar’s New Orleans staple cocktails like the Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz.

The Victorian Lounge at The Columns Hotel


The Columns Hotel New Orleans
The Columns Hotel
The Columns Hotel is located on Saint Charles Avenue in the Garden District.  The building was designed by New Orleans architect Thomas Sully for Simon Hernsheim, a tobacco merchant, in 1883.  After serving as a private home for decades it became a hotel, and in 1980 the property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Louisiana Sunrise The Victorian Lounge The Columns Hotel New Orleans
Louisiana Sunrise
The Victorian Lounge is known even outside of New Orleans as one of the country’s best bars.  The Victorian Lounge is dark yet colorful, with a mahogany bar and walls, bronze chandeliers, and high muraled ceilings.  The Victorian Lounge serves both classic New Orleans cocktails as well as Columns’ originals like the St. Charles Breeze with muddled mint, lime, cucumber, Hendrick’s gin, Chartreuse, tonic, and Sprite or the Louisiana Sunrise with Cointreau, Stoli vodka, fresh fruit juices, muddled mint, and ginger beer.

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.