A cold, dark bar is practically a birthright for New Orleanians—especially in the summer. As a respite from the swampy heat, a stellar watering hole is a soothing cave of possibility. Here, amidst old and new friends, is a place for conversation and tall tales, all fueled by a favorite elixir. Whether it features craft cocktails, whiskey neat or a frosty glass of beer, the experience at each of these Crescent City bars is superb.
Peacock Room at The Hotel Fontenot (Warehouse District)
Whether you’re planning on popping the question or looking to impress visitors, The Peacock Room at the Kimpton Hotel Fontenot ticks those boxes—and more. The vibe at this sultry spot—which also includes live music—is Vegas meets boudoir, all gilded cages and vintage wallpaper. The smart cocktail menu features classics such as negronis and sazeracs, plus newer, more playful libations such as the Hell-Cat Maggie, a mix of rum, elderflower liqueur, I.P.A., and fresh fruit juices. Inventive American bites from chef Chris Lusk, designed to satisfy almost every craving, include a signature smash burger and a vegan gumbo.
The aptly named Cure is just about perfect in every way: It pioneered the craft cocktail resurgence in New Orleans, along with the development that has transformed Freret Street into a hospitality beehive. Opened by Neal Bodenheimer and the CureCo. restaurant group in 2009, this fetching tavern earned the coveted James Beard Award for its bar program in 2018. Take a seat at the intimate bar, adorned with a wall of bottles, or venture onto the leafy patio to enjoy the likes of Tango #2, a citrusy margarita with notes of bitter orange and espresso. The drinks menu changes with the season, and always credits the bartender who dreamed up the alluring concoction. Cheese and meat plates, caviar service, and escargot round out the nibbles.
Breakaway’s R&B (Marigny)
Breakaway’s R&B is named for local soul queen Irma Thomas’s 1964 hit—a song that chef and drummer Paul Artigues has covered with his longtime friend, Guitar Lightnin’ Lee. It’s no wonder this perfectly cavernous bar has such a great jukebox. Then there are the Creole specialties from Artigues, who opened this neighborhood-style scratch kitchen tavern in the former Lost Love Lounge space with his wife and partner Olivia Rochon Artigues back in January. Try the braised beef daube and red beans and rice with bacon and ham hock, recipes from the chef’s family vault. There’s a fabulous frozen cocktail program, great wines by the glass, and friendly bartenders to pour. And, of course, plenty of room for dancing.
Finn McCool’s Irish Pub (Mid-City)
The crowd at this convivial sports bar loves the New Orleans Saints, naturally, but the games aired at this lively destination—which also hosts dart leagues—include matches from the English Premier League. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2022, Finn’s offers more than a dozen beers on tap, and 40 whiskey options. Fuel up on fish and chips, spicy meat pies, a hefty burger and of course, Scotch eggs made with minced sausage, baked eggs, and breadcrumbs.
Copper Vine (Central Business District)
This lush Poydras Street oasis features one of New Orleans’s prettiest patios. But at its core, the spot is a charming wine tavern, helmed by chef Amy Mehrtens, whose previous experience includes a stint at NOLA stalwart, Commander’s Palace. Occupying the former home of Maylie’s, a storied restaurant that ran for over a century, the sprawling 6,000-square foot expanse boasts 30 wines on tap. And the decadent plates, such as pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu and gulf fish amandine—arguably the city’s best spin on the Creole classic—pair superbly with whatever you’re drinking.
Effervescence (French Quarter)
A drink more festive than Champagne is yet to be invented, and bubbles are what make Effervescence such a good—and sophisticated—time. Founded by Crystal Hinds in 2017, this lovable lounge offers sparklers by the half or full glass, in flights, and in classic cocktails such as the kir royal and house French 75. Chefs Evan Ingram and Brenna Sanders bring a refined, global sensibility to their menu, honed in MICHELIN-rated kitchens. From raw Murder Point oysters to truffle pomme frites and Cajun caviar with all the fixin’s, Effervescence serves up anything but the ordinary.
Ginger Roux (Central Business District)
The Herbalist Bar at this new Chinese-meets-Creole restaurant in the Canopy by Hilton hotel is ready when you are—it’s open from 6:30 am to late in the evening. Chef Jonathan Hostetler’s menu pays homage to the neighborhood’s Chinatown roots, including dishes such as savory gumbo dumplings and a Cantonese Cuban sandwich. Housed on the ground level of the 14-story skyscraper—once home to the Oil & Gas Building, circa 1959—the bar stands for bold flavors, with an emphasis on tropical cocktails such as Mandarin margaritas, flavored with lemongrass and the Szechuan fashioned, spiked with the house-made five-spice syrup.
Three Muses (Marigny)
Though this Frenchmen Street gem endured a pandemic-induced closure in 2020, it has since returned. Locals are thrilled to be able to tuck into this compact bar, known for live local music (that $3 charge on the check goes to the performers) and menu of Asian-accented salads, small bites, and sandwiches. Don’t miss the tempura shrimp and fried chicken, slathered with gochujang honey sauce on a brioche bun from James Beard Award-winning Vietnamese bakery, Dong Phuong. There’s a standout bourbon program, whiskey flights, and damn good martinis, shaken and stirred.
SoBou (French Quarter)
Expect refined Creole bar food, snazzy cocktails, and a self-serve wine bar at SoBou – South of Bourbon at the W Hotel on Chartres Street. A member of the Commander’s family of restaurants, SoBou combines a perfectly lit bar area with an inviting dining room, serving chef Byron Halliburton’s playful bites, such as shrimp and tasso corn dogs, crispy oyster tacos, and root beer-glazed short ribs. To that, add lots of by-the-glass wines and bartenders committed to fresh ingredients in every cocktail. A “Legs and Eggs” burlesque brunch takes over every Sunday, from 11 am to 3 pm.
Vessel NOLA (Mid-City)
Welcome to church. Soft light pours through stained glass windows at this gorgeous, repurposed house of worship, just off Canal Street. A line-up of 12 different glasses for drinks service exemplifies just how serious this place is about its cocktails. Chef Amandalynn Picolo creates winsome coastal Mediterranean dishes, such as seared scallop risotto and crab boiled shrimp salad. Sip drinks on the lovey covered patio, equipped with misters, to take the edge off the heat.
Hermes Bar at Antoine’s (French Quarter)
Dating back to 1840, Antoine’s is the country’s oldest family-run restaurant. That pedigree extends to the Hermes Bar, where classic cocktails aren’t just served—it’s often where they debuted. The bar menu is comprised of faithfuls such as sidebars and sazeracs, along with zero-proof mocktails that still feel fancy. Order oysters Rockefeller at the bar—they were invented here, after all—or graze from a line-up of salads and sandwiches including a stellar wagyu burger. There’s live music on the weekends.
Josephine Estelle (Central Business District)
Southern Italian vibes permeate this ornate restaurant—and that sensibility extends to what’s poured at the spacious bar. Lots of Italian wines are available, along with cocktails such as the Amalfi 75, made with limoncello, and a grapefruit-forward take on the traditional gin martini. Feast on inspired pasta plates from James Beard Award-nominated chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, who named their restaurant for each of their daughters.
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