Bar Tonique: Best Bars in New Orleans
Located at the edge of the French Quarter and the Treme and far from the havoc of Bourbon Street, Bar Tonique is true to its slogan: “Hand crafted cocktails without the pretense.”
The bar opened in 2008 and has brought a different style to downtown NOLA. Its extensive menu of original cocktails paired with its “between dive bar and cocktail bar” atmosphere is what helped it top the list of Complex’s 25 Best Bars in New Orleans.
The mixed-cocktail drink menu boasts 8 categories: True Cocktails, Sours, Slings, Punches, Succulents, Coolers, Ensembles, and Possets. Also offered are Temperance Drinks, (non-alcoholic drinks), beer, wine, apératifs & digestifs, liqueurs, and spirits. A list of daily specials ranges from a $5 Moscow Mule on Wednesdays and a $5 Bacon Bloody Mary on Saturdays.
The friendly bartenders’ skills and attentiveness make the small, intimate bar an easy choice for a night well spent, filled with great drinks.
The Best Bars &amp Cafes in New Orleans
If you're ready to branch out of your drinking environment as well as your choice of drinks, you'll find no lack of options. Given the rise of the craft cocktail movement, the choices are plentiful. We've suffered through the legwork for you to devise this short-list.
- French 75 Bar at Arnaud's, 813 Bienville St. (tel. 504/523-5433): A beautiful, intimate bar space in one of the Quarter's most venerable restaurants, it feels like drinking in New Orleans should: both classic and classy (and cigar-smoky later in the eve). Acclaimed bartender Chris Hannah and others are equally adept at vintage cocktails and original concoctions, including a perfect Ramos Gin Fizz and the namesake French 75 champagne cocktail. Tip: Order a side of Arnaud's dreamy soufflé potatoes to munch on.
- Napoleon House, 500 Chartres St. (tel. 504/524-9752): Set in a landmark building, this is a New Orleans must-do. It looks its age (over a century) and seems too perfect to be real -- surely it must be constructed just for tourists -- but it's not. Even locals like it here. Classical and jazz music play gently in the cave-dark room -- making it all the better to sip their house cocktail (the glass of summer known as a Pimm's Cup) and chow on their popular warm muffuletta.
- Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel, 214 Royal St. (tel. 504/523-3341): No, you're not drunk (or maybe you are). The bar is actually spinning the stools rotate around the central hub of the Carousel Bar (one drink per rotation is the purported ratio -- don't worry, it spins slo-o-o-wly). It's a great place for a grown-up cocktail (with prices to match), particularly the Vieux Carré Cocktail, their signature drink for nearly 75 years.
- Cure, 4905 Freret St. (tel. 504/302-2357): This mixologist's mecca helped instigate the resurgence of both craft cocktails in New Orleans and of Freret Street. The anachronistic oasis of sleek boasts great small plates and some of the most knowledgeable bar chefs in town, who blend fine spirits, house-made infusions, and friendly chat -- if you can get near them through the thick crowds. Try going early.
- The Columns, 3811 St. Charles Ave. (tel. 504/899-9308): The interior substituted for the brothel in the movie Pretty Baby, but there's no substitute for the warm, Southern, summer night, mint julep-sipping fantasies you can satisfy while outside on the wide, oak-shaded veranda. Their ravishing bloody marys will satisfy other needs.
- Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt, 123 Barronne St. (tel. 504/529-4733): In terms of New Orleans cocktail royalty, the 2009 reopening of the Sazerac Bar was the Mafia equivalent of unearthing Jimmy Hoffa, alive and well, counting wads of cash and sipping Barolo. The sinuous wood walls and Deco-era murals here have surely heard stories, seen stars, and launched scandals too numerous to count (but start with that bullet hole above the back kitchen door -- it wasn't touched in the hotel's $170-million renovation). You're here for all that panache as much as the namesake cocktail.
- Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide, 300 Poydras St., in the Loews Hotel (tel. 504/595-3305): It's classy, art-filled, and a tad sassy, and equally comfortable for solo visitors and those on a date. Revered mixologist Lu Brow blends stellar pre-Prohibition classics: the playful Swizzle Stick cocktail (with a "special ingredient"), and the infamous Corpse Reviver No. 2. Wafflers can order the Trouble Tree, with branches of cocktail shots. Excellent bar food comes from Café Adelaide.
- Bar Tonique, 820 N. Rampart St. (tel. 504/324-6045): Please, oh please, move Tonique next door to me, for it is the neighborhood bar of my dreams. Candles bounce off the original brick walls in the small, comfortable room, which is flanked by a smattering of smoochy booths and a swankier offshoot room. The superbly poured cocktails, from well-selected, hand-squeezed, and house-made ingredients, are served with authenticity, not attitude. The classics are in good hands here, particularly the Dark and Stormy made with fresh ginger juice. Their own Tru Kick and the Blanche Dubois rocked our barstools. There's a short but thoughtful beer and wine list, daily specials, and reasonable prices (but no food). Maybe we'll just move next door to Tonique.
- Three Muses, 536 Frenchmen St. (tel. 504/298-8746): Sophisticated modern lounge meets classic 1920s saloon, and we likey. The muses (owners) each contribute an essential expertise: beautifully balanced cocktails, mouthwatering (quite) small plates¸ and a songstress supreme with loads of talented friends. Serving new-timey cocktails and cuisine to old-timey (and acoustic) tunes, this smallish room is just what the Frenchmen Street scene needed. It's usually packed, and rightly so.
- Tujagues, 823 Decatur St. (tel. 504/525-8676): The attraction here is the centuries-old bar with the wall-size mirror, which was essentially hand carried -- whole -- from France to New Orleans (well, there was some sailing involved). The bartenders will gladly tell the remarkable tale, while pouring some of the better classic cocktails in town. In fact, after extensive personal research, we've ranked their Sazerac in our top five -- above some far more hoity locales. There are no seats here but usually some colorful characters worth sidling up to.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
Big Easy Drinking
Chris Patino, director of brand education for spirits company Pernod Ricard, began his career working behind the bar at NOLA's O'Flaherty's (RIP) before founding the New Orleans chapter of the United States Bartender's Guild. Though he now lives in NYC, Patino visits the Big Easy at least seven times a year (and not just for the Museum of the American Cocktail).
When it comes to cocktails, I don't discriminate: old bars, new bars, dive bars, blues bars, cocktails and simple serves. It's the atmosphere of the moment that matters most. Hospitality and culture are every bit as important as the next drink. Here is a well-rounded list of New Orleans watering holes for the tried-and-true drinking enthusiast. Find me at the bar.
This is where your bartenders are drinking when they get off work. The no-frills neighborhood bar is the New Orleans equivalent to that infamous television Boston pub Where Everybody Knows Your Name. If you need an escape from the French Quarter madness, this is your spot.
NOLA industry vet Cole Newton went where no cocktail enthusiast had gone before when he set up shop in Mid-City. Exquisite cocktails for the people is the felix culpa of this extremely approachable dive.
Live shows make it a mecca for jazz enthusiasts and one of the French Quarter's best-kept secrets. A Bourbon Street gem hidden in plain sight.
World-renowned tiki expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry opened a bar! And it's located in New Orleans. A mix of historically accurate and entirely original recipes adorn the menu. Bottoms up.
Want to know where the people who actually live in the French Quarter go for a drink? Here's your answer. Cold beverages, jukebox, off-duty musicians, cash only.
You like your beer in a can, you say? The Black Penny (from a Bar Tonique alum) has a sizeable collection of suds from both craft brewers and major producers, all in aluminum-only offerings. Think of this as a casual place to have a low-key evening with friends while listening to the silent thud of beer cans being smashed by a giant can crusher in the distance. Rumor has it that pull tabs are kept separately and donated to the local children's hospital.
The mantra: Rosé all day. And this little wine and cheese shop has an extensive selection. Take yours out back to the private courtyard and enjoy live music (seven nights a week).
Everyone in New Orleans has a favorite spot for po'boys it's right up there with choosing a favorite sports team. It is your civic duty to sample as many as you can while in town, but just be sure to start at Parkway Tavern. They have been serving their "Poor Boys" since 1929 and are still going strong.
Signature hamburgers, like the peanut butter bacon cheeseburger, should be ordered with a side of fresh jalapeños. And you'll pair that with tequila, because they said so.
Southern Europe meets the South at this refined French Quarter resto, where chef Alex Harrell (ex-Sylvain) marries the fundamental flavors of the local region with the light culinary style of the Mediterranean. There's an amazing cocktail program, too, making out-of-towners regulars for the weekend.
Another wonderful tiki bar is within a stone’s throw, quite literally. This bar and restaurant opened in 2014 and is the creation of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who is a leading tiki expert and author of six books about tiki. Berry has spent much of his adult life researching and publishing drinks whose recipes were once lost. He hired a one of the world’s foremost tiki designers to finish out the space and a crack team of bartenders and chef. But we’re interested mostly in the drinks.
14 Essential New Orleans Cocktail Bars
When it comes to essential cocktail bars, New Orleans is home to some of the oldest and most renowned spots in the world. It's also home to a few newer drinking destinations that have been making waves in recent years.
Here now, are the most important cocktail bars in New Orleans. Use this as a guide for when you're trying to impress dates, host out-of-town guests or just looking for an exceptional drink around town.
Keep in mind, this isn't just a guide to the oldest bars in New Orleans. These cocktail bars have contributed to the storied history of cocktails in the Big Easy and America itself, whether through the invention of a classic drink, offering renowned service, or bringing something new to the table.
Please note, these are not ranked, but arranged by neighborhood. Don't see an extremely important cocktail bar that needs to be on this list? Leave a comment or send Eater a tip, and tell us about it.
Located in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, the Sazerac Bar has barely changed since it opened in the 1930s. No, the namesake drink wasn’t invented here, but they do make great cocktails and it’s a bar that feels like it’s seen a lot, partially because of the bullet hole in the wall from an attempted hit gone wrong. This place is regularly filled with everyone from local politicians to bachelorette parties, and it’s a great spot to start a night before taking the inevitable walk down Bourbon Street.
Cane & Table
It’s hard to tell if Cane & Table is a restaurant with great drinks, or a fancy cocktail bar that serves surprisingly good food. Either way, it’s one of our favorite spots in the French Quarter and their big back courtyard is the perfect place to escape the chaos of nearby Bourbon Street. They have one of the most diverse cocktail menus in the city and serve a mix of great small plates and entrees for when you get hungry. Whether you need a place for a big group or somewhere for a date, Cane & Table has you covered.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge
Yes, this bar is built into an actual moving carousel inside the Hotel Monteleone and also yes, it’s a little gimmicky. That said, it’s still a fun place to grab a drink. At all hours of the day, you’ll find a mix of tourists draped in beads and hotel guests pre and post-gaming weddings, all of whom are enamored with the bar that spins slowly enough to barely notice until you’re actually seated on one of the stools.
Bar Tonique is a cocktail spot just three blocks from Bourbon Street where you can sit at a big U-shaped bar, enjoy a well-made drink, and breathe for a minute. The bartenders here take their cocktails very seriously and, as a result, each drink requires a few minutes to make. At the same time though, they have a daily $5 cocktail, meaning you can have two mai tais or Moscow mules before paying the same amount for one daiquiri at your next stop down the street.
Located just west of downtown in the Lower Garden District, Barrel Proof is a spacious whiskey bar that serves lots of cocktails and $1 High Lifes. Really though, you come here for the 288 varieties of whiskey that they carry. If you get hungry after a few drinks, they serve food until midnight, Wednesday through Saturday, and host local pop-ups the rest of the time, too.
Bourbon Street Bars
Bathed in the glow of seemingly endless blinking, twinkling signs, New Orleans' legendary entertainment strip is always alive with possibilities. Known for its "anything goes" attitude, Bourbon Street is much more than a bar hop. There&rsquos entertainment of all sorts, on every corner, encouraging visitors to dance, sing, join the fray and live it up.
But look past the revelry that spills into the street and you'll find a rich history. Some of the oldest bars in the United States keep their doors open to visitors 24-7. Through one door you'll hear the call of a trumpet, beckoning you inside with the sounds of jazz in the city where it was born.
Push open another door and discover a hidden courtyard, alive and brimming with the blues. Through others you'll find flaming fountains, dueling pianos, and specialty drinks to please every palate, including New Orleans' own world-famous Hurricane and Sazerac. Here's a list of some of the most visited bars on Bourbon Street.
Must-visit Unique Bars
My sister and I will be visiting New Orleans for the 1st time at the end of February. We are looking for some fun and unique bars to visit in or near the French Quarter or Frenchmen Street. We probably need to hit a tourist spot or two, just to say we tried a "Hurricane" and a "Grenade", but otherwise we are just looking for fun, original spots that are special to New Orleans. Maybe a location with a great outdoor patio, a rooftop with a view, a unique concept with interesting drinks, etc.
One I found that looks interesting is Carousel Bar. Does anyone else have any recommendations of must-visit bars while in New Orleans? Thanks in advance!
Carousel Bar is fun but it can be hard to get a seat at the carousel (they also have tables). If you see a couple that looks like they might be gathering up their stuff to leave their seat at the bar, go over and stand (unobtrusively) behind them so that you can grab the seats as soon as they leave.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (not to be confused with Lafitte's in Exile) is great for atmosphere - supposedly the oldest operating bar in the US, and lit with candles on the tables. My favorite drink there is the Purple Voodoo. Use the restroom before you go there.
Pat O'Brien's is about as touristy as you can get, but still a great time and a don't miss. Have a hurricane in the piano bar and sing along with the crowd - especially fun on weekends. If you order a hurricane, the cost is either $11 or $12, I can't remember for sure. But, you are automatically being charged for the souvenir hurricane glass..if you don't want it, take it up to the bar when you leave and you will get a $3 refund. If you do want to keep it, they will put it in a cardboard box for you when you leave. Be sure to see the beautiful neon-lit fountain in the courtyard at night. Lots of people prefer the hurricanes at Lafitte's, but even if you don't want a hurricane, go to Pat's anyway - they have every kind of alcohol you can imagine.
I like SoBou for a more upscale vibe. Napoleon House for their signature drink, a Pimm's Cup, and great atmosphere.
If you want to get out of the Quarter, take the St. Charles streetcar out and get off at the Columns Hotel. If you are old enough to remember the movie Pretty Baby with Brooke Shields, this is where it was filmed. Sit inside at the beautiful Victorian bar, or take your drink out onto the verandah and sit and watch the world go by.
Jewel of the South
Give us your First impression. The tastefully colorful Creole cottage in a relatively quiet corner of the French Quarter is a suitably historic home for Jewel of the South, a new venture from two of the city’s most renowned bartenders. Named for a 19th-century local bar that was among the first in the city to serve cocktails, Nick Detrich and Chris Hannah have opened up this small, perfectly formed rustic tavern—think bare brickwork and dark woods—in miniature, which pays homage to those early days.
How’s the crowd? The names above the door certainly have an influence on who comes through, as does the menu. It’s a haven for cocktail geeks and educated, curious history-lovers.
How are the drinks? The joint is one of the few places around where you can try a Crusta, one of the original cocktails served in New Orleans. The classic brandy version is a must-drink. Sours and cobblers add to the list, one of the most esoteric and exciting in town.
Is is worth ordering something to eat? The kitchen is as alluring as the cocktail menu, with distinct, rustic flavors that match the surroundings. Crisp tripe and veal sweetbreads sound as though they’re from a bygone age, as do the roasted chicken hearts, but the quality matches the modern restaurants in town.
Did the staff do you right? The size of the bar makes for a personal service that's nothing but satisfying, and the staff is delighted to talk about the history of the building, the drinks menu, and the story of cocktails in New Orleans in general. All are knowledgeable, but if you’re lucky enough to be served by one of the owners, you can tap into a very rare level of expertise.
Wrap it up: what are we coming here for? This bar taps into the history of drinking (and eating) in New Orleans in a way that's unique for the city. It genuinely feels like a heartfelt tribute to the drinks and bartenders that paved the way for the modern cocktail scene, and there are no better stewards than Nick and Chris.
New Orleans city guide
Idling round a bend in the Mississippi river, New Orleans has a worldwide reputation for jazz, partying and cocktails, not to mention its louche heritage of hookers, playboys, plantations and good-time girls.
Sadly, since Hurricane Katrina (29-Aug-05) New Orleans has also been infamous for death and destruction, but mercifully the French Quarter and other historic areas escaped the worst of the winds and floods and New Orleans has recovered its previous America's party city status.
Even outside the hurricane season, the weather in New Orleans is tough: summers are hot, muggy and thunderous, and winters are wet in the extreme. But the Big Easy has a lot to offer. From architecture, antique stores, Cajun cuisine and jazz clubs to riverboats, street cars and cocktail bars, its tree-lined avenues host a uniquely mixed and vibrant culture.
A word about the Po-Boys. These aren't what you fear they might be but actually a type of sandwich. Originally known as 'Poor Boys', they were served to railroad workers as a cheap, filling meal and comprise a third of a French loaf split open and stuffed with your choice of meat or seafood. 'Dressed' Po-Boys come with shredded lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Also try Shrimp and Grits - shrimp served with the traditional Southern sloppy mix of ground hominy grain. My personal favourite local delicacy is gumbo, a spicy meat or shellfish stew based on a strong stock flavoured with the vegetable 'holy trinity' of celery, bell peppers and onion. Gumbo takes its name from the African plant 'okingumbo' which we know as okra and traditionally this is also a key ingredient.
Tourism in New Orleans spikes during the three biggest festivals - Carnival, Jazz Fest and Tales of the Cocktail. Carnival begins in early February and peaks in the fortnight before Mardi Gras proper - the famous 'Fat Tuesday' (Shrove Tuesday), when marching bands, floats and exhibitionists celebrate the beginning of Lent. Jazz Fest, the international Jazz Festival, runs for ten days during the last week of April and the first week of May.
Tales of the Cocktail is an annual event held in mid-July to celebrate New Orleans' impressive cocktail heritage and indeed pretty much all things cocktail and booze related. As it may sound, there's a fair bit of drinking involved but this is an event for booze geeks with the majority of the events being educational seminars rather than parties.