As much as we love the food and music in New Orleans, it is really about about the drinks! To get with the spirit of the Big Easy there are a few of the best signature cocktails you need to know about to drink like a local. The coolest thing is that once you find what you like you can take it with you as you’ve been able to drink in public in New Orleans in the 1980’s. You can even buy from a bar and walk right out into the street as long as if isn’t in a glass container. Make sure to check out these top ten drinks and bottoms up!
Also Read: Top 10 New Orleans Must Eats
1. Sazerac (Sazerac Bar): In the mid-1800’s a Creole man named Antoine Peychaud started selling his own elixir with the promise of health benefits. Made with Cognac and bitters the drink quickly became a hit known as Sazerac (Saz-er-ack) and has turned into the Official Drink of New Orleans. Today most places use rye whiskey instead of Cognac but you can order it either way. While you can order it at most bars, we like to get ours at the Sazerac Bar in the art deco style Roosevelt Hotel. Another great place for Sazerac is Sylvain in the heart of the French Quarter which is an old carriage house from 1790.
2. Daiquiris (Gene’s Curbside): Daiquiris are everywhere in New Orleans from walk out shop and even drive throughs. Yes you really can get booze-filled Daiquiris at the drive through in the Big Easy. The drink became popular while pirates frequented early day New Orleans as the lime was a way to prevent scurvy. The local king of the Daiquiris is Gene’s Curbside near Frenchmen Street, but you can also find them everywhere up and down Bourbon Street. If you are really interested in the drive through, Daiquiri Bay Cafe is halfway to the Airport from the French Quarter.
3. Hurricane (Pat O’Brien’s): Jimmy Buffet once famously sang “Pour me something tall and strong. Make it a hurricane, before I go insane.” The drink he was referencing was the famous Hurricane invited at Pat O’Brien’s Piano Bar in New Orleans. The powerful tropical drink is made with rum, fruit juice, syrup or grenadine, and topped with a cherry and orange slice. The curved glass is quite iconic and it is hard to drink them in moderation. Take it up a notch by topping it off with an authentic Cherry Bomb, which is a cherry soaked in Everclear.
4. Vieux Carré (Carousel Bar): One of the oldest drinks in New Orleans is the Vieux Carre (Vue Ca-Ray). The drink is named after the original name for the French Quarter and is made with whiskey, Cognac, and bitters. The coolest place to order this signature cocktail is the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone. The old school bar centers around a large vintage carousel where you sit to have your drinks. It takes roughly 15 minutes to make a rotation and it makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
5. Hand Grenade (Tropic Isle): Invited in 1983 by Tropic Isle owners Pam Fortner & Earl Bernardt, the Hand Grenade is a green concoction meant to knock you on your ass. The strong drink is super sweet and comes served in a yard stick style tube with a grenade base. During our first visit to New Orleans we sat down to drink with Pam and she opened our eyes to how awesome this drink really is. Well worth the hangover!
6. Café Brûlot (Antonie’s Annex): Antonie’s Annex quickly became the place for New Orleans locals to get their bourbon whiskey and black coffee drink called Café Brûlot. Variations of the drink were vast and in the 1890s owner Jules Alciatore created a flaming concoction of coffee, brandy, and spices he called Café Brûlot Diabolique. This new concoction became a huge hit and even more popular during Prohibition as a great way to disguise alcohol.
7. Absinthe House Frappé (Old Absinthe House): The Old Absinthe House is a local institution and needs to be on your list to visit. Locals in New Orleans got the U.S. ban on Absinthe lifted in 2007, bringing the wormwood booze back into the spotlight. Popular in France and famous from artists like Picasso, the black liquorish flavored booze often considered a hallucinogen. We have had it in France but New Orleans has is a local variation called the Absinthe House Frappé mixed with soda water and anisette.
8. Crawdad Bloody Mary (Daisy Dukes): New Orleans is a huge city for brunch which obviously goes hand-in-hand with bloody Marys. The bar Daisy Dukes puts an amazing Cajun twist on the drink with their Crawdad Bloody! Made with a unique blend of spices and tops with a whole crawdad hanging out of your glass, this drink is definitely photo-worthy.
9. Shark Attack (Tropic Isle): Also located at Tropic Isle, the Shark Attack is maybe the most fun drink on Bourbon Street. As you order, warning lights flash at the bar before a rubber shark literally attacks your drink, leaving behind a pool of blood (grenadine). It is a New Orleans must for sure.
10. Abita Beer (Abita Brewery): Established in 1986, Abita Brewing Company is proud to be the oldest and largest craft brewery in the southeast and one of the oldest craft breweries in the United States. With 9 variations, Abita has been as much the official beer of New Orleans and Miller Beer is to Milwaukee. You can find their beer sold across the entire country now as their popular flavors have really caught on. Our favorite Abita’s are the Amber and Purple Haze. If you really want the full experience, take the hour long tour at their brewery just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.
Honorable Mention Must Drinks:
11. Voodoo Blend (Jean Lafitte’s): In line with the Daiquiri spirit is a purple frozen blend made with Everclear called Voodoo. This drink mainly makes our top ten list because of the atmosphere of the bar you find it in, Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Built in 1722, this old world structure is the oldest continuously operated bar in the United States. It has no electric lighting, making the evening with candlelight and an open fire places magical. The bar was once the hideaway for Jean Lafitte (Zhan La-Feet) and his band of Caribbean pirates. It is also where Lafitte became a hero as he worked on plans with General Andrew Jackson to defeat the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
12. Ojén: This unique liqueur called Ojen (OH-hen) hails from Southern Spain and is the official drink of Mardi Gras. It would be higher on our list but it is almost impossible to find as they stopped making it in the 1990s as it fell out of favor in Spain. In the late 200s Martin Wine Cellar in New Orleans convinced the company to do a private 600 bottle back which sold out in 2009. There are still some bottles here an there at French Quarter bars if you can find it.
13. Bourbon Neat: While it’s not really a mixed drink, there is something symbolic about a double shot of Bourbon of the rocks while drinking on Bourbon Street. Feel free to sub in an Old Fashion for the Bourbon Neat which has the added flavors of bitters, orange and cherry.
14. Chicory Root Coffee (Cafe de Monde): The only non-alcoholic drink to make our list of New Orleans must drinks is the locally popular Chicory Root Coffee. The unique blend of coffee grounds mixed with the bitter chicory root of the endive plant was made popular after the Civil War thanks to local merchant Henry Lonsdale. Coffee was scarce during those times, and they found that chicory added body and flavor to the brew. The Chicory Root Coffee is usually served Au Lait, meaning mixed half and half with hot milk, and adds an almost chocolate flavor. Henry Lonsdale is also famous for his large mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans making the Still Perkin Cafe another obvious choice to try the unique coffee out, but we prefer Cafe de Monde in the French Quarter.
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