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Jul 29, 2014 05:09 PM

Craft Cocktails in NO?

Looking for upscale bars where I can enjoy a well made Sazerac, martini etc. Will be staying in the FQ but willing to cab it for a well prepared libation. Anything in the FQ or beyond recommendation will be appreciated.

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  1. Sylvain and Cane & Table are a couple of places in the Quarter worth trying. Both are more hip and interesting than upscale, but far from divey.

    1. I'd add Bar Tonique. Also, French 75, recently named No. 1 bar in a Times-Picayune reader poll:

      4 Replies
      1. re: Shiloh

        Add Carousel, Kingfish, SoBou, and The Sazerac for a Sazerac and the Bombay Club for martinis. The argument will go on for ever as to who makes "the best".

        Everybody was at their best for Tales of the Cocktail so some of the best bar tenders may be taking some time off during the slow season.

          1. re: jaun

            A restaurant on the corner of Chartres and Conti down and across the street from SoBou.

            Food is pretty good too, but a bit pricey for lunch. I was against the place after a poor lunch last July. But tried it again during TOTC and all 6 of us had a good meal.

      2. Many of the Younger Generation who fancy themselves experts on such matters are raving about Cure up on Freret. it has the advantage of being Away From The Crowds but it is pricey. They are often a bit overblown for me (most so-called Craft Cocktails are) but the Sazerac is within their abilities.

        The biggest problem with cocktails these days is (a) too sweet (this is an ancient problem) and (b) lack of good ice.

        I always preferred the interior bar at Arnauds.

        17 Replies
        1. re: hazelhurst

          Completely agree with everything HH has to say. I find myself assuming that bartenders will routinely make any cocktail with a sugar component too sweet, and therefore it is usually safest when ordering to ask them to dial back the sweetness by half. If a drink is not sweet enough, there are reasonable remedies, but if it arrives too sweet the game is over.

          Proper ice is beginning to make a comeback along the west and east coasts, hopefully NOLA will also see a resurgence before long. The difference quality ice makes is huge.

          I am a little confused by the OP's reference in the subject line to "craft" cocktails when the post itself mentions Martinis and Sazeracs. I consider both of those drinks to be "classic" (not craft) cocktails, and generally understand the "craft" craze to be all about in-house-invented cocktails that are supposedly "culinary" in nature, thanks to the use of house-devised recipes, fresh ingredients, infused this-and-that, and exotic spirit combinations.

          I have had many craft cocktails once, only a couple of them have I ever re-ordered. The classics became so for good reason. Places with a vibrant "program" for craft cocktails may or may not do a good job with the standards. The OP might benefit from searches on this board for particular drink names, if the emphasis is on classics rather than in-house craft.

          I will add that the Sazerac Bar has many charms, and I think their Ramos Gin Fizz is stellar. Sadly, I think their take on the Sazerac cocktail is surprisingly ho-hum. But if you can talk to your bartender there (as well as at most places in New Orleans) and give him or her a sense of your own idea of the ideal rendition of any cocktail, there's a puncher's chance you'll end up with a good result from a differently-built cocktail than the mass-market standard issue of the house.

          Passing through middle age, I find that I have mastered the making of (the small repertoire of) cocktails I enjoy, to my own taste, at home, so I now longer expect to be wowed when I go out. But a little advance communication with a bartender occasionally leads to a happy surprise.

          Enjoy your visit jaun, and please leave us a trip report.

          At the risk of going "off topic," it seems a long time since Bill Hunt has posted on this board. He was such a regular voice. I hope that he is well, and wonder whether anyone has any direct info?

          1. re: Gizmo56

            I've been wondering the same thing about Bill. I've done a little more roaming on other CH boards the last two weeks and I haven't seen his name on some other boards where he used to comment.

            1. re: collardman

              Hmm. I hope that he'll resurface. Thanks for letting me know you've been on the hunt (no pun intended) without success.

              1. re: collardman

                Bill Hunt is still around, he posts regularly on the NOLA TripAdvisor forum.

              2. re: Gizmo56

                "Craft" cocktails is commonly used to refer to well executed cocktails, whether Classics, or modern, nouveau, or bespoke, that eschew to Classic ratios.

                1. re: JMF

                  My understanding of the term is more like this:

                  "Craft cocktails are handcrafted, original, “food-friendly” recipes that use fresh ingredients and quality sprits and are pleasing to the eye and palate. Today’s craft cocktails are usually attributed to a particular mixologist or establishment. While a craft recipe may gain global notoriety, it is unlikely that we would see it reach Cosmopolitan or margarita status, simply because of its complexity to recreate."


                  1. re: Gizmo56

                    To that I respectfully say, " Blah, blah, blah."

                    1. re: JMF

                      Putting aside the craft vs classic discussion here is my report from my first 24 hours in NO:
                      first drink: Ramos Gin Fizz @ Sazerac Bar--Roosevelt Hotel. Yummy.
                      Second alcoholic drink: Dixie beer (never had one before) at Felix's Raw Bar. Tasted like a Bud Light. The chargrilled oysters, on the other hand, we awesome.
                      Third--and fourth--drinks: Sazeracs at Sylvain. Braised Beef Cheeks were excellent.
                      Fifth, and last drink of te night a "craft" Old-Fashioned made by Abigail at SouBo. It certainly was not a "classic" old-fashioned but it was crafted!
                      Tonite we begin at French 75; must try their Sazerac. After that who knows....let you know tomorrow.

                      1. re: jaun

                        Abby is one of my favorite people, and bartenders. I've known her since back in her NYC days. We actually went and got tattoos together in NOLA a year or two before she moved there to run SouBo's bar. Have fun at French 75, Chris is a great bartender. Try some of his own creations. Also, get a cigar to enjoy there...

                        1. re: jaun

                          You still haven't had a Dixie beer and the "real" Dixie didn't taste like Bud Light.

                          Dixie hasn't been made by Dixie since Katrina and in Louisiana since about 2009. I have a six pack of Dixie taken right off the last run of Dixie at Heiner Brau in Covington before production was moved north. While I've kept it in a dark room I don't know if it is still drinkable. (And I know there will be some comments that it was never drinkable :-) )

                          1. re: collardman

                            Don't know if you are old enough to remember The Bad Batch but, prior to that(1974) Dixie was a amore German style...I had a beer in the Austrian alps in 1972 that tasted almost exactly the same.

                            1. re: hazelhurst

                              While I wasn't drinking at the time of the bad batch as I wasn't 10 yet, I do recall Dixie putting six packs on everyone's porch in the neighborhood. My dad sent me on a mission to take the six pack from all the neighbors that he knew didn't drink.

                              1. re: roro1831

                                A great friend lived in an apartment complex on Palmetto behind Gus Myer off Carrolton and he said they went around snagging the six packs. Had beer for a month. There were also a pair of brothers who drove trucks for Dixie and they just hijacked the load and had a party at their French Quarter apartment on Dauphine. They had beer on ice everywhere, including in the dishwasher. The block smelled like beer and urine for a month afterwards.

                              2. re: hazelhurst

                                *I* remember that OLD, more Germanic style. Hasn't ben the same since then, and then -- again -- post-K, it has undergone another change . . .

                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                  I remember the bad batch and was alluding to it in my "never drinkable" comment.

                                  I got a private tour of the brewery thanks to a connection to a Nick's bartender. It seems like it was last year but it was 1996.

                                  To date me I started dropping by Nick's in the afternoons in 1967 when it was Nick, Ms. Dora and Johnny. Last week I was trying to remember the name of the poor abused porter.

                              3. re: jaun

                                Abigail Gullo (SoBou) and Chris Hannah (Arnaud's French 75) vie for my two favorite Sazeracs in New Orleans . . . very different from one another, if you let Abby make "her" Sazerac, compared to Chris' classic take.

                                Then again, I also love letting both of them loose to "just make me something."

                    2. Also look for Nicholas Jarrett, who works at Cure and The Saint. He is a former top NYC bartender who moved to NOLA a year or two ago. And Max Messier, who is bar manager at Square Root NOLA.