New Orleans Cruise Port: Legendary cocktails in the Big Easy

By Troy Petenbrink

Troy PetenbrinkCocktails may have come in and out of style where you live. But in New Orleans, locals scratch their heads at the term “craft cocktails” because the mixed drinks have always been in style. Here’s where to experience some of New Orleans’ famed cocktail culture before or after your cruise—or do as our writer did and book a local gay guide to add extra color to your experience.

“Tennessee  [Williams] drank brandy Alexanders. That was his drink,” recalls Glenn de Villiers, a gay, New Orleans tour guide who is famous for his cocktail-themed tours.  De Villiers was also a friend of the legendary, openly gay American playwright Williams.

A bartender creates a cocktail at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar. Photo: Arnaud's

A bartender creates a cocktail at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar. Photo: Arnaud’s

Williams famously said, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” And when at home in New Orleans, Williams enjoyed the local cocktail culture.

“[Tennessee] would go to the Napoleon House. That was his place,” notes de Villiers. “Cafe Lafitte In Exile, the oldest gay bar in America, is another place that he would go. It was on his way home when he lived on Dumaine Street.”

“When people talk about this ‘recent’ craft cocktail movement, we are in New Orleans thinking: ‘What are you talking about?’,”  remarks De Villiers. “Cocktails never went out of fashion here.”

I’ve had the pleasure of taking one of De Villiers’ tours and asked him to share some of his picks for the city’s “must visit” watering hole that MeetMeOnBoard members might enjoy when cruising in or out of the Big Easy. His recommendations:

  • Pat O’Briens: The motto at Pat O’Brien’s since 1933 has been “Have Fun!,” and de Villiers believes it offers one of the best “real New Orleans experiences.” Its signature cocktail is the Hurricane, a sweet rum-based drink made with various fruit juices and grenadine syrup. You might also want to try one of the tasty Bloody Mary’s.
  • The "French 75" at Arnaud's in New Orleans. Photo: Arnaud's.

    The “French 75” at Arnaud’s in New Orleans. Photo: Arnaud’s.

    Arnaud’s French 75 Bar: Attached to the famed Arnaud’s Restaurant, the French 75 Bar is often cited as one of the best bars in America. De Villiers particularly loves it for is outstanding service.  Not surprisingly, its signature cocktail is the French 75, made with a blend of cognac, lemon juice, simple syrup and Champagne.

  • Loa Bar: Loa are the spirits of Louisiana Voodoo, which has deep roots in New Orleans. Named in respect to those spirits, Loa Bar is located in the International House Hotel just a few blocks from the French Quarter.  De Villiers considers Loa Bar one of New Orleans’ hidden gems. With an emphasis on house-made seasonal ingredients, there is no signature cocktail per se at Loa Bar but there is a lengthy cocktail menu to explore.

In addition to de Villiers’ picks and the aforementioned Napoleon House and Cafe Lafitte, other noteworthy New Orleans bars include the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, the Hermes Bar at Antoine’s Restaurant, and the Bourbon Pub & Parade, the largest gay bar in New Orleans.

 

A cruise ship docked at New Orleans. Photo: Gnovik/Creative Commons

A cruise ship docked at New Orleans. Photo: Gnovik/Creative Commons