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New Orleans Bars: 2011

Chris Amirault

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A good friend is traveling to New Orleans this spring and wants to hit a few bars. I've given him the address for Cure and for Bar Uncommon -- though it sounds like they should only go there if Chris McMillan is behind the stick. Where else should I send 'em?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Bar Tonique mixes good drinks, sometimes the crowd can be a little young though. The Carousel Bar in the Monteleone. French 75, part of Arnauds. Twelve Mile Limit in MidCity is new, high end cocktails in a dive bar kinda setting. Swizzle Stick has good drinks. Lots of Bars in the Marigny to hit for local flavor/music. Check the Times Picayune drinks section, whose chief correspondent is our own TA Price, who probably go the job because he has a hollow leg. For food and drink, try the Roosevelt Hotel Bar, next to but not affiliated with the Roosevelt Hotel. Miss Charming is serving em up at the Bombay Club.

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I believe McMillan was at the Bar at the Ritz Carlton, which is where he filmed the video on the Ramos Ginn Fizz, and now requires some sort of membership, if I am not mistaken. As you can see, not a lot to be certain about. If your friend is looking for more than just cocktails, speak up. We even have a gastro-pub now.

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Swizzle Stick is pretty good, has quite a few of the cocktailian classics.

Sazerac re-opened recently. It's posh but the drinks expensive, and when I went in the afternoon the staff did not seem knowledgeable, but were able to put together a decent Sazerac.

Iris has more west coast type cocktails.

Honestly, Cure was so much better than all the others I'd just go there every night. Just like what I did at Cochon.

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Yes, Sylvain, in the Quarter. I think Capedeville could probably be described as such also. Makes sense, some overlap in ownership.

How is Sylvain? I had not even heard of it. We will be staying in the quarter the night of Muses. I will have to check it out.

We went to Capedeville one afternoon and it was ok. The folks there were great, and the drinks and food were not bad. It was a Satuday that LSU was playing, so it was giving off a more Sports Bar vibe that day. I have not been at night when it is busy.

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You can add Bouligny Tavern to the list. I went last week and had a pretty good time. Decent drinks if not as creative as Cure.

Overall, I have to agree with Kent. Cure is MUCH better than the rest. However, I prefer it early and on a weeknight when I can sit at the bar and talk to my bartender. It can get busy and really crowded. While I am happy for their success, I would rather not spend top dollar on drinks if I am in a large crowd, and I can order a Chivas on the rocks anywhere.

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Late to the party here, but see below for some quick notes. No time to look up addresses, but I provided the neighborhoods:

Cure (Uptown)

Agree with everyone above who says it's the best. The depth of talent is amazing (including Rogue, now Beta, Cocktail author Kirk Estopinal), everyone is trained, the inventory of bottles is larger and better chosen than anywhere else. Food is also good and the building, a converted fire station from the days when the trucks were pulled by horses, is stunning.

Neil Bodenheimer, the owner and an excellent bartender himself, worked for Danny Meyer and B R Guest in New York, and the management skills he learned there show. Agree with the caveat by syoung68: avoid on Fridays and Saturdays. It's become a fashionable place, and lots of people who don't know any better are drinking there.

The rest in alphabetical order (I'm surely leaving out some good spots):

Arnaud's French 75 (French Quarter)

Chris Hannah is the barman you want here. One of the three or four best mixologists in the city. Very baroque. He's working on a series that honors the Muses (both gods and streets in New Orleans), and for each relatively sweet Muses cocktail he has a bitter variation that plays on the same ingredients.

Hannah is also a bartender in the old fashioned sense and takes his role as host seriously.

Bar Tonique (French Quarter)

Back side of the French Quarter. Haven't been in a while, but the drinks were good last time. The owner, Ed Diaz, is serious about the cocktail program. I see him at all the US Bartender Guild meetings. From the beginning, he has made his own tonic. He's also played around things like aged Manhattans.

Bar UnCommon

This is Chris McMillian's bar. He is, as most know, a consummate barman in the old school style. Certainly worth spending time with him, although this place is less appealing for the cocktail crowd when he's not there.

Bombay Club

Cheryl Charming (aka Ms. Charming) is in the process of revamping the cocktail menu here. Haven't seen it yet, and I'm not sure if it's fully rolled out, but she told me it will be a full history of cocktails from the 19th c. to the present. She also works behind the bar Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Bouligny Tavern (Garden District)

This is a next door offshoot of Lilette, a modern French bistro that's one of my favorite restaurants. The drinks at Lilette, though, have also been weak chef cocktails. You know what I mean? Ingredients thrown together by someone with no grounding in mixing drinks.

Only been to Bouligny once, but everything on the cocktail list are respectable and not overdone classics (Boulevardier, Aperol Spritzer, Blood and Sand). I had the Dragon Milk Punch, which was arrack, coconut milk, lime and herbs. Well made. Not sure who's the bartender and I'm not sure I would venture beyond the menu. The room is gorgeous. It's also a scene, although perhaps too much of a scene. Food's good too.

Carousel Bar (French Quarter)

Classic hotel bar. Marvin Allen is the manager and main bartender. He's solid and a great personality. Don't expect revelations, but a good for stop for the classics.

Domenica (CBD)

A John Besh Italian restaurant in same historic hotel as the Sazerac. Michael Glassberg is head bartender here and he's good. They also make a wide selection of homemade liqueurs, including many savory ones. I'm fond of the fennel liqueur, but Wayne Curtis once said the 100 herb liqueur changed his life (or something to that effect--we were drinking).

Dominique's (Uptown)

Kim Patton-Bragg is behind the stick at this restaurant. She came out of Blue Smoke in New York and makes very food friendly cocktails. Particularly good at champagne drinks. The restaurant is lovely and food worth trying (French with tropical influence). Sit at the bar for some apps and hang with Kim.

Loa (CBD)

Been meaning this month to follow up on some details about this place. Cool spot. Very hip decor. Rhiannon Enlil is a manager and bartender here. She's also one of my favorite bartenders at Cure. Talented mixologist, charming and a serious student of drinks. She can often be found on her off days researching in the historic archives, and Tales just gave her a grant to create an online timeline of the cocktail.

As far as I know, Alan Walter is also here full time now (need to check on that). Alan first got notice at restaurant Iris. His drinks are brilliant, and I don't say that lightly. He has, I would say, a California approach with lots of infused syrups and odd ingredients. His palate, however, appeals more to the brown bitter and stirred fan. His drinks are precise and have amazing depth.

Roosevelt Hotel Bar (CBD)

A cool, divey spot with great, upscale bar food. At a recent media dinner, I sampled way too many of the drinks. Mainly long drinks, but well made and tasty (for example, and Jack and Ginger riff with JD and Canton ginger liqueur). Again, not sure I would stray too far beyond the list here.

And it has no connection to the Roosevelt Hotel next door (long story).

Sazerac (CBD)

Amazingly restored art deco bar inside the Roosevelt Hotel. I'm in a rut here and always order the Sazerac, which is done well. Everyone seems well trained and there are some serious bartenders on staff. I should get back here and try some other drinks.

Swizzle Stick (CBD)

This was one of the first bars to take classic cocktails seriously. Other places might have eclipsed it in recent years, but the drinks are always reliable and it's one of my favorite hotel bars for the atmosphere.

Twelve Mile Limit (Mid-City)

Great place. Truly a dive, but with excellent cocktails. Cole Newton, the bartender and owner, started at the Garden District bistro Coquette. His drinks have really bright, well balanced flavors. At 12 Mile, they run $6-$7. The kitchen also does more than decent barbecue. Far from the tourist zones.

Also had an interesting cocktail recently at the restaurant Green Goddess, which I highly recommend for the food. It's tiny, though, and I don't think they would appreciate someone taking a chair and not eating, although I'm sure they'd be nice about it.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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