Address: 916 Lafayette St, New Orleans, LA 70113
Housed in a grand, historic mansion in downtown New Orleans, the Swoop-Duggins House, Cellar Door offers modern Southern cuisine with a side of old-world charm. But perhaps the best reason to visit is the distinctly classic cocktails — a recent renovation gave the building an alkaline water filtration system, and Cellar Door claims this special water lends the cocktails a heightened quality, and perhaps a certain je ne sais quoi.
Address: 2533 Constance St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Parasol’s is a no-frills-whatsoever neighborhood dive where you can grab a beer or a bloody mary, a basket of fried catfish or a shareable po’ boy, and watch the Saints game with your new friends. The atmosphere is low key and homey, frequented mostly by locals, but expect a warm, Southern welcome, no matter where you’re from. Just remember to bring cash, because Parasol’s doesn’t take cards.
Address: 3641 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Step inside Bouligny Tavern and be transported to another time; the sleek mid-century cocktail lounge, with the dulcet tones of Lena Horne or Nat King Cole seductively sounding from the record player, makes you feel like you’re in an episode of Mad Men, minus the clouds of cigarette smoke. Bouligny serves a number of creative updates on classic cocktails, like a fig-infused Old Fashioned, as well as beer and wine. Their small plates are gorgeous and can certainly stand in for dinner, if you find you can’t bear to leave the soothing lighting and lovely décor.
Address: 4336 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Ms. Mae’s is a neighborhood divey-dive bar beloved by locals and tourists alike — but especially by locals. It’s open 24 hours, which means there are events that don’t happen until the wee hours here, like the very popular midnight tacos. The drinks are very cheap (like the $1.50 Miller High Life), and very strong, and you are highly unlikely to receive any sort of cocktail with more than two ingredients. There’s pool, air hockey, and a patio, which, when mixed with the fact that the bartenders like to banter with the patrons, makes for quite a lively atmosphere. Ms. Mae’s is cash only.
Address: 500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
If you’re a history buff, who also happens to enjoy a refreshing cocktail, you must make a stop at the famous Napoleon House, where the New Orleans-style Pimm’s Cup cocktail originated in the 1940s. The Napoleon House was built in the early 1800s and offered to Napoleon as a refuge during his exile from France. It later operated as a hotel, and in the late ‘40s brought the British Pimm’s Cup to New Orleans and popularized the drink in the U.S. You can sip a light and lemony Pimm’s, exactly as it tasted 80 years ago, on the historic brick patio of the Napoleon House. If you’re feeling peckish, definitely order the city’s best muffaletta — a half-sandwich feeds two, and might be the most memorable bite of your trip.
Old Absinthe House
Address: 240 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70112
Still housing the original bar from its days as a speakeasy during Prohibition, including the decorative marble fountains that used to drip water onto sugar over glasses of absinthe, Old Absinthe House continues the speakeasy theme well into the new millennium — although you might notice a few updates, like football helmets hanging from the ceiling, and thousands of business cards from visitors from around the world tacked onto the walls. One presence that hasn’t changed is the absinthe on the menu — if you’re new to absinthe and curious to try it, they have an expansive selection of the wormwood spirit, and a number of absinthe-based cocktails if the anise flavor is a bit much for you on its own.
Café Lafitte In Exile
Address: 901 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Dating back to 1933, and the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the U.S, Café Lafitte in Exile is an incredibly important living piece of LGBTQIA+ history (once frequented by Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote) — and a joyous and welcoming setting for visitors and locals looking for their special place in the French Quarter. Open 24 hours a day and with wraparound outdoor seating on both levels, Lafitte’s is one of the best spots for watching the events of Bourbon Street.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
Address: 941 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop looks like a saloon straight out of an old western film; there are patches of brick exposed in the exterior, wide open slat-wooden doors, a great brick hearth in the center of the room, and rustic shelves full of liquor behind the corner bar that make you want to mosey on up and say, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” In fact, Lafitte’s is said to be the oldest building used as a bar in the U.S, and there are documented sightings of ghosts on the premises. So if you’re in the mood to feel like the hero in a western, drinking alongside a few pirate ghosts, Lafitte’s is your spot. Just keep your finger guns holstered.
The Carousel Bar
Address: 214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
The Carousel Bar is so named because the bar is topped with a carousel crown, and the bar itself subtly rotates every 15 minutes. If the idea of pairing alcohol with spinning, albeit very slowly, doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry, there are plenty of seating options that don’t move on the sidelines. The cocktail menu offers classic standards that match the distinguished vibe of the bar itself; there’s no formal dress code, but guests tend toward the dressier side in their attire.
Arnaud’s French 75
Address: 813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112
Established in 1918 by French wine salesman Arnaud Cazenave, Arnaud’s French 75 and the attached Creole restaurant, Arnaud’s, are classy, old-time New Orleans establishments that haven’t changed much over the years. Definitely order the namesake champagne cocktail, French 75 — though it wasn’t invented here, it is a specialty, and they do the citrusy spritzer justice. All of their tempting cocktails are made with house-made syrups, drams and liqueurs, using locally sourced ingredients.
Cane and Table
Address: 1113 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Cane and Table is a Caribbean restaurant serving island-style cocktails at their tastefully festive marble bar. A major upgrade from the sugary blender drinks you might be used to, their piña colada uses fresh coconut cream and pineapple juice, and serves it up to you in a real coconut shell.
Address: 4905 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115
The 2018 winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Cocktail Program, Cure was one of the first bars in New Orleans to design an extensive, balanced and creative cocktail program, and they continue to lead the pack. In addition to those famed cocktails, Cure serves wine, beer and gourmet bar snacks.
Address: 4920 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Gasa Gasa, a relatively divey hipster venue with a full bar, gets its name from the shuffling sound a tiger might make while stalking you. Sounds scary! Fortunately, you’re unlikely to hear anything that frightens you while you’re enjoying a chilly beverage at Gasa Gasa. Instead, you’ll probably hear a touring band playing a rowdy show, and you can dance and make your own shuffling sounds. Gasa gasa! If you’d prefer a quieter spot to chat with friends, the patio has a bit more distance from the stage.
Address: 1201 Burgundy St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Cosimo’s is known for being an inviting, low-key, dog-friendly locals haunt where everybody knows your name, located right off Bourbon Street. They serve a full bar, offering a broad selection of liquors, and accept credit cards for drinks, and also serve your standard selection of soak-up-the-booze grub, like pizza, wings and tacos — but it’s cash only for food.
Address: 3442 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115
Wine enthusiasts and foodies alike will find a little piece of heaven at Delachaise. Located on the streetcar line on St. Charles Avenue, it has a charming French bistro feel, complete with an ample tree-lined patio illuminated with string lights. Delachaise boasts over 350 wines on their list, with 36 bottles under $36 for those watching their wallets, and for those looking for a frosty summer beverage, they offer the always Instagrammable Frosé or Friesling (frozen Riesling). If you need a nibble to go with your vino, their goose fat-fried fries were voted best in New Orleans more than five years in a row.
Address: 600 Poland Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117
As you may have gathered from the name, Bacchanal is a party. A Mediterranean-style, two-level, jazz-fueled, wine-loving backyard party, to be precise — so, a markedly more grown-up party than the ones happening way over on Bourbon Street. When you walk into unassuming Bywater villa, you choose your wine from an enormous selection, as well as meats and cheeses, then you can make your way to the lively backyard, where a jazz band plays seven days a week. Or for a totally different vibe, there’s a dining room and full bar upstairs.
Address: 532 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
The jazz clubs of Frenchman Street are legendary, and Blue Nile is one of the most time honored on the strip. The two-story club is bathed in a dreamy blue light reminiscent of moonlight, and hosts jazz, funk, brass and blues acts every night from around 7pm, and they rarely have a cover charge.
Address: 536 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
An intimate and friendly piano, cocktail and small plates bar (hmm, could these be the three inspirations of the name?), Three Muses hosts nightly performances of jazz on their tiny corner stage. Cocktails here are simple and satisfying, full of freshly picked, fruity and fragrant ingredients that perfectly accompany the heady music.
Address: 623 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70117
The Spotted Cat is arguably the most famous jazz club in the Big Easy, and you might hear locals refer to it as “The Cat.” The Cat hosts some of the best jazz, funk and blues in the South, with bands traveling from all over the world just to play the famed postage stamp-sized stage. There’s often a long line to get in once night falls, but there’s generally no cover, only a one-drink minimum.
Address: 618 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Amidst a cluster of jazz and blues clubs on historic Frenchman Street, D.B.A. is a hip venue that hosts a wide-ranging mix of shows, from hard rock to sensitive folk, and comedy to aerial trapeze acts. Frenchman Street has a reputation for being rather less alcohol soaked than Bourbon Street, so you can expect a mellower crowd enjoying the music and a drink, maybe having a sway or a swing on the dance floor, and relaxing with friends.