If you love a great rooftop bar, Hot Tin is for you. Most folks come here for the sweeping views of the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans, but they stay for the 1940s vibes and the incredible cocktails. If you’re a theater buff, you’ll love the history behind this place. It’s located at the historic Pontchartrain Hotel, where Tennessee Williams lived while writing A Streetcar Named Desire. Look for subtle nods to the playwright throughout the bar, which was designed to resemble an artist loft, as you sip a rosé -and-absinthe-infused Pink Panther.
Hot Tin is located at 2031 St. Charles Avenue. For more information, visit www.hottinbar.com.
On the ground floor of the Pontchartrain, you’ll find Bayou Bar, the hotel’s tavern-style answer to the traditional lobby bar. It’s seen its fair share of history; Sinatra and Capote both drank at its counter, and in 1966, the New Orleans Saints football franchise was christened here. Bayou Bar is known for its extensive list of whiskey and beer, but the cocktails have also generated plenty of buzz. Stick around to see live local musicians Wednesday through Sunday, and bring an appetite — you’re going to want to try some of the inventive bites on the bar menu.
Bayou Bar is located at 2031 St. Charles Avenue. For more information, visit www.bayoubar.com.
If you’ve researched New Orleans’ dining scene, you’ve probably come across Toups’ Meatery. Helmed by acclaimed chef Isaac Toups and his wife, Amanda, this mid-city gem is a mainstay on plenty of lists highlighting NoLa’s best brunches and go-to’s southern cooking. Yes, the cracklins, house-cured meats, boudin Benny and fried chicken biscuit sliders are out of this world — but so are the cocktails (which you can even order by the pitcher). If you like a lot spice, try the Toups’ Manhattan — it uses tabasco barrel-infused bourbon for an extra kick. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Pump Fake, made with the house’s Jamaican jerk vodka, lemon, pumpkin juice, and “pumpkin-cello.”
Toups’ Meatery is located at 845 North Carrollton Avenue. For more information, visit www.toupsmeatery.com.
If you planned your visit to New Orleans around a cruise to the Caribbean, Compère Lapin is a great place to kick off or end your vacation. It was ranked one of Eater’s “Best Restaurants in America” and received a glowing review in The New York Times. And while Chef Nina Compton’s mouthwatering fusion of Caribbean and Southern flavors definitely lives up to all the hype, we’re just as excited about the cocktails. The Tales of The Cocktail Foundation named Compère Lapin “Best American Hotel Bar” in 2019, making it the first restaurant in New Orleans to receive a Spirited Award. Like Chef Nina’s food, the cocktails here pay homage to the flavors of the Bayou City — with an island-inspired twist. Try the Crow’s Nest, made with aged brandy, vermouth, roasted banana and thyme, or the Neutral Ground Side, made with king cake cachaça, hoodoo chicory and marshmallow.
Compère Lapin is located in The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery at 535 Tchoupitoulas Street. For more information, visit www.comperelapin.com.
Tucked away in the lower French Quarter, this local-loved cocktail spot is co-owned by James Beard Award-winning bartender, Chris Hanna, and former Cure co-partner, Nick Detrich, so you know the drinks are going to be mind-blowing. The décor nods to the New Orleans taverns of the mid-1800s — with a modern twist, of course. The cocktail menu highlights classics and experimental creations made with local ingredients. Our advice: start with the house’s version of the classic Sazerac, then move on to the Night Tripper, a boozy riff on the Manhattan made with Strega and Amaro Averna.
Jewel of the South is located at 1026 Saint Louis Street. For more information, visit www.jewelnola.com.
As far as legends go, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar is a Big Easy institution. Ranked one of the top five bars in the country by Esquire Magazine, its tag line is “Inspired by France, but profoundly New Orleans.” The bartenders here sling all the classics while sporting crisp white jackets and dapper black bow ties. Herbs are locally sourced, and all the syrups, drams and liqueurs are prepared in house. Sipping a Bon Vivant here is like falling through a wormhole into New Orleans’ golden years, and you absolutely can’t leave without tasting the restaurant’s namesake drink, the French 75. Pair it with a side of deep-fried, bacon-wrapped oysters, tasso beignets, or grougères — prosciutto-stuffed Gruyère cheese puffs — from the bar menu.
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar is located at 813 Rue Bienville. For more information, visit www.arnaudsrestaurant.com/bars/french-75.
Smack in the center of the business district, this always-buzzing wine bar won Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” in 2019. It’s housed inside a beautiful 19th-century estate that used to be one of New Orleans’ oldest restaurants. You’ll find a long list of wines on tap and by the glass, plus a killer happy hour where you can sip red and white blends for just $5. Vino is certainly the star of the show here, but Copper Vine also offers a great selection of craft beers, out-of-the-box cocktails, and delicious elevated pub fare by Chef Amy Mehrtens.
Copper Vine is located at 1001 Poydras Street. For more information, visit www.coppervine.com.
Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this famous spot as a tourist trap. There’s a reason why so many visitors make a beeline for the Carousel Bar once they get to New Orleans. Not much about the bar has changed since it opened at the historic Hotel Monteleone in 1949 – it’s still New Orleans’ only rotating bar. You might have to wait for a seat at the revolving counter, but it’s an experience you should definitely check off your list while you’re in the city. After all, it’s a special thing to be able to say you knocked back a couple of Marvin Allen’s perfect Vieux Carres at a bar immortalized by literary giants like Hemingway, Faulkner and Welty.
The Carousel Bar is located at 214 Royal Street, New Orleans. For more information, visit www.hotelmonteleone.com/entertainment/carousel-bar.
Lafitte’s is one of the oldest bars in America, and it looks the part. The cottage itself dates back to the late 1700s. In the centuries since, it’s served as a butcher shop, a smithy, an ice cream parlor, and finally a drinking den. The interior looks very much like something out of a period movie (just ignore the frozen daiquiri machines). Stick to beer or simple drinks here — you’re coming for the atmosphere more than anything.
Lafitte’s is located at 941 Bourbon Street. For more information, visit http://www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com.
If you’re craving a taste of the tropics ahead of your Caribbean cruise from New Orleans, stop at Manolito in the French Quarter. This tiny little 24-seater serves up ice-cold creations inspired by Havana’s legendary Floridita bar. The iconic Papa Double is served frozen here, though it’s just as strong as the ones Hemingway used to sip. And the martini is prepared in the traditional style of Spain and Cuba — fuss-free with gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters.
Manolito is located at 508 Dumaine Street. For more information, visit www.manolitonola.com.
Whatever you’re in the mood for — be it a classic Sidecar in a Jazz Age saloon, experimental sips whipped up by the city’s talented crop of innovative mixologists, or foaming flagon of your favorite brew served with a healthy side of history — New Orleans’ bar scene offers something for everyone. Spend some time during your visit getting to know its mainstays and hidden gems, even if you only have 24 hours to spare around your cruise from New Orleans.