The 5 Best New Hotel Bars in New Orleans
With Ace and Moxy now in NOLA, the city's hotel scene just got a lot hipper.
You don’t get a nickname like the Big Easy without having an appreciation for some of the sweeter things in life. New Orleans' love of a stiff drink goes back some 200 years, and a number of famed (or infamous) cocktails were created here—from the rum-fueled Hurricane to what many consider the first-ever cocktail, the Sazerac. To truly understand New Orleans' thriving cocktail scene, visit during Tales of the Cocktail, when the world’s top bartenders descend on the city, trading stories and ducking into historic bars when time allows. They might be at the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, where the time-tested Vieux Carré was invented in 1935, or Waldorf Astoria Roosevelt Hotel’s art-deco Sazerac Bar. (We hear they also love Cure and Cane and Table.)
The role of the hotel bar in cocktail culture looms large, especially in New Orleans. Five recently opened hotels are honoring tradition by slinging imaginative drinks that are not only original, but may just become NOLA’s next iconic cocktail.
Bayou Bar and Caribbean Room at Pontchartrain Hotel
A recently reopened landmark hotel, Pontchartrain once pandered to New Orleans’ elite with its Bayou Bar, where The Saints were signed in 1969 and Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams knocked back cocktails in the 1940s. The bar, with its baby grand piano and wall mural of the bayou, is best for a casual night, but visitors get dolled up a bit for the adjacent, reimagined Caribbean Room living room parlor, all rattan furniture, iron chandeliers, and joie de vivre. The cocktail to try: Duck Fat Sazerac with house-infused duck fat Sazerac rye, sugar, Peychaud's, and herbsaint. It’s a contemporary version of the Sazerac using rendered foie gras to leave a softer finish on the classic cocktail.
Moxy Bar at Moxy Hotel
Marriott’s second millennial-geared hotel to open in the U.S., Moxy New Orleans provides a lobby bar space that feels like your cool uncle’s basement. It’s furnished with cozy couches, board games, foosball, and colorful New Orleans-inspired decor (vintage French horns, metal voodoo skulls). The communal, 24-hour bar concept encourages socializing, and the actual bar moonlights as the front desk, where every hotel guest receives a complimentary cocktail upon check-in. The cocktail menu features drinks that read like fun hashtags (i.e.: “simply spritzed” and “relationship status”). The cocktail to try: Got Moxy is the signature cocktail on tap, but Flash On Fleek (Botanist gin, fresh lemon, organic simple syrup, flash cotton—served on fire) is Instagram-worthy.
Henry Howard Hotel
This posh 1860s mansion built by legendary architect Henry Howard was transformed into an intimate, 18-room hotel in February. Guests feel like they’re actually living in a stately Lower Garden District home. The grand parlor blends the modern and historic—think Louis XVI chairs along a marble bar—and the hotel’s signature black-and-white striped fabric is a nice contrast to pieces like an original Rex Mardi Gras Ball dress mounted in a gilded frame. The cocktail to try: The Lemon-H with bourbon, herbsaint, and a homemade lemonade recipe (that emulates fresh lemonade from a local stand in France, where the head bartender used to live).
Ace Hotel New Orleans
The preferred stomping ground for local scenesters since opening in March, the downstairs lobby bar at Ace New Orleans—designed by Roman and Williams—in the emerging Warehouse District is a French Deco space filled with tattooed artists, young suited entrepreneurs, and bloggers with dogs. Thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, the convivial space is flooded with natural light by day, and buzzing at night with DJs and bands. The craft-cocktail menu is curated seasonally with a nod to the boilermaker at the core of the program. Also check out Ace’s new partnership with the Grand Bankscrew, a new oyster/cocktail bar, Seaworthy, just four storefronts down in a former 1830s townhouse.The cocktail to try: The Underdog, a stout sipper blending Becherovka bitters and fino sherry. It's the kind of cocktail that lets its few (but quality) ingredients shine.
Old No 77
A former 1854 warehouse, Old No 77 created a commanding, modern space for its hotel lobby bar, where well-preserved industrial details (original brick walls, exposed pipes, hardwood floors) set off the contemporary art and scoop chairs. Farther in, Compère Lapin has become a magnet for mid-twenties professionals who like to graze on Top Chef alum Nina Compton’s elevated, Caribbean-inspired dishes while nursing craft cocktails curated by big-deal local bartender Abigail Gullo. The cocktail to try: The Wry Smile uses Gullo's favorite spirit (rye whiskey), Grand Poppy, rhubarb-based amaro Sfumato, a sweet vermouth from Torino, and a hint of East India sherry.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler on July 25, 2016.
Feature photo courtesy of Compère Lapin Bar.