For 14 years, bespectacled and bow-tied barman Chris Hannah was a fixture behind the stick at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans, where he not only revived a long-forgotten cocktail, the Brandy Crusta, but led the beloved institution to a 2017 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Bar Program.
These days, you can find Hannah a few blocks away at Jewel of the South, his latest venture with industry veteran Nick Detrich, also his partner in the Quarter’s Cuban-inspired Manolito. Named after the tavern owned by famed 19th-century New Orleans bartender Joseph Santini, who invented the aforementioned Brandy Crusta, Jewel of the South offers an evolving menu of seasonal small plates that pair with New Orleans classics like the house Sazaerac, as well as Hannah’s mix of playful original cocktails.
VinePair caught up with Hannah to talk about desert-island Herbsaint frappés, rare bottles of Ojen, and why he’ll never drink a certain type of Bloody Mary again.
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1. What’s your desert-island drink?
An Herbsaint frappé, which tastes really good in the summertime, so I imagine it would be refreshing on a desert island.
2. What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?
Probably a Wild Turkey and Coke at The Stingray, a Five Points Bar in Raleigh, N.C., where I went to school. It’s closed now.
3. FMK three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan?
F*ck Margarita, because it’s salty, and I’m better when drinking tequila. Marry Negroni, because of its equality and balance, necessary for marriage. Kill the Manhattan, because a Sazerac was always better anyway.
4. You’re on death row. What’s your final drink?
A Creole cocktail. It’s stiff sipping, and knowing it’s the end of the world, I would want something powerful and full-flavored that’s going to help with ease of falling asleep, or you know, falling asleep forever.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
Canny Man’s in Edinburgh. It’s one of the most proper pubs in the world, and I’ll drink whatever random Scotch I’ve never had because they stock so many there.
6. What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf?
The best is a bottle of Ojen from the 1940s. It’s a really treasured thing in New Orleans, and it’s what we drink around Mardi Gras. A woman in upstate New York found four vintage bottles in her father’s estate, and she reached out to me because she had read how much I love it, and eventually sold them to me. I’m actually trying to get one of them put in the Southern Food & Beverage Museum here. It still has tassels and the original recipe for the Ojen cocktail on it. The worst is probably a Mohawk Crème de Menthe. I like crème de menthe frappés.
7. What cocktail will you never order again and why?
A Bloody Mary with Irish whiskey. I drank them for eight hours straight one year in Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day, and it was one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had.