For more of the best places to drink, check out our other City Guides.
New Orleans exists in a drinking duality. It’s often (and inaccurately) cited as the birthplace of cocktails, and the art and history of the mixed drink is justifiably revered if not sanctified here. It’s also the home of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, where debauchery and digestive reverse engineering are commonplace. Perhaps this juxtaposition is why the Big Easy excels so highly at offering elegance without pretense. It’s simultaneously the city of giant Hurricanes and the Sazerac. It’s the lovable, slightly sloppy reveler that crashed the debutante ball. The result is a unique energy that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
If you’re headed to New Orleans to engage in some studious drinking exploration — and if you revel in the joys and fellowship built around a properly made glass of alcohol, you absolutely should — the city provides a steady stream of exceptional options. A healthy chunk of these spots are located in the French Quarter, as is to be expected. However, those who slip outside the district of neon signs and wrought-iron balconies will uncover a few extra treasures.
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
Here are 10 of the best places to drink in New Orleans.
Best Place to Start an Evening: Jewel of the South
The French Quarter’s relatively tight cluster makes it an easy place to assemble a diverse night of drinking. Its raucous energy can also quickly lead you to a night of folly. As such, it’s crucial that your evening begins with an elegant, memorable experience. This cozy Tales-nominated restaurant and bar on the district’s western edge provides this opportunity by expertly sharing the history, romance, and importance of the cocktail and the convivial conduit it represents. Guiding the ship is acclaimed James Beard Award-winning bartender and cocktail authority Chris Hannah, whose work within the New Orleans cocktail scene is as celebrated as the drinks he creates. He’s best known for his mastery of the French 75, a cocktail he spent 14 years perfecting at the legendary Arnaud’s French 75 Bar. You’ll know why after your first sip — the impeccable attention to detail, use of Cognac, and technique invested in his version produces an interpretation that will stay with you long after you return home.
Tip Jar: If you enjoy sitting at the bar, plan to start your night on the early side. Several of the city’s well-known and acclaimed cocktail venues only have four or five stools directly facing the bar, and they fill up quickly.
Address: 1026 St. Louis St., New Orleans, La. 70112
Best Place to Feel Like an Insider: Dovetail Bar
Rampart Street is New Orleans’ secret weapon for cocktail enthusiasts. It forms the French Quarter’s western border yet its venues aren’t part of the district, which tends to make its bars adjacent respites from the area’s din. This may be why this spot, located within the Schaeffer Hotel’s boutique digs, has evolved into the place hospitality workers drop in for a post-shift tipple. “That kind of just happened,” explains bartender Andy Pratt. “Our staff has many years of combined experience in the New Orleans hospitality industry. Through our separate experiences, our friends and former colleagues have found us and continued to patronize.” The drink offerings here reflect the precision and the quality worthy of attracting professionals, from classics like Old Fashioneds to complex creations like the Tongue & Groove drink made with cachaça, rye, banana, and espresso beans. They also carry a few other notable industry bar staples. “Of course, we keep plenty of Malort behind the bar,” Pratt says.
Address: 201 N Rampart St., New Orleans, La. 70112
Best Place for a Date Night: Bar Marilou
This Tales-nominated bar within the Maison de la Luz hotel sits just outside the French Quarter, giving you and your significant other an elegant oasis of peace without being too far removed from city revelry. Its unique location just beyond the bubble allows the space to build its own uniquely romantic aesthetic. “We strive to create a truly unique and expertly curated guest experience that is emblematic of modern Southern hospitality,” explains bartender Carly Lacoste. The spot achieves this goal through a bar program that draws inspiration from European drinking traditions (think: aperitif happy hour) and modern craft expression through bold, unexpected ingredients such as mushrooms and tomatoes. It’s an experience that not only sets the tone for a special evening, but also lays the groundwork for return visits filled with adventure and fond memories. “Our space is so rich and exciting that I believe it encourages people to venture out of our comfort zone,” Lacoste says. “Quite often, I hear guests reminiscing about unique drinks from menus past that they never expected to enjoy so much.”
Address: 544 Carondelet St., New Orleans, La. 70130
Best Place for a Blended Drink: Manolito
Frozen drinks are essential to any New Orleans trip, particularly if you visit at a time of year when the humidity threatens to sap your ability to function. When it’s time to plunge a straw into a glass of icy refreshment, amble on down to this Cuban-inspired French Quarter spot near the Mississippi River. Its made-to-order blended drinks are crafted with a sense of purpose and history in mind, as every classic and modern concoction serves as an homage to legendary Cuban bartender Constante Ribaligua Vert, the father of the blended drink and creator of the Hemingway Daiquiri. If you recognize the name and the legacy (and know why the Hemingway Daiquiri is sometimes called the El Floridita), you’ll likely be intrigued by the Manolito Swampwater. Consisting of green Chartreuse, lime juice, and simple syrup and served in a glass emblazoned with a gator looking over-served, the frozen concoction is seemingly tailor-made for the cocktail enthusiast, bartender present or past, or even a Ramone.
Address: 508 Dumaine St., New Orleans, La. 70116
Best Place to Blend in With the Locals: Zony Mash Beer Project
New Orleans thrives on tourism, which may slightly grate on your nerves if you live by the credo, “Be a traveler, not a tourist.” If you’d rather skirt the tourist traps, you have options to chill among city residents. Both Lacoste and Pratt recommend this brewery, tasting room, and occasional local music venue, located in an old movie theater in Mid-City. “Zony Mash is such a fun spot with great live music and programming,” Lacoste says. “They just make the place work so well, and they built out a great outdoor area, too.” Head brewer Mitch Grittman takes a food science approach to creating the craft beers rotating on the venue’s 21 taps, and his liquid experimentation leads to intriguing brews featuring unorthodox ingredients like carrots, butterfly peas, and dragon fruit. There are a couple of hefty brews on hand, but most of the beers land in the 4.5 to to 6.5 percent ABV range, making it easy to turn your visit into a long, local hangout session.
Address: 3940 Thalia St., New Orleans, La. 70125
Best Place to Explore Tiki: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29
The postwar ascension of tiki drinks is an important part of American cocktail history. Their significance may have been lost without acclaimed author and cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, whose painstaking work of tracking down the oft-secretive recipes of classic tiki cocktails and promoting their traditional use of fresh ingredients revived the category. This acclaimed retro-themed spot in the French Quarter’s southeast quadrant delivers an interactive history lesson, transforming Berry’s research into sumptuous beverages that nail balance and deliver nuanced flavors. While you’ll encounter cool drink origin stories and classic concoctions like the Mai Tai based on “Trader Vic” Bergeron’s original 1944 specs, you’ll also find plenty of modern riffs on tropical standards, such as a lower-ABV Zombie variation that won’t rip you to shreds. The modern tropical drinks are also worth considering. Exhibit A: The Hawaii 504, a shaken drink featuring Chinese five-spice suspended in honey, Virgin Islands rum, orange juice, lime juice, and ginger liqueur.
Address: 321 N Peters St., New Orleans, La. 70130
Best Excuse to Break Away From the French Quarter: Toups’ Meatery
This Mid-City spot’s main draw is multiple James Beard nominee and Top Chef alumnus Isaac Toups, and the attention is justified — his outstanding meat-centric menu doubles as a carnivore’s fever dream. While you should come here for dinner (and Fernet shots afterward), the killer cocktails coming from the spot’s well-appointed bar are not to be missed. The potent potables whipped up here match the creativity, complexity, and comfort found in Toups’ dishes, making them perfect meal-pairing options as well as standalone delights. The show-stopping drink is the Pork Chops and Applesauce, a diabolical concoction made with pork fat-washed whiskey and apple bitters that tastes like a boozy side dish. Such handiwork highlights an element about New Orleans that can be overlooked: While the French Quarter tethers the lion’s share of the city’s cocktail scene, it doesn’t hold exclusive rights.
Tip Jar: The New Orleans Museum of Art is a quick walk and an even quicker rideshare away from Toups’. It’s open until 6 p.m. except Saturdays, when it’s open until 5 p.m. Stopping by here and checking out the museum’s collection of more than 40,000 works is an excellent pre-dinner activity.
Address: 845 N Carrollton Ave., New Orleans, La. 70119
Best Hidden Gem: The Independent Caveau
When Pratt recommends this wine bar/specialty food shop hybrid, he calls it “a smaller place off the beaten path.” He’s not kidding. Located in a heavily industrial slice of Mid-City on a cracked, shopworn road, this narrow and dramatically blue-hued venue may be the last place in New Orleans you’d think to go for exceptional wines by the glass and a proper cheese board. But this is part of the charm. Another part of the equation is the dedication husband-and-wife co-founders Jim Yonkus and Joanne Close put into helping people become better wine drinkers through their curated mix of classic and emerging labels sourced from familiar and unique global appellations. “They have great wines, but they also have an equally great focus on education,” says Pratt. While out-of-towners may not be able to partake in one of the WSET programs Yonkus and Close offer, they will have ample opportunity to drop by and dig deep into the minutiae of whatever glasses of wine they choose to indulge in.
Address: 1226 S White St., New Orleans, La. 70125
Best Place for a Frozen Irish Coffee: Erin Rose
The history of frozen Irish coffee isn’t steeped in lore like other New Orleans classics. It was invented sometime during the 1980s, a decade when most new drinks were seemingly created on a dare. Yet it’s evolved into an essential New Orleans beverage whether you’re here during peak tourist times or visiting amid summertime’s meteorological beatdown. The drink was initially created at this lively Irish dive just off Bourbon Street (although it was first served to the public at its sister bar, Molly’s at the Market). Like the bar it’s served in, there is nothing fancy about the concoction, but there doesn’t need to be. Thick, slightly sweet, and appropriately boozy, the delight it brings to the palate makes the beverage unmistakably beautiful in its own way.
Tip Jar: While getting a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s is practically a rite of drinking passage, strongly consider ordering the drink here. Erin Rose’s off-the-menu version is balanced and not as sweet, which may be more appealing if you’re a “serious” cocktail drinker.
Address: 811 Conti St., New Orleans, La. 70122
Best Place to Close a Night: Bar Tonique
After several hours’ worth of wandering around the French Quarter drinking, (hopefully) eating, and absorbing copious amounts of energy, you may find yourself wanting a nightcap to end your evening, but not wanting to make a complex decision. Thankfully, this no-nonsense neighborhood bar has your back. All you need to do when you enter its doors on Rampart Street — again, it’s a secret weapon — is fix your eyes on the tall blackboard on the bar’s far side. You’ll see a selection of nearly 20 classic drinks like the Vieux Carré, Pimm’s Cup, and Dark ‘n’ Stormy to choose from, all within the $9 to $10 range. Don’t let the price point fool you. Each cocktail drinks well above its cost from a quality perspective. In other words, it captures the elegance of a proper drink without the pretense, just like New Orleans does every night.
Address: 820 N Rampart St., New Orleans, La. 70116