Thursday, September 3, 2009

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The Secret Bars of Southern Decadence

Any hot mess on Bourbon Street can get drunk during the five-day, mostly (but not entirely) gay extravaganza of Southern Decadence that’s ramping up this weekend. But civilized drinking in New Orleans requires an insider’s knowledge.

Put on a shirt, fix your hair, and ditch the go-cup daiquiris. Stride past the liquid hand grenades and the cratered sorority girls left in their wake. Slip instead into the rarefied dens of gentlemen for an education in elegant drinking. It’s time for a breather from the party to imbibe sublime cocktails under the tutelage of the Crescent City’s most revered bartenders. Best yet? Most are within walking distance of the French Quarter’s host venues.

Begin with a hot towel, a shave, and a tumbler of whiskey at eminently respectable Aiden Gill for Men. Aiden Gill’s place is a car ride away from the Quarter. But you’ll walk away with a baby smooth face and an appreciation of some of the treats waiting for you away from the hullabaloo.

Now it’s time to visit New Orleans bartenders who greet well-groomed and well-behaved drinkers with perfectly-crafted cocktails and professional demeanors. While their parlors may grow busy, the mood is always civil, for civility prevails on both sides of the bar. And, seriously, put on a shirt and wear pants.

  • Swizzle Stick Bar fixture Michael Glassberg will prepare a noontime fix to beat the heat with a rum swizzle (what’s in that bottle labeled secret stuff? Hint: it’s from Barbados and you can get some for your home bar at Martin Wine Cellar). Bottom floor of the Loew’s Hotel and part of Café Adelaide.
  • Dispensing with his famous giant ice maul in favor of a disassembled Hawthorn strainer, Bar UnCommon maestro Chris McMillian will shake, shake, shake his version of the Ramos gin fizz. Not as well known as his mint julep, but the better drink.
  • Chris Hannah will present Arnaud’s French 75 Bar namesake drink (if you thought a French 75 champagne cocktail was good with gin, Chris’ cognac twist could well make you book your next flight back).
  • Brooks Hamaker is a former brewer and distiller and can often be found behind the bar at John Besh’s restaurant Lüke. Ask for a venerable, only-in-New-Orleans beverage, the Ojen (pronounced "O hen") Cocktail. There are only a few bottles of the discontinued anise-flavored liqueur left, so don’t be crushed if he suggests an alternate. Trust him.
  • Maksym Pazuniak at Cure will entice worldly tipplers with his Creole Julep. Get a leg up on those queens back home by even knowing what a julep is. Danny Valdez and the rest of the crew are no slouches with the shakers, either.
  • A gentleman knows when to bid goodnight. Whether he’s going back to his room alone or with friends in tow, the perfect send-off is a Sazerac prepared by the white-jacketed bartenders at the restored Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. The drink is so beloved by locals that it’s now the city’s official cocktail.

A final fashion note: New Orleans is a hat town. While many don hats under the sometimes brutal sun, gentlemen buy with pride at Meyer the Hatter (and those in on the secret know that behatted guests of the Swizzle Stick Bar are plied with free martinis—limit three, please: hot messes are frowned upon).


Aidan Gill For Men
2026 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
813 Bienville
New Orleans, LA 70112

Bar UnCommon
817 Common St.
New Orleans, LA 70112

905 Freret Street
New Orleans LA 70115

333 St. Charles Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70130

Martin’s Wine Cellar
3500 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Meyer the Hatter
120 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130

Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel
123 Baronne St
New Orleans, LA 70112-2303

Swizzle Stick Bar
Loews New Orleans Hotel
300 Poydras Street
New Orleans, LA. 70130



Max Watman said...

Nice round up, Matt. Brooks made me a brandy French 75 at Luke with a luxardo cherry in it -- a stupendous drink.

I'd say that if you want to stick to the plastic cup/26 ounce theme, Port of Call is a great compromise. The monsoon is a great, chilly, refreshing, drink, and the burgers . . . oh, man.

Matthew Rowley said...

Max ~ Port of Call would've fit right in as a fun place to hit, especially if your hair cuttery of choice were the R Bar on Royal rather than Aiden Gill. Man, I could go for one of those PoC burgers right now. And not just a little drink to go with it, but a great big strong icy drank. It's true: I don't always fancy the rarefied dens of gentlemen.

Tiare said...

Great post! i wish i had known about these places before i went to the Tales..i`ll remedy that next time;-)

Matthew Rowley said...

Tiare ~ next time you're in New Orleans (July?) let me know ~ we might just have to make the rounds. I left off the Mayfair ~ a favorite right off St. Charles, but a dive.