Lu Brow of Café Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar
I love to have a cocktail with Mr. Chris Hannah at the French 75 bar. Chris is a true bartender, and I use that word with great respect for our profession. He's humble (thank God for that), talented, and takes care of you without intruding and is not aloof. That's pretty high talent in my book. I love taking out-of-towners to his bar because it's an elegant little place right in the heart of the French Quarter. I like to think that that late at night, when the bar is closed and the lights go out, those little monkeys that are on the lamps come out to play. And I suspect that Chris plays with them as well!
For the history, it's Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. It's a great place to people watch. It has sort of a New York feel when you walk through the giant hall, and it's lovely at Christmas! During the holidays, I always make sure to stop by and look at the beauty of their Christmas decorations and enjoy a cocktail or two.
And I love to hit the Erin Rose late at night because they have really friendly bartenders and a great jukebox. It's always packed, and the bartenders know how to move and get your drink to you with a smile. It's funky and old, and the bathroom isn't great... but I still love going there to have a drink after work.
Marvin Allen of Carousel Bar & Lounge
For cocktails, I head to the French 75 bar in Arnaud's Restaurant, or Cure on Freret Street in Uptown New Orleans. (Or my own establishment, Carousel Bar & Lounge in the historic Hotel Monteleone.) All have great bartenders that not only know how to mix the classics like The Ramos Gin Fizz, Sazerac, Vieux Carre and a myriad of others, but can also create personal cocktails for the specific taste of their guests—and have that something extra that allows their guests to feel that they are the only ones that are being taken care of.
I enjoy going to Superior Grill for great margaritas and to sit on their covered outdoor patio where you can watch the streetcars traverse St. Charles Ave. Also, The Napoleon House on the corner of Chartres and St. Louis where you can sit and people-watch not only the colorful locals, but also the visitors that are enchanted with everything. The Napoleon House also has a great patio area that is a retreat from the hubbub of the French Quarter.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop on the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter streets is one of the oldest bars in the country; another great people watching spot. The Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel is an iconic New Orleans drinking establishment. Finally, Bar Tonique on Rampart Street, where they do a great job at making craft cocktails.
Tiffany Soles of Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse
For cocktails, I like to go to Bar Tonique, Tivoli & Lee, Victory, Sylvain and Twelve Mile Limit, Kingfish, and SoBou. Obviously, the drinks at all of these places are amazing, but more than that, I go because there's always a friendly face behind the bar! Usually, I let the bartender choose my drink for me. They all know that I love to play guinea pig, so I usually get to try their new creations before they hit the menu or get submitted for a competition.
For the history, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is a guilty pleasure. It is said to be the oldest bar in New Orleans and they only use candlelight (no electricity) to light the bar at night, so it just has a great feel to it. It is touristy, but many locals do hang out there too. Pirate's Alley Bar is another guilty pleasure. The pirate décor is kitschy and it is a favorite tourist spot for those going on the various ghost and vampire tours each night, but there's just something about this bar that will always keep me coming back.
Erin Rose—most of us bartenders that work in the French Quarter hang out here after our shifts (and sometimes before). Even though it is one block off Bourbon Street and will get hit with the tourist crowd, it's a locals' neighborhood bar. All of the bartenders here are great! Added bonus—Killer Po-Boys serves up some amazing creations in the back bar until midnight! And there's Finn McCool's: A great neighborhood Irish bar in Mid-City. I always meet the best people here! Always order the same thing, too...Guinness and a shot of Jameson.
And more: Tracey's, really great bar food to go along with your drink of choice. Orleans Grapevine: Great wine list with numerous selections available by the glass. Really good food too! Delachaise: Another great place for wines by the glass, and I love being able to select my own cheese plate! dba on Frenchmen Street: the best place to be on Monday nights for Glen David Andrews' show! They also have a great beer selection. Finally, Copper Monkey—one of the best places for late night food in the French Quarter. The late-night bartenders are great too!
Alan Walter of Loa at International House
I'd have to say my favorite haunt for a libation is Andrea's Capri Blu Bar, just a stone's throw from downtown New Orleans, in Metairie. The mood of the bar is either pre-prom or postprandial depending on the dominant age group there that evening. Several nights someone croons and plays piano, and chef Andrea Abuzzo, sort of the "Pauolo Prudhomme" of northern Italian cuisine in this city, makes frequent visits from the kitchen in his tall white hat to greet all guests with Old World warmth and affection. In this setting a simple pastis on the rocks becomes a chalice lifted in gratitude to the goddess of beauty.
As far as dive bars, I don't usually make that distinction, but I like Roaring 20s on the Westbank. Upon entering you are transported to a human "wilderhaus" that is both Rococo and Suburban Gothic, the perfect backdrop for a diorama of the human condition straight out of Dante's Purgatorio. The Bud Lite is strangely mellow and complex, as if it has been cask-aged since...well, the twenties.
And there's Ralph's on the Park. We in New Orleans aren't treated to many bars with aerial perspectives on life below, but gazing laterally across the boulevard is equally refined if you are dreaming out at gorgeous oaks decked with Spanish moss beside a lagoon, stem of bubbles in hand.
Abigail Gullo of SoBou
I still get chills when I sit in the French 75 bar; it's the reason I wanted to move to New Orleans. The history, the service, the drinks—it's all top notch. At French 75, they carefully create drinks that represent everything that New Orleans was and continues to be. They are at the forefront of the cocktail movement with old world service that is unpretentious, gracious, and impeccable. If it's too smokey or crowded inside, I just take my drink up to the secret little Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum, with exquisite gowns, tiaras and pictures of the stylish balls of Mardi Gras past.
Favorite Dive Bar: Boondock Saint. Irish cop bar? Yes, please. After 20 years in NYC, this place felt like home the moment I walked in. Powers and a McSorley's dark. That is my drink and the awesome bartenders know it. They play the film Boondock Saint inside, so on the rare occasion I don't meet
someone new/crazy/hot/interesting, there is always Daryl Dixon to ogle. The Jukebox is great; I always find a cute boy to dance with me when Wagon Wheel comes on—and that song is played every time I'm there. But my favorite thing about this dive bar is that the horses of the mounted police unit know they get fed cherries here by the beautiful bartender Miss Jenny Kay, so they actually step up into the bar when they pass by.
Favorite Bar for Beer: Avenue Pub. Upstairs you have a balcony, a cool homey bathroom, and the finest selections of brews, including La Fin Du Monde, my favorite beer on tap! Growing up French Canadian has its advantages... that fine brew was my first beer. My favorite spot for wine is Bacchanal. This wine shop delivers great bottles in the most perfect New Orleans atmosphere. You buy a bottle and then head to the back yard with an ice bucket and mismatched glassware to soak up the sounds of local jazz bands under the sultry New Orleans night sky. The kitchen serves up world class eats, and upstairs they now have an indoor space with a great cocktail program too.
Kent Westmoreland of Bar Uncommon
First, Pascal's Manale—An-old school New Orleans restaurant serving Italian food since 1913. The walls are over-filled with autographed photos of sports and entertainment figures from then until the present. I go there for the Old Fashioneds. Eddie muddles the orange slice and the neon cherry, which is out of fashion these days, but he has been making them this way for over 33 years. Put your trust in Eddie.
The Victorian Lounge in The Columns Hotel—The Victorian Lounge resides in the former main dining room of an 1883 Italianate mansion. It's one of the few joints where the New Orleans caste system breaks down. You can drink a Sazerac while chatting up a debutante in the elegant mahogany bar or relax on the veranda while sipping a Sapphire and tonic. I prefer to do both.
Miss Mae's The Club—If you don't like thick clouds of smoke (tobacco and otherwise), if you don't like eardrum-splitting music, if you don't like being surrounded by multi-count felons... then Miss Mae's The Club may not be the place for you. However, I can deal with all of that and the cheap (in every sense of the word) booze. If you can, too, then jump into a cab and meet me there. I'll be there at 5 a.m. with a Seagram's gin and tonic.
Tivoli & Lee in The Hotel Modern— New Orleans isn't all about classic cocktails and 19th century architecture. Tivoli & Lee features excellent modern Southern cuisine; I go there for the beyond-excellent cocktails cooked up by cocktail maven Kimberly Patton-Bragg and bar nerd Steven Yamada. Whatever new whisky concoction is offered, is what I drink when hanging with Kimberly and Steven.
Ferrel Douglas of Commander's Palace
I love Sylvain because it has a low-key, friendly and comfortable atmosphere with approachable bartenders who offer house-made craft cocktails. It's my favorite place to have a Sazerac. They have an awesome courtyard for when the weather is nice. And I love the fact that they don't make cosmos because they can't make fresh cranberry juice. And I love Bar Tonique because it's a neighborhood bar with upscale drinks without the upscale attitude. They offer $5 Pimm's Cups on Monday, which is my night off—talk about meant to be! Bouligny Tavern: In addition to having a creative cocktail menu that I really enjoy, they have a cool tapas menu and it's a great spot for late-night snacks.
Hadi Ktiri of French 75 Bar
I typically go to Cure, Sylvain and Bar Tonique. Cure is my neighborhood bar and also one of the best high-end cocktail destinations in the city. When I'm at Cure I like to drink straight spirits as they have one of the most eclectic back bars in town. I love Sylvain's bartenders, food and atmosphere. It's an all around great bar. Sazeracs are killer here as well. Bar Tonique is my after-hours dive-style hang. I tend to decompress while having an IPA and take intermittent shots with my other bar friends to help ease the tribulations of the night.
The scenery in this town is the people. Loads of meandering morons frequent the French Quarter Streets and despite what some locals might say, it is really fun to wander around and silently poke fun at the frat boys and drunk bachelorette parties.
For local characters I would definitely have to say make a trip to Kingfish and have a drink with Chris McMillan. He is widely accepted as one of our greatest bartenders and is a walking encylcopedia. Ask him one question and get more answers than you could have ever hoped for. Another local character is esteemed mixologist Michael Glassberg. He is the resident bartender at the Monteleone Carousel Bar and easily one of the most charismatic and easy-going bartenders around.
Also one last word. Find Paul Gustings at Broussards and have one of his Sazeracs. It may be the greatest drink you'll ever have in New Orleans...
Molly Wismeier of Restaurant R'evolution
I go to Sylvain for cocktails. They make incredibly well-balanced, interesting and approachable cocktails like the Tea Punch made from green tea, honey and Rhum Agricole with lime. The General Sour is with a homemade five-spice syrup, Rhum Barbacourt and egg whites. And I love to drink bubbles: Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut Rose NV.
For a sense of New Orleans scenery and history, I go to Kingfish because Chris McMillan is there and he not only stirs a fantastic cocktail, but the know all the history behind it! Another favorite is Lucky Rooster—they make cardamom syrup and do "custom shots" of Bäska Snaps made by Bittermens, who is based out New Orleans now. On Sundays it's imperative to get a Purple Drink from the historic Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop; and Friday afternoons call for a drink at Old Absinthe due to their impressive and extensive selection of the liquor.