Ask the Expert: Where to raise a glass in New Orleans

A New Orleans drinks historian shares tips on the best places to toast the Big Easy’s 300th birthday
New Orleans
Bourbon Street in the French Quarter


Elizabeth Pearce

Our Expert
Elizabeth Pearce is the author of Drink Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Best Cocktail Bars, Neighborhood Pubs, and All-Night Dives. She’s the founder and owner of Drink & Learn, which offers cocktail tours of the French Quarter.


Let’s talk about some of New Orleans’ famous drinks, starting with the Sazerac. Where should we get one?
The Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans. Most of its ingredients, like Herbsaint and Peychaud’s bitters, were either invented in this city or find a home here. The obvious place to go is the Sazerac Bar. Start there and then hit Tujague’s, one of the oldest watering holes in the city. Ask for bartender Paul Gustings—he’s really, really talented.

New Orleans

Courtesy of Arnaud's

How did the Hurricane come to be? Where should we get one?
It was invented by the team at Pat O’Brien’s during World War II, when whiskey was hard to get and rum was in abundance. I tell people to go to Pat O’Brien’s because it’s an amazing bar. They have dueling pianos; they have a fountain with fire in it. But if you want a really good Hurricane, go to [Beachbum Berry’s] Latitude 29, one of the premier tiki bars in America.

New Orleans
Pat O’Brien’s

Courtesy of Pat O'Brien's

What’s your all-time favorite place to go for a cocktail in New Orleans?
I love French 75 at Arnaud’s. They just won the James Beard Award for best bar program. It’s a beautiful place half a block off Bourbon Street, but it might as well be miles and miles away. Chris Hannah is a really brilliant bartender there, very respected in this town.

What about a local dive? Is there one you’d recommend?
I like the Erin Rose for day drinking, especially because they have a happy hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s a long, skinny bar without a lot of room. People love it for the friendly staff, and you’ll often see bartenders drinking there on their days off. At night, go to the Chart Room. It’s cash only, which is always a good sign. It’s one of those places where the bartenders aren’t young; most grew up in New Orleans and have strong opinions. Ain’t nothing fancy in the Chart Room, but the drinks are usually pretty cheap, and the jukebox is great.

New Orleans
Absinthe exhibit at the Museum of the American Cocktail

Courtesy of Stephen Binns/Museum of the American Cocktail

Besides going to bars, what other ways can people experience or learn about the city’s drinking culture?
Be a New Orleanian: Get a drink in your hand and go for a walk by the Mississippi. Sit in a park and listen to musicians. Stroll and sip. You should also visit the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, which houses the Museum of the American Cocktail. One more thing: All along Royal Street, there are really great stores that have 1940s and ’50s barware. Vintage 329 has sets of Tom Collins and rocks glasses, and lots of stores carry vintage hip flasks. That’d be a great souvenir.

This article appears in our Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Southbound.