New Orleans and tippling go way back. From the early French influence to the ongoing Mardi Gras mentality and post-Katrina renaissance, the Big Easy is as thirsty as it ever was.
Few places in America have such a robust bar scene, not just in terms of caliber and quantity, but deep history. An abundance of drinking establishments existed before the big crackdown otherwise known as Prohibition and that abundance has persisted. Many got creative when alcohol consumption was more frowned upon, going the speakeasy route. They were club-like and clandestine, evading the law and quenching our thirst.
There’s a similar bar community in New Orleans today, tight-knit and eager to show off native concoctions like the Sazerac and Hurricane. Best, the bars blend seamlessly in with the many other layers of NOLA culture, from the incredible music to the one-of-a-kind cuisine. Of all the places to spend some quality time at a bar, New Orleans is among the best. Here are some of the best bars in New Orleans and what to try, from native cocktails to thoughtfully-imported wines.
Essential Bars & Wine Bars in New Orleans:
- Jewel of the South
- The Will & The Way
- Pal’s Lounge
- Bar Tonique
- Old Absinthe House
- Carousel Bar & Lounge
- Copper Vine
- Tours & Bar Crawls
- …and more
Jewel of the South
1026 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70112
What Guests Like: Exceptional Cocktails, Off-the-beaten-path, Great Flavors & Service
The awards for this bar and restaurant just keep stacking up, from high-up placements on esteemed “best of” lists from Esquire to Tails of the Cocktail. The setting is ideal, a Creole cottage built in the 1830s set right in the French Quarter. Owner and bartender Chris Hannah is behind the cocktail list, one that honors the rich history of the city but also creates new and daring drinks, steeped in seasonality.
Visitors will be treated to world-class hospitality, often sporting dapper outfits that offer a nod to the original golden era of American cocktail culture. Try the Cajon Bon Vivant, a mix of pork fat-washed rums, smoked maple syrup and Jamaican bitters, or the Jewel Sazerac, made of rye, madeira, rancio sec, herbsaint, and bitters. They even do bottled cocktails for the road if you can’t stay and hang out (or simply want to bring some of the magic with you when it’s time to go). Winos will be drawn to the well-appointed sparkling list (including some aged Champagne), along with lively wines from the Rhone, Venezia, the Jura, and more.
The Will & The Way
719 Toulouse St, New Orleans, LA 70130
What Guests Like: Great Food, Easy Vibes, Mellow & Cheerful Ambiance
Relaxed and perfectly-lit, this French Quarter drinking establishment is popular among locals and visitors alike. It’s a spirited place, so much so you can just about feel the laughter and stories that surely filled the walls generations ago. From the 18th Century architecture to the brick-lined courtyard, there’s not a bad seat in the house. There’s classic Americana to be enjoyed, like an excellent burger, and the cocktails are fantastic. It’s NOLA mixology at its best, blending everything from barrel-rested gin and tea infusions to house made Tang and herbal liqueurs. Try a classic like a La Louisiane (rye, vermouth, Benedictine, bitters, herbsaint) or opt for a rotating frozen cocktail if the heat and humidity kick in. If wine is what you’re after, there’s a respectable list built around European reds, seafood-friendly whites, and the occasional orange wine.
2601 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70117
What Guests Like: Historic, Old School Video Games, Local but Wordly
It’s beyond easy to settle into the self-described “destination dive” that is Anna’s. The pandemic shut down the old bar that inhabited this space (Mimi’s), but the latest installment is incredibly welcoming, as so many NOLA bars are. Minimal renovation means the old feel of the place is still very much intact and the frosting on the cake is that it’s run by a NOLA bar veteran (Anna Giordano). There’s a working class charm to it; the kind of place you might pop in for a beer and shot or Salty Dog, enjoyed over a game of pool. Upstairs, you’ll find a wine list that spans the Spanish wine map as well as a solid selection of vermouths and sherries. Just the thing to pair with a few small plates from the tapas menu.
949 N Rendon, New Orleans, LA 70119
What Guests Like: Affordable, Jukebox, Rotating Local Cuisine
A mid-city mainstay, Pal’s is a great spot for a wee hour drink to cap of an excellent day in The Big Easy. The happy hour is lengthy, the jukebox sees a lot of action, and the bar routinely hosts some of the best pop-up eateries around. Enjoy one of the bar’s many Martini riffs or have them whip you up something savory and a little spicy on the spot. The Bloody Mary has its own legion of fans and rightfully so.
820 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116
What Guests Like: Proper Cocktail Bar but Still a Dive, Craft Cocktails, Talented Staff, Late Night
Across the street of Louis Armstrong Park, this French Quarter bar has been at it since 2008. There are daily specials that focus on classic cocktails (think Mai Tai, Paloma, Pimm’s Cup) and the punches are some of the most thoughtfully made. If you’re feeling like a mocktail or just want something a little more interesting than weather, the house-made sodas are great and cover a wide range of flavors. The woodsy bar is set beautifully before the tall brick walls and the many chalkboards always artfully display the day’s offerings, including a few wines. Grab a stool at the square-shaped bar and enjoy watching the skilled barkeeps mix it up.
727 Toulouse St, New Orleans, LA 70130
What Guests Like: Historical, Outdoor Courtyard, Not Too Loud
Home to one of the best courtyards in all of New Orleans, Peychaud’s is the perfect spot for open-air imbibing. There’s a lovely fountain, plenty of vegetation, and great glimpses of colorful, French Quarter architecture. The bar is adjacent to the Hotel Maison De Ville and the former residence of a Creole apothecary named Peychaud who prescribed his signature bitters. It’s the birthplace of the Sazerac cocktail and also a tremendous spot for other French-kissed classics, like the Vieux Carre or French 75. Enjoy a juicy Gamay Noir or bone-dry Provence Rose as overhear the many sounds of the city. There’s no going wrong inside either, as the bar is set in what feels like a living room, fit with a fireplace and lovely little booths and antique furniture.
Old Absinthe House
240 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70112
What Guests Like: Unique Ambiance, Personality, Knowledgably Staff
The sign on the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon street says it all: Since 1807. That’s 216 years of bar history and counting. Once a corner story run by a Spanish couple, it became a saloon and ultimately took on its current name when the Absinthe House Frappe was first served here in 1874. You can still get the famed concoction here, a mix of herbsaint, anisette, and soda water. There’s also a slew of great rum drinks, a fantastic Irish coffee, and what’s billed as the world’s best gin and tonic. As you might expect, there are plenty of Absinthes to try, hailing from France, Switzerland, Austria, and even the occasional domestic option.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge
214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
What Guests Like: Gorgeous Bar, Top-notch Staff, Music, High-class
Another hotel bar, The Carousel is exactly what it sounds like, serving up drinks from a wondrous circular bar that rotates every fifteen minutes. It’s part of the Hotel Monteleone and once hosted musical greats like Liberace in the Swan Room, the former adjacent venue. It’s been written about by Hemingway and Truman Capote spent a decent amount of time at this iconic NOLA bar. It’s where the Vieux Carre was born in 1938 but also home to other originals like the Goodie, a rum and citrus drink. There’s a good chance you’ll catch Marvin Allen behind the bar, a seasoned pro. There’s a handsome list of rare bourbons and as far as settings go, there’s nothing quite like this hurdy-gurdy-themed bar.
1117 Montegut St, New Orleans, LA 70117
What Guests Like: French + Japanese Cuisine, Classy but Casual, Tapas Style Food, Wine Selection
A wine bar and restaurant, N7 occupies a charming space in the Bywater neighborhood. It’s named after the famed former French expressway running from Paris to Italy and the menu is crafty, blending French and Japanese cuisine. The wine list is always on point, spotlighting smaller European labels, typically adhering to natural winemaking principles. Guests immediately feel like family here, thanks to the warm interior and intimate nature of the place. Come for the house-made charcuterie, rabbit crepes, escargot, and frog legs karaage and allow the staff to pair ‘em all up with immensely food-friendly wines you’ve more than likely never encountered before.
1001 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70112
What Guests Like: Fantastic Food, Cajun-style, Wine List, Clean, Epic Experience
With an ample draft list, Copper Vine is the spot for freshly-pulled keg wine pours. There’s a good beer selection but the wine list is the attraction. Enjoy a flight or go the cocktail route, with a Smoked Paloma or Rosemary Spritz. The dinner menu is full of delights let and right, from pork belly and corn fried oysters to shrimp risotto or blue mussels and herbsaint. The wine list has the classics covered, from Alsace to Sancerre, while offering some other great options too, from Mt. Etna in Italy to Sardinia and even the Willamette Valley. It’s an airy space in the best of ways, with an amazing hanging garden in the back patio and one of the cleanest, best-looking bars on the inside.
Tours & Best New Orleans Bar Crawls
Before we get into our list of favorite New Orleans bars, you might consider exploring the city from a local’s perspective. If a guided walking tour is more your style, all of the following experiences are immersive and highly-rated.
Discover the essence of New Orleans with Doctor Gumbo Tours, a flavorful journey through time and taste. Your expert guide will lead you to eight unique spots, including Creole eateries, chic cocktail lounges, classic sandwich shops, and historic pre-Civil War bars. Savor up to ten scrumptious dish samples and enjoy four full-sized drinks, all while uncovering the best of Louisiana’s culinary and cultural treasures.
Doctor Gumbo Tours also offers an insightful cocktail walking tour in the historic French Quarter. Accompanied by an expert guide and fellow drink aficionados, step off bustling Bourbon Street and explore four renowned local establishments, with a cocktail included at each stop. At every venue, appreciate the skills of notable bartenders, learn about the history and myths surrounding spirits like absinthe, and enjoy a classic Sazerac or two during your experience.
If craft cocktails are your thing, spend an evening on this craft cocktail-focused bar crawl with Gray Line New Orleans. Connect with local enthusiasts at historic bars and dining establishments while indulging in time-honored drinks. Immerse yourself in captivating narratives from your guide and adept mixologists as you uncover the celebrated – and occasionally notorious – past of libations and drinking traditions in New Orleans. The tour price includes three drinks.
Uncover the eerie side of New Orleans with New Orleans Ghost Adventures on this spirited bar-hopping tour, delving into the city’s haunted history. Venture to the infamous Lalaurie Mansion, reputed as the town’s most haunted locale, and step inside Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, the country’s oldest bar. Throughout the journey, your local guide will regale you with spine-chilling ghost tales, adding a touch of mystery to your evening.
Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting New Orleans
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