Look beyond the tourist traps on your next visit to New Orleans, to discover a diversity of drinking experiences in the heart and soul of the city’s most iconic district.
Take a trip off the well-worn tourist trail in New Orleans’s French Quarter and you’ll discover a diversity of drinking experiences. From laid-back bars and hip cocktail hangouts, to a hidden drinking dungeon and rowdy 24-hour dives, there’s a party here for everyone. If you think you know the French Quarter because you’ve had Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, think again. There are many more exciting experiences to be had.
Not only does this unassuming, dark den have one of the finest drinking atmospheres in the French Quarter, it also serves some of its finest cocktails. With drinks served in plastic cups, it’s a no-frills, cash-only affair at Chart Room. This bar somehow finds a way to strike a balance between locals and tourists, with a crowd that’s never too rowdy but never boring either. Spend an evening putting tunes on the jukebox and striking up friendly conversations. It’ll be 4am before you know it.
Reportedly built between 1722 and 1732, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is one of the oldest structures in New Orleans and one of America’s oldest bars. Located on Bourbon Street, it is far enough from the tourist trail to still feel like a calm respite. While it can get packed, its historic blacksmith shop aesthetic provides a nice diversion from the nearby madness with romantic candlelight, creaky floorboards and a hearty assemblage of brick. Ignore the frozen daiquiri machines and hip-hop, and you might think you’re in the 1800s.
One of the more recent additions to the Quarter bar scene, Cane and Table has quickly risen through the ranks to become one of the area’s essential cocktail bars. Opened in 2013 and housed in a historic 1818 structure, this barebones but beautiful site serves up a rotating rum-packed cocktail list, along with Caribbean-inspired bites including beef pepper pot stew and spiced ribs. Order up a large-format cocktail like the Hashtag Mai Tai, which is served in a hollowed-out pineapple cup, and enjoy it in the chic bar or on the lively courtyard.
For old-world vibes with a down-to-earth demeanor, head to the landmark Napoleon House. Drenched in European-styled flair, the 1794 structure has served as everything from an Italian grocery store to the home of the New Orleans mayor. Today, the breathtaking bar’s patinated walls, weathered paintings and shady tree-lined courtyard lined provide the perfect setting to delve into a little NOLA history. Order their famous Pimm’s Cup cocktail paired with a classic muffuletta sandwich.
You might feel like the room is spinning after a few too many drinks, but at Carousel Bar, this is by design. The legendary rotating bar inside the French Quarter’s opulent Hotel Monteleone makes one complete rotation around the bar every 15 minutes and welcomes a diverse cast of curious imbibers. The go-to cocktail here is the Vieux Carré, created at the hotel in 1938, and the bar offers daily live music to round out this classic New Orleans experience.
In a city as definitively eclectic as New Orleans, it takes a lot to stand out when it comes to kitsch. Yet the Dungeon occupies a genre all of its own. The secretive vampire bar hidden down a dark alley off Toulouse is something akin to a mashup between a rock-fueled late-night bar and a horror theme park. Equipped with coffins, Halloween-style decor and with everything drenched in sinister red light, this will be your new favorite bar if you’ve always wanted to drink in a cage.
While New Orleans is known for cocktails like the Hurricane and Sazerac, the city has been building up its beer scene in recent years as well. Nowhere in the Quarter is that more apparent than at Black Penny, a hip beer-centric local neighborhood hangout tucked away on the outskirts of the tourist district. Opened in 2015, this bar feels like it’s been around much longer. Beloved for its 100-strong craft beer offering, it’s the perfect place to chill with friends for a few cold ones to start the night.
New Orleans is well known for its party-centric ethos, but what is less commonly known is that the city is also one of the few places in America to house 24-hour bars. Like Vegas, New Orleans is home to a number of bars that simply never close. Among them is notorious Quarter dive Aunt Tiki’s. Not actually a tiki bar, it is a place to drink cheap drinks well into the bright sun of a new morning.