Drinking in New Orleans is fun! We reveal 13 of the best New Orleans bars and recommend a cocktail to drink at each during your NOLA bar crawl.
If you visit New Orleans without drinking at any bars, did you really visit New Orleans?
While we understand that life isn’t all about drinking and partying, bars and the libations they serve are a keystone to New Orleans culture.
Accordingly, we love to ‘let the good times roll’ at iconic New Orleans cocktail bars whenever we’re in town.
When we visit the Crescent City, one of our main motivations is to sample the drinks that New Orleans bartenders craft so well.
Local creations like the Sazerac, Grasshopper and Vieux Carré, as well as other classic cocktails, simply taste better in New Orleans. It’s certainly up for argument that New Orleans may (or may not) be the city where the cocktail was born or, at least, grew its ‘legs’.
Imbibing isn’t our only motivation. We also enjoy colorful conversations with bartenders and locals who, in between giving us inside restaurant tips, regale us with salty stories of politics, hurricanes and mardi gras parades. Plus, most NOLA bars have air conditioning, a godsend from the city’s inevitable semi-tropical heat and humidity.
Read on to discover 13 bars to include on your next New Orleans bar crawl. We include iconic spots in the French Quarter as well as less touristic bars in the Bywater, our favorite NOLA neighborhood, and a couple rooftop bars for good measure.
French Quarter Bars
Though relatively small, less than a square mile in size, the French Quarter is the epicenter for bars in New Orleans if not the world. It’s where the Sazerac was invented in 1838 and it’s where the Tales of the Cocktail has been held since 2002.
While many of the city’s edgier bars are now located further afield in other NOLA neighborhoods, the city’s most iconic bars are all located in the French Quarter. Many have been operating for more than a century and some serve signature cocktails invented in New Orleans.
And the best part? It’s entirely possible to walk to all of the French Quarter bars on a self-guided bar crawl. That being said, you may want to take an organized bar tour when you arrive to learn the stories behind NOLA’s most iconic bars and to potentially meet fellow cocktail connoisseurs .
1. Carousel Bar & Lounge
The Carousel Bar has been spinning circles around the competition since 1949. That’s the year when the Hotel Monteleone installed an ornate merry-go-round in the center of its lobby bar.
Spinning, albeit slowly, while drinking may sound crazy. But it’s crazy cool to sip a crafted cocktail while slowly circumventing the opulent bar without moving a muscle. Well, that’s not quite true… You’ll need to utilize your arm muscles to lift your drink from the bar to your mouth and back again.
Since the Vieux Carré was invented here a decade before the vintage carousel was installed, that’s the drink to order at the Carousel Bar. Plus Vieux Carré is a French synonym for NOLA’s French Quarter, so there’s that too.
2. Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
Awarded a James Beard award for its cocktail program in 2019, a century after it opened, Arnaud’s French 75 has an inspired drinks menu that goes beyond the expected French 75. That being said, if you only order one cocktail at this bar, it should be the cocktail that inspired the bar’s name.
Arnaud’s elevated French 75 cocktail recipe is a mix of Courvoisier VS cognac, sugar, lemon juice and Moët & Chandon champagne. Crafted by besuited mixologists, it’s a classy drink served in a classy cocktail flute.
Ideal for an intimate tête-à-tête, the bar at Arnaud’s French 75 represents old New Orleans at its finest. This iconic bar shines with it long mahogany bar, striking animal print upholstery and a classic black & white tiled floor.
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar is located at 813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112, United States.
3. Old Absinthe House
Despite its prime location in one of the city’s oldest buildings, the Old Absinthe House’s walls are haphazardly decorated and bartenders wear branded t-shirts. However, after surviving the War of 1812 as well as the Civil War and Prohibition, this French Quarter bar is one of the city’s most iconic watering holes.
Mixologist Cayetano Ferrer created the bar’s namesake drink, the Absinthe Frappe, in 1874. Operating as a saloon since the early 19th century and sporting a number of Absinthe related names, the Old Absinthe Bar didn’t gain its current name until 2004.
The bar’s history involves pirates, politicians and bootleggers which you can feel while surrounded by walls covered with an assortment of memorabilia, flyers and business cards. The decor reminded us of ruin bars in Budapest. However, the Old Absinthe House predates Hungarian ruin bars by a century or more.
Old Absinthe House is located at 240 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70112, United States.
4. Napoleon House
The Napoleon House’s name is the opposite of ironic since the building’s original owner, Nicholas Girod, actually invited Napoleon Bonaparte to live in it back in 1821. Now that would have been something special had the ‘little corporal’ actually jumped the pond!
Now owned by the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, the same owner of Brennan’s Restaurant, Napoleon House is as relevant today as it was two centuries ago. Crowds continue to fill the storied building, many ordering refreshing Pimm’s Cup cocktails and wonderful toasted Muffalettas.
This iconic New Orleans bar maintains a laid back vibe despite its shabby chic design and classical music playlist. Oozing with history, it’s a fun place to beat the heat in the center of the action without breaking the bank.
Napoleon House is located at 500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States.
Established in 1856 by Guillaume Tujague, Tujague’s Restaurant is New Orleans’ second oldest restaurant. Antoine’s Restaurant predates Tujague’s by 26 years and gets the #1 spot. Despite changes in ownership and a physical move over the years, the bar at Tujague’s retains its status as one of the city’s most iconic.
Sadly, when Tujague’s moved from its previous Decatur Street location, just four blocks from its current location on the same street, the owners weren’t able to transport the bar’s signature mirror. However, they were successful in bringing along the Grasshopper cocktail recipe invented by prior owner Philip Guichet. The bar’s Milk Punch is also famous and, after drinking the tasty tipple, we understand why.
Tujague’s Restaurant is located at 429 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States.
6. Molly’s At The Market
Despite its location on Decatur Street, in the heart of the tourist zone, Molly’s at the Market attracts a motley crew of grizzled locals and eager vacationers from morning until morning, closing just long enough for employees and barflies to take a catnap. Its barebones decor features likenesses of William Butler Yeats and Napoleon Bonaparte eclectic memorabilia and an old school jukebox.
Molly’s at the Market is a great spot to chill out, both literally and figuratively, with a Frozen Irish Coffee. And not just any Frozen Irish Coffee. This delicious drink is different from traditional Irish Coffees that we’ve encountered in Dublin and craft at home. In a nutshell, it’s the creamiest, most potent milkshake masquerading as a cocktail that we’ve ever imbibed.
Frozen Irish Coffee
Molly’s at the Market is located at 1107 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, United States.
7. Pat O’Brien’s
Pat O’Brien’s is legendary for one drink – the rum-based hurricane – which its bartenders aptly serve in hurricane glasses. But this boisterous bar doesn’t stop with its signature drink. Not only does the bar have dueling pianos inside its 18th century building, it also has a flaming fountain on its patio.
Stopping at Pat O’Brien’s is a must for anybody looking to complete a checklist of famous New Orleans drinks. Whether you choose to stay after checking off the Hurricane box is up to you. True confession: We moved on after drinking half of our sweet rum drink.
Pat O’Brien’s is located at 718 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116, United States.
8. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop attracts two different types of patrons.
One group solely seeks the bar’s signature high octane purple frozen daiquiri. The other group is more interested in savoring drinks in the bar’s historic, possibly haunted, candle-lit space.
We say do both. Dating back to the 18th century, the bar’s building is a National Historic Landmark and one of the oldest standing structures in New Orleans. And where else will you drink a VooDoo Daiquiri in a building previously owned by pirates?
Frozen Voodoo Daiquiri
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is located at 941 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116, United States.
9. Coop’s Place
Unlike other French Quarter bars featured in this guide, Coop’s Place isn’t particularly historic and it doesn’t have a signature drink. And, yet, this the dingy, dark bar is the one we’d choose to hang out in if we lived in or near the French Quarter.
Additional French Quarter Bars
Nine bars might be enough for some people. Consider the following notable French Quarter watering holes if you’re not one of those people.
We’ve often said that the Bywater would likely be the neighborhood where we’d live if we were to live in New Orleans. Hey, it could happen. We like the Bywater’s funky vibe and its proximity to many of the city’s best restaurants. The neighborhood fits our speed.
These are the Bywater bars where we’d likely be regulars if this ever really happens
10. Bacchanal Wine & Fine Spirits
Bacchanal is the backyard party we’d go to if we lived in the Bywater and wanted a neighborhood night out. This funky bi-level emporium serves a full menu that can be eaten either upstairs or in the backyard with live music. The menu offers everything from cheese plates to tapas dishes like Gambas al Ajillo to whole grilled fish.
A Big Plus: Bachchanal’s in-house wine shop makes the restaurant one of the best bargains for a night out in the Big Easy. Seriously, how awesome is that? Note – Bacchanal charges a corkage fee for bottles brought from outside the premises.
Bacchanal Wine & Fine Spirits is located at 600 Poland Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117, United States.
Saint-Germain is the bar we’d choose for those nights when we’re not in the mood for a backyard party. Reminiscent of some of our favorite restaurants and wine bars in Paris, this Bywater bistro has a small wine bar that doesn’t neglect cocktails. The bar’s cocktail program features spritzes, mezcal and, of course, St-Germain.
Any Specialty Cocktail Listed on the Menu
Saint-Germain is located at 3054 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117, United States.
Additional Bywater Bars
Check out the following eclectic Bywater bars if you’re looking to chill with an adult beverage away from the maddening crowds:
Great hotel bars are nothing new in New Orleans. The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (see above) and the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt are two prime examples. However, when it comes to hotel bars in New Orleans, things are looking up. Literally.
Partly due to NOLA’s sultry weather and partly due to the recent trend of social distancing, both the number and popularity levels of the city’s rooftop bars are soaring.
We recommend the following two New Orleans rooftop bars when you want to enjoy cocktails with a sweeping city view and plenty of fresh air:
12. Rosie’s On The Roof
Located on the top of The Higgins Hotel, Rosie’s on the Roof is a fun spot to enjoy tasty snacks and crafted cocktails. If you’re not familiar with The Higgins Hotel, it’s just a short walk from the French Quarter and right by the World War II Museum.
Creative snacks include a solid bowl of gumbo, Brussel sprouts wrapped in bacon and ‘Riveter Fries’ topped with braised brisket and bacon cheese curds. The bar also serves savory and sweet beignets, the former flavored with crab and the latter served with warm chocolate dipping sauce.
While there’s nothing wrong with watching the sun set with a cold beer in hand, the bar’s signature rum cocktail comes in a Stanley thermos. It’s built for two but you might want to drink it all by yourself.
13. Monkey Board
Monkey Board’s walls are covered with urban street art. It also sports a curated cocktail program featuring a rainbow of frozen drinks. But these aren’t the main draws at the rooftop bar located on the 17th floor at The Troubadour Hotel.
This Central Business District bar offers a 360-degree view of the New Orleans skyline and a chance to enjoy drinks drink while watching a ‘golden hour’ sunset. Food is a bit of an afterthought but who really cares when the views are so epic.
Even More New Orleans Bars
Lagniappe, a Cajun-French phrase that translates to a little extra, is a good thing to receive in New Orleans. With that in mind, we offer the following additional bars as a lagniappe so that you keep the good times rolling all week long:
New Orleans Bar FAQs
New Orleans has a myriad of excellent bars. Its most iconic bars include Carousel Bar & Lounge, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, Old Absinthe House, Napoleon House, Tujague’s, Molly’s at the Market, Pat O’Brien’s and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
The nightlife in New Orleans is outstanding in the French Quarter as well as in the city’s other vibrant neighborhoods. Night time venues include historic bars, dive bars, craft beer bars, wine bars, cocktail lounges and music cabarets.
The epicenter of the city’s French Quarter, Bourbon Street is famous around the world for its year-round party atmosphere.
Similar to the rest of the United States, 21 is the age when it’s legal to drink in New Orleans.
Where To Stay In New Orleans
Staying at a comfortable, convenient hotel is a must in New Orleans. During our most recent visit, we stayed in the following two hotels that met these criteria:
Hungry For More In New Orleans?
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.
We purchased and imbibed the drinks featured in this article.
We thank Visit New Orleans and its partners for their assistance to facilitate this and other articles.
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Original Publication Date: July 26, 2021