NOLAGuide

The Best Bars In The French Quarter

If you’re coming to New Orleans, odds are you’ll end up in the French Quarter. Here’s where to have a drink.
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photo credit: Jewel of the South

Having a drink in the French Quarter is one of life’s great dualities. Some bars are divey, sticky establishments where somebody will ring a bell and then hand you a sugary beverage with a floating plastic shark. Others are historic—the kinds of places where iconic drinks like the hurricane were invented. And while we love both of these experiences, this guide is mostly about the latter, along with plenty of places where you can pair your absinthe cocktail with some great food.

We also have guides to the best restaurants and bars in New Orleans.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Denny Culbert

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Connected to Arnaud’s, one of our favorite classic New Orleans restaurants, is the French 75 Bar, one of the better places in the city to drink a sazerac or an Old Fashioned. It feels like you’re in an old-timey saloon, but we’re confident that the cocktails here are way better than whatever firewater they were drinking way back when. Plus, you can snack on some escargot in a flakey pastry and spend a reasonable $14 on an expertly-made beverage.

Yes, this bar is built into an actual moving carousel inside the Hotel Monteleone (and yes, it’s a little gimmicky). That said, it’s still a fun place to grab a drink. At all hours of the day, you’ll find a mix of tourists draped in beads and hotel guests pre- and post-gaming weddings. You might not notice the bar spinning at first, but once you get seated at one of the stools, you'll definitely feel the slow, constant movement.

In the very center of the French Quarter is Pat O’Brien’s, a bar famous for three things: inventing the hurricane, late-night dueling pianos, and a flaming fountain. While it gets packed at night, it’s an ideal spot to grab a few afternoon drinks, and theorize about why someone thought, “You know what that fountain needs? Flames.” Even when you’re trying to keep things low-key, Pat O’Brien’s is a classic, and somewhere you should still check out for a drink or two.

Bar Tonique is a cocktail spot just three blocks from Bourbon Street where you can sit at a big U-shaped bar, enjoy a well-made drink, and breathe for a minute. The bartenders here take their cocktails very seriously and, as a result, each drink requires a few minutes to make. And yet, it’s not a stuffy place at all. They have a daily $6 cocktail, meaning you can have two Mai Tais or Moscow Mules before paying the same amount for one daiquiri at your next stop down the street.

Jewel of the South puts equal emphasis on the food and cocktails, and both are extremely quality, if not a little bit over the top. There are multiple cocktails that cost over $25, and you’ll find a lot of caviar on the menu, along with plates of wagyu beef tongue. We like it best for a sit-down dinner in the plant-filled courtyard, but it’s just as good for some drinks and snacks at the bar. The owner and bartender is somewhat of a local legend, and you can often see him behind the bar mixing up cocktails or shooting the sh*t with regulars and tourists.

There are roughly 582 bars on Bourbon Street, and most of them aren’t worth your time unless your goal for the night is to end up on stage with an AC/DC cover band. Rather than give your friends the pleasure of watching you do that, head to Lafitte’s instead. It’s one of the oldest bars in America, and their frozen daiquiris alone are worth bobbing and weaving through the mix of bachelor parties, college kids, and tourists that clog the street each night.

It’s hard to tell if Cane & Table is a restaurant with great drinks, or a fancy cocktail bar that serves surprisingly good food. Either way, their big back courtyard is the perfect place to escape the chaos of nearby Bourbon Street. They have one of the most diverse cocktail menus in the city and serve a solid mix of rotating small plates and entrees, like green gumbo and a whole roasted fish. Whether you need a place for a big group or somewhere for a date, Cane & Table is the spot.

If you’ve ever wondered what visiting the Haunted Mansion would be like if they poured a mean brandy milk punch, head to Napoleon House. This French Quarter landmark is over two centuries old and looks every year of it, with peeling paint, creaky wooden furniture, and lots of old portraits with eyes that follow you around the room. The kitchen here serves decent Creole staples, but we come here just for drinks—the no-nonsense, bowtied staff make some of the best classic cocktails around. We’re not sure how the Pimm’s cup got to be their house specialty (surely there’s a story), but whatever you do, don’t leave without trying the absinthe-dabbed sazerac.

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