The Best Bars In New Orleans

Our favorite places to drink cocktails, dance, and have a great night in New Orleans.
Bar at Bar Marilou

photo credit: Rush Jagoe

New Orleans is known for a lot of things: beignets, swamps, and its vast bar, nightlife, and live music scene. Part of the fun about going out here is seeing where the night takes you. You can stumble into a bar in the Marigny to see a band that plays both rockabilly and soul covers, sip some well-made drinks in the city that popularized cocktails like the sazerac, or drink some natural wine in a garden. Also, yes, you will have a better time on Frenchmen over Bourbon Street, but we understand if you need to see the madness for yourself. 

We also have guides to the best restaurants and the most classic spots in the city.



Warehouse District

$$$$Perfect For:Classic EstablishmentPeople Watching


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Located in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, the Sazerac Bar has barely changed since it opened in the 1930s. No, the namesake drink wasn’t invented here, but they do make great cocktails and it’s a bar that feels like it’s seen a lot. This place is regularly filled with everyone from local politicians to bachelorette parties, and it’s a great spot to start a night if you're planning on taking a walk down Bourbon Street.

photo credit: Bacchanal Wine

At the far end of the Bywater, you’ll find Bacchanal, a weird little wine shop that evolved into a wine garden utopia and one of the coolest places you can spend a night in New Orleans. After you pick out a bottle, head outside to the big backyard where you can drink, order cheese and charcuterie, and catch live music every night of the week. There’s also a semi-secret cocktail and wine bar upstairs, which is the perfect place to take in the scene and survey the backyard for available seats.

Almost every place on Frenchmen hosts live music each night and it’s easy enough to just bar hop up and down the street until you find one that matches your vibe. Most likely, though, that’s going to be the Blue Nile. On any given night, you can hear funk, blues, jazz, or brass, depending on what time you stop by. It can get pretty packed inside since they tend to host the bigger brass bands, but they also have a large balcony on the second floor. You'll still be able to drink and hear the music up there, but won't have to deal with being stuck in the crowd.

The Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street looks like the blueprint for any “New Orleans-style bar” that you’ve ever been to elsewhere. There’s random artwork of musicians, money is stapled to the wall above the bar, and everything sort of looks secondhand. The venue is smaller than other spots on the street, so the shows there feel way more intimate than elsewhere on Frenchmen. Come here if you want something a bit more low-key.

There’s no shortage of places to see a show in New Orleans, but Tipitina’s in Uptown is an institution and one of the best places to go for music in the whole city. Stand wherever you feel like, but we suggest the balcony, which has a great view and easy access to a bar. National acts regularly play here, but look for a night with a local brass band instead.

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.

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 and constant movement.

You could mistake Kermit’s for any neighborhood corner store selling fried catfish or chicken, but this is one of the best bars to see some excellent live music. This place is literally always a party—owned by a New Orleans jazz legend, it’s where you’ll find some of the city’s top musicians playing a solo piano set and big brass bands doing their thing on Sunday. The drinks are dive bar quality, but you’re here for the music and to eat some chargrilled oysters, hot sausage, or gumbo, possibly cooked by Kermit himself. The outside colorful mural pays homage to the former owner, the late Ernie K-Doe, another New Orleans legend. 

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.

Hotel Saint Vincent is somewhere you can snack on shrimp cocktail, sip on cocktails in their lobby Paradise Lounge, which also has an outdoor patio, and dance the night away. There’s always a lot happening here, whether that’s plates of lobster bucatini served up at their Italian restaurant San Lorenzo or visiting indie rock bands mingling with locals and tourists. Come here for a Saint Vincent Spritz, even if you’re not staying at the hotel.

Hot Tin is on the top floor of the Pontchartrain Hotel, and it’s one of our favorite rooftop bars in the city. Beyond just the great views, the drinks are top-notch—order the Rita Hayworth with tequila, chipotle chilies, and apricots or the Purple Rain with gin, hibiscus, and cinnamon. Before you get in the elevator to reach the Hot Tin, you should probably take a picture with the Lil Wayne painting in the hotel lobby.

The Elysian Bar, located in the Marigny, is one of the coziest and most romantic bars in New Orleans. The 19th-century Creole cottage-style dining parlor has beautiful high ceilings, but the place you want to be is the “jewel box” bar located in the atrium. The room is very yellow and it feels like you’ve stumbled upon somebody’s secret study where an old-timey baron might smoke a pipe and entertain some friends. Come for an early evening cocktail, like the Mr. Follow Follow that’s both spicy and pleasantly banana-y, and snack on small bites like BBQ pecans and salmon toast.

Jewel of the South calls itself a classic New Orleans tavern, but really you can just think of it as a place that puts an 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 date in the plant-filled courtyard, but it’s just as good for walking in 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.

This fun wine bar that’s in a small house on St. Claude in the Bywater is great for a quiet romantic night or a group hang over glasses of gamay. They do a reservations-only, 10-course tasting menu in a dining room that feels like your friend’s apartment. There’s plenty of room to stretch out and the wine list is gigantic, with both affordable options under $70 and older Bordeaux vintages if you’re looking to ball out. The garden patio is an equally enjoyable place to be, where you can drink of bottle of chilled red or order a cocktail with port, tonic, and citrus.

Located just west of downtown in the Lower Garden District, Barrel Proof is a spacious whiskey bar that serves lots of cocktails and under-$10 beer and shot combos. Really though, you come here for the 390 varieties of whiskey that they pour. If you get hungry after a few drinks, they serve food until midnight from local pop-ups like Matchbook Kitchen and Flamme.

The Bulldog is a beer bar in Uptown with a big patio and some of the best bar food in the city. It’s far away enough from the French Quarter that you don’t have to worry about too many bachelor parties or herds of tourists taking over, unless they come specifically to check out the big beer selection. If you’re looking for a chill night, make sure to spend some time on the patio here.

In recent years, New Orleans has seen a lot of new craft breweries pop up, but our favorite is Parleaux Beer Lab. This brewery-meets-beer garden is located at the far end of the Bywater, near The Joint and Bacchanal, and, along with serving plenty of seasonal beers, it hosts different food trucks most nights of the week. You can even catch a free yoga class here in the morning if you want to drink an IPA while you're in chair pose.

The Maple Leaf isn’t a bar you’re going to randomly stumble upon, but if you’re looking for the best place to check out some local brass bands, make the trip to the Carrollton neighborhood in Uptown. This place hosts nightly shows that typically go way past when other spots have turned on the lights. If you want to dance with a bunch of locals and Tulane alumni trying to relive their college years, this is the place to go.

Going to a divey bar for some live music and a watery gin and tonic is great and all, but if you’re looking for something a little swankier, try Bar Marilou. It’s in The Warehouse District, a mere ten minutes away from Bourbon Street, but the floor-to-ceiling red drapes, creative cocktails, and towering bookshelves feel a world away. It’s a great place to start your night while you plan your next move over a martini or whatever frozen cocktail they have.

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