Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tales of Many New Orleans Cocktails: 4 Days, 40-plus Drinks, 2 People, 0 Hangovers

Riding the streetcar to lunch at Commander's Palace!
I realize that I may not exactly have my pulse on the zeitgeist, culinarily speaking, with this post. After all, the Internet is currently abuzz with hopeful New Year's food resolutions:  solemn oaths to observe every single Meatless Monday, exuberant promises to lead a low fat lifestyle ... and, of course, many well-intentioned vows to drink less.

Not me! Don't get me wrong: I don't plan to eat nearly as much duck fat as I did in the last week of 2011 - it is unsustainable! - but I'm not kidding myself. Enjoying a good cocktail is one of the profound pleasures of life, one I never intend to give up. And on my recent four-day trip to New Orleans with Poppa Trix I indulged this passion with abandon. No, I don't mean that I guzzled disgusting grenade drinks or sugary, artless, booze filled cups of crap on Bourbon Street. That is a New Orleans drinking experience for people who don't enjoy drinking, but rather crave being drunk. And annoying.

No, instead Poppa and I enjoyed well-crafted cocktails created by skilled mixologists. After all, you cannot get better cocktails in the U.S. - maybe in the world - than you can in New Orleans, Louisiana. (The same goes for the food, and I'll go into that in future posts.) I won't deny that Poppa Trix and I were both in our cups to an astonishing degree, but unlike Bourbon St. tourists we were never obnoxious! And we paced ourselves. And isn't that what civilization is really all about?

Our first drinks,  straight off of the plane late Thursday morning, were a pomegranate cocktail and a Bloody Mary at Mr. B's Bistro in the Quarter. Airplane travel leaves one rather thirsty, so we had 2 each:
For our second (light!) lunch, we strolled over to New Orleans institution Galatoire's and enjoyed two Sazeracs each:
The Sazerac - a perfectly balanced blend of rye whiskey (Old Overholt is traditional), simple syrup, Pechaud's and Angostura bitters, lemon peel, and Herbsaint, which just coats the glass - was invented in New Orleans, and is, according to some, the first cocktail.  These were our first of many.

Next up, a little cocktail to tide us over until dinner. We decided to check out the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, where I had a French 75 and Poppa had - what else? - another Sazerac:
Oh yeah, nobody gets between Poppa and his Sazerac happy place:
That evening, we stopped in at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone for a before-dinner drink. We have many happy memories of the Monteleone, as this is where we stayed on our first anniversary trip to NOLA, where, as you may recall, we were married in a voodoo temple in 2008. We each ordered a Vieux Carre - rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and Peychaud's and Angostura bitters, a drink which was invented here at the bar:

A warning: The Carousel Bar does in fact rotate just like a carousel, so if you go and have a few drinks, finding your way back to your seat after a trip to the restroom can be quite an adventure!

For dinner we went to the artsy and eccentric Green Goddess - I can't wait to show you what we ate there! - but for now I will tease you with our cocktails, which we paired with our food:
To the left, in the background, is a mint julep made with ginger syrup, lychee juice, muddled mint and Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine, and in front is a variation of a Sazerac made with rum, Steen's cane syrup, Peychaud's bitters and absinthe rinse. According to the menu, this was invented to imagine a New Orleans captured by German U-boats, leaving NOLA without any rye to make their hometown version!

On the right is a "Meantime" cocktail, which I adored. And what's not to love? It's Pig's Nose 5-year Scotch and White Maury from la Coume du Roy, finished with rhubarb bitters.

The next day we had lunch at Commander's Palace, which began, as it always does for us, with cocktails at the bar, where a group of New Orleans restaurant magnates were having their annual holiday party - we're talking owners and managers of Galatoire's, Mr. B's, ACME Oyster House, country clubs and more ...  the big guns. And yes, they were all drunk and funny as hell. I'd like to think we were funny too. Certainly anyone would be more amusing after these:
I hope you will understand and forgive me when I tell you I was unable to write down the names or exact contents of these drinks. On the left is a Maker's Mark concoction that has been infused with bacon. On the right is a delicate and perfect brew featuring St. Germain. That is all I remember.

As it turns out, we were seated next to the rowdy table of restaurateurs in the Garden Room, and so we did not have the presence of mind to photograph the 2 martinis, wine, or after-dinner Scotches (I had an 18-year; Poppa had a 15) that we enjoyed. Somehow Poppa managed to snap a shot of these complimentary tipples that were brought to our table:
They were refreshing and citrusy, and that's all I can tell you.

That evening we dined at Cochon in the Warehouse District. I did not have my favorite meal, experience, or drinks of the trip here, but that may just be because I am comparing everything to the awesomeness that came before. The drinks were quite good, they just didn't wow me like so many other places we went:
Clockwise, from top left, they are: A "Catahoula Hound Dog" (gin, lemon bitters, homemade blueberry syrup, and lime juice); the "Swinekiller," (Hendrick's gin, rhubarb bitters, limeade); a tasting of moonshine, which ranged from oddly sippable to gasoline level gut burning; and something I can't remember except that it had a cherry in it, as the awful photo indicates.

I am not gonna lie: I was coming down with something before we left for New Orleans, but as you can see I bravely soldiered on. However, at the close of our epic two days of food and drink, by Saturday my energy reserves were running low, so I actually had nothing to drink with lunch. (Poppa was having no such problem, and he had an Abita beer.)  That said, we had a trip to the Swizzle Stick Bar at Cafe Adelaide in the CBD on the agenda, and so I ordered an excellent  hot toddy, while Poppa got the house specialty, the rum-based Adelaide Swizzle, which contains a secret ingredient that may or may not be Grenadine. It was soooo smooth and frighteningly drinkable.
The Adelaide Swizzle (left); A restorative hot toddy (right)
 Next up: Dinner at Dante's Kitchen uptown for dinner. Here, they make house-infused gins and so the bartender created a  delicious custom cocktail for me with cucumber gin, lime, and basil syrup, while Poppa had an old school Sazerac with Cognac instead of rye:
We had wine with dinner and didn't take snaps of that.  (But we did get shots of the food, don't you worry!)  Sorry to disappoint, but there were no after dinner drinks - I was just too worn out by this point.

The next day - sadly our last day in  lovely New Orleans -  we had brunch at one of my favorite places, Lil Dizzy's in Treme, but they are a BYOB place and I just had coffee. And so for our last drink before heading out, we stopped at Tujague's in the Quarter where we had what Poppa feels were the best Sazeracs of our trip.
The bartender was definitely the most ornery, but that's part of the charm of the place.

So for those of you who have been following along at home, we're up to 40 drinks. Now, that's not counting the 2 Bloody Marys each on the plane ride to NOLA, a couple of unremarkable glasses of wine at Drago's, and some wine on the plane on the way home ... but who's counting?


  1. Wow what a cocktail tour. Just. Loved. It.

  2. Wow! I am loving this! I like hoe you think, and never thought of it as those who like to drink and those who like to get drunk...I'm with you, enjoying cocktails for the way they taste. I've recently had St. Germain with champagne. I've never heard of a Sazerac before, and you got me curious to try one...sounds right up my ally!

    I we get a chance to visit NO I want you guys to be there too!

  3. Happy New Year Trix! I would never give up drinking for New Years or duck fat for that matter. Life is too short. What a trip it would have been to go on that Carousel Bar.

  4. You guys know how to do it! What an amazing tour...I could feel the energy of NOLA through your photos, descriptions, and mood! Fantastic. I don't really want to admit it, but I've never been there. Always wanted to, though. One day... 'Til then, I'll just live vicariously through your posts :D

  5. wow -- I bow to your superior booze handling capabilities...and they all look so good!

  6. I am so with you, Trix! I think giving up after celebrations is just too draconian and spirit quashing. Life is a banquet... enjoy! Stay away from fast food and sodas and you are good to go.
    Happy New Year, Trix!
    PS My first post this year has a zillion calories and is delicious... I feel no guilt at all eating it!

  7. never heard of Date's Kitchen, and I can't wait for the food reviews... so many good places in NOLA it's hard to pick a bad one, well, there are a hundred of them too I guess... I always enjoy the 'older' big gun places along with the older, neighborhood places as well... always looking to go where the locals go...

  8. Very, very cool & loved the story of your wedding :-)
    Unfortunately, the dry household I grew up left me woefully ignorant of the cocktail spectrum - so I am very much in awe of your experience.

  9. One of my favorite things about you is your love for a good cocktail, also a passion of mine. This post is fabulous and love all the pictures of what you had.

  10. Happy New Year! Yes a cocktail or even a beer tour sounds like it would be a blast. Perfect location is NOLA. Amazing pictures-I do need to visit NOLA again! Thanks for sharing your cocktail adventure.

  11. I'm drunk just reading this. I have never been to NOLA but when/if I go I will do my best to emulate your cocktail tour. Truly, it would be a waste just to drink that punch swill when there are so many well crafted cocktails to be had there.

    (The French 75s there are usually made with gin, right?)

  12. I love how happy your two look, a marvelous couple oh and by the way you are gorgeous in those photos as usual... sexy for sure!

  13. 0 hangovers? Nice! Looks like it was super fun!

  14. Thats great pics of both of you. I too enjoy drinks from time to time and like you said, not to get drunk and behave wild. Its more of for relaxation, esp during weekends. Cocktails are also those to my liking and I have tasted some you have shared although others are new discovery to me. Btw, if given a chance, I would love try all of them because its like you never try, you never know.

  15. This looks like such a great time! Congrats on not having a hangover! :)

  16. Never been in New Orleans, maybe one day!!! Anyway have a wonderful new year, hugs, Flavia

  17. Wow, was this a booze cruise or what!!! I've never seen so many gorgeous cocktails in one place. I can't wait to go back to new Orleans in this new year;-)

  18. O hangovers?!?!? REALLY?!?!? You are my hero! :D Happy New Year!

  19. Way to sip your way through New Orleans, Trix! Can't wait for the next installment :)

  20. Okay. You've earned your stripes. We can be friends... GREG

  21. You both look so good together! I love to have a glass of wine or cocktail drink before dinner. DIVINE! Looks like you sure have lots of fun exploring those drinks!

  22. You has a great article. I'm very interesting to stopping here and leaves you a comment. Good work.
    Lets keep writing and sharing to us and other.

    Nb: Dont forget to leave your comment back for us.

  23. Like your traveling style - cocktails are an important food group! Especially when prepared by skilled mixologists!

  24. What a wonderful recap. I'm normally not a cocktail drinker, but I would love to make an exception for a few of those pretty drinks. Your Commander's Palace story is freaking legendary!

  25. I will have to start by saying that I have never even thought of the notion of no/less booze for a resolution :)
    This is my kind of trip, but not sure I could do the carousal bar, lol.

  26. I am super jealous on so many levels. New Orleans, cocktails, general fun time! This is a great post and I can't wait to try some of these at home.

  27. I'm so proud of you two :) Give up drinking?, and miss out on those cocktails? Never! One day when I'm either in your neck of the woods or in NO, you will be my drink guide :)

  28. What a cool trip! Love the top picture of yours. If I am not wrong, poppa Trix's tummy has grown a lot! hehe... I'm not a wine person but would love to take a few sips of your cocktail. Slurppppp....
    Happy Belated Anniversary.