When it comes to cocktails, few places are as steeped in history and as lively in spirit as New Orleans, especially the iconic French Quarter. The city’s libation legacy isn’t just about a great drink; it’s about storytelling, community, and the joy of living. For those with a thirst for adventure and a love of mixology, here are 16 must-try New Orleans cocktails to add to your bucket list.
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The Sazerac is a New Orleans cocktail with plenty of history and iconic status. It is a local hero with a storied past – famously known as ‘the oldest American cocktail.’
The core of a Sazerac is rye whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters, sugar, and the crucial Absinthe rinse. It’s a flavorful, spirit-forward delight and the official cocktail of New Orleans.
If you’re eager to try the legendary Sazerac, make your way to the famous Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt New Orleans. This bar, with its elegant walnut-paneled walls and plush seating, isn’t just a part of the city’s history—it’s where the story of the Sazerac itself continues to unfold.
Another quintessential spot is the classic, dimly-lit Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, where the art of the cocktail is paired with ambiance that transports you straight to the 1920s.
Hurricane: Category 5 in a Glass
The Hurricane was born at Pat O’Brien’s during World War II. It rapidly gained fame for its tropical taste and potency.
This sweet, potent concoction, combining rum, passion fruit syrup, and fresh lime juice, is the perfect drink for a walk down Bourbon Street.
Looking to try the Hurricane? Where else than the famous Pat O’Brien’s itself, where you can enjoy a drink while listening to live piano music in the famed courtyard.
And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, try their signature Hurricane served in a souvenir glass shaped like the iconic cocktail.
Ramos Gin Fizz: A Classic Among the Oaks
Looking for a Classic New Orleans cocktail? The Ramos Gin Fizz is a staple of Mardi Gras and beyond, with a light and creamy texture that makes it a must for hot Louisiana days.
I love the Ramos Gin Fizz for its frothy texture and refreshing taste. Gin, cream, sugar, lemon and lime juice, egg whites, orange flower water, and club soda combine to create a delicious drink. A famed local legend even suggests shaking it for 12 minutes.
To savor the authentic taste of a Ramos Gin Fizz, one must visit The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel, where bartenders skillfully juggle each ingredient with precision. Another iconic destination is the elegant Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone, where you can enjoy this classic cocktail while the bar gently rotates, offering a 360-degree view of the room.
Both venues maintain a timeless charm and are known for their meticulous preparation of this effervescent cocktail, ensuring a sip is not merely a drink but a taste of New Orleans history.
French 75: A Toast to Victory
French 75 is a Champagne-based cocktail. Created during WWI, the French 75 celebrates the French 75mm field gun. Gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar “packs a wallop” like its namesake artillery.
The cocktail features perfect balance of gin, lemon, and sugar. It’s a celebratory drink that’s refreshing and sophisticated for any occasion. On your trip to NOLA, try French 75 at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar or the charming Bombay Club, where you can sip on it while listening to live jazz music.
Pimm’s Cup is a proper British cocktail with a New Orleans twist. The Pimm’s Cup found its southern charm in the garden district of New Orleans, and it’s a popular choice for a relaxing evening on the town.
It has a blend of refreshing and herbaceous flavors. Pimm’s No. 1, lemonade, and a hint of mint and cucumber, create a light and herbal profile perfect for the warmer months. To try this drink, step outside the French Quarter and head to the Columns Hotel or Napoleon House – both offer a beautiful setting and an authentic Pimm’s Cup experience.
Vieux Carré: A Taste of the Quarter
The Vieux Carré is named after the French term for the historic district of New Orleans, which translates to “Old Square.” The Vieux Carré salutes the spirit of New Orleans. Created at the famous Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, this complex cocktail is like a visit to the past; it tastes of history.
Complex combination of whiskey, vermouth, and bitters: Rye whiskey, Cognac, sweet vermouth, and a blend of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters come together to create this unique drink. How do you describe the Vieux Carre? It is a smooth, powerful, and highly recommended drink for sophisticated drinkers!
Brandy Milk Punch: Sunday Brunch, NOLA Style!
Brandy Milk Punch is a creamy and indulgent brunch cocktail. That’s right – drinking in the French Quarter starts early in the morning! It’s as much a part of Sundays as jazz brunch. This creamy concoction is a hit with locals and visitors alike.
When you taste your first sip, you will be hit by the sweet and velvety flavor. Brandy, vanilla extract, milk or cream, and sugarcane syrup provide a sweet and comforting start to the day – perfect for breakfast or as an elegant nightcap.
We love trying Brandy Milk Punch at The Ruby Slipper or the James Beard Award-winning Brennan’s Restaurant.
The Grasshopper has a long history in New Orleans as a quintessentially creamy, mint-chocolate treat. Creme de Menthe, white Creme de Cacao, and cream come together for a refreshing and indulgent experience in this iconic New Orleans’s drink.
The best spots to try the Grasshopper are Tujague’s, the second-oldest restaurant in New Orleans, and the decadent Antoine’s Restaurant. For a modern twist on this classic cocktail, visit Sylvain or Laurel Oak in the trendy Bywater neighborhood.
While traditionally associated with San Francisco, the Pisco Punch has found its way to the vibrant culinary scene of New Orleans, where it is celebrated for its unique blend of flavors and historical significance.
Visitors to New Orleans can savor this legendary cocktail at select bars and restaurants throughout the Voodoo city.
The Pisco Punch offers a delightful balance of fruity and citrus notes, with a smooth finish that embodies the spirit of indulgence synonymous with the enchanting city of New Orleans.
Hand Grenade: French Quarter’s Most Powerful Potion
If you’re looking for a drink that packs a punch, look no further than the Hand Grenade. This bright green cocktail is synonymous with New Orleans and has become an infamous symbol of Bourbon Street.
The exact ingredients of this potent concoction are a closely guarded secret, but it’s believed to have a mix of melon liqueur, rum, and grain alcohol. Served in a tall plastic grenade-shaped cup, this drink is not for the faint of heart.
You can’t leave New Orleans without trying the Hand Grenade at its birthplace – The Tropical Isle on Bourbon Street. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you!
The Café Brûlot, a captivating and fiery concoction, has a rich and storied history. While its origins may be traced back to France, it has firmly established itself as a beloved New Orleans tradition.
This aromatic elixir typically comprises brandy, orange liqueur, and a medley of spices such as cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and citrus peels, all ceremoniously ignited to create a mesmerizing display of flames.
Notable establishments such as Arnaud’s and Antoine’s are renowned for their expertise in crafting and presenting Café Brûlot – a memorable experience.
Created in 1874 by Cayetano Ferrer at what was then known as Aleix’s Coffee House, this iconic libation has become a celebrated fixture of the city’s cocktail culture.
This invigorating concoction typically comprises absinthe, anise-flavored liqueur, simple syrup, and soda water, creating a refreshing and herbaceous elixir that captivates the senses.
For those seeking to savor the allure of the Absinthe Frappé in New Orleans, the historic Old Absinthe Bar is a must.
The Mint Julep, a classic Southern libation, has found its place of honor among the vibrant cocktail culture of New Orleans. A traditional Mint Julep recipe typically calls for fresh mint, powdered sugar, water, and bourbon, resulting in a refreshing and aromatic drink.
When in New Orleans, you can try Mint Juleps at iconic establishments such as Arnaud’s French 75 or the legendary Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone or Maison Bourbon. The Mint Julep is also a staple at the annual Kentucky Derby, making it a must-try for any horse racing enthusiast.
New Orleans, with its penchant for revelry, knows that on a hot day, there’s no cocktail like a frozen one. Frozen Daiquiri is the Big Easy’s quintessential frozen drink –– sweet, tangy, and available in various fruity flavors.
The popular go-to spots for a frozen daiquiri in New Orleans include the iconic Erin Rose Bar, famed for its crisp and refreshing version of this classic drink, and the beloved local favorite Tropical Isle. For those looking to try something trendy, The French Quarter’s premier rooftop bar – Hot Tin offers their take on this chilled beverage.
Frozen Irish Coffee
Frozen Irish Coffee is a chilly take on a classic with cold-brew coffee, Irish whiskey, and sweetened cream, perfect for those mild winter days. The drink was made popular at the historic Erin Rose bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter, where it has a cult following.
Nowadays, you can enjoy this frozen delight at various spots throughout the city, including Molly’s at the Market, Rue de la Course, and Finn McCool’s Irish Pub.
Bloody Mary: The Mardi Gras Eye-Opener
No list is complete without the bold and spicy Bloody Mary, a savory alternative for those seeking a break from sweet cocktails. Bloody Mary features tomato juice, vodka, and a piquant blend of spices. This pick-me-up is as much tradition as it is a drink in New Orleans.
For a taste of one of the best Bloody Mary’s in town, visit The Court of Two Sisters and enjoy their signature variant made with fresh horseradish. Or try out the popular local hangout Café Lafitte in Exile, known for its deliciously spicy version.
In this city, every cocktail tells a tale, and every sip is an invitation to become part of the ongoing party that is life in New Orleans. Whether you’re sipping a Sazerac at the historic Sazerac Bar or sampling a frozen delight on an evening stroll, these 16 drinks are just the beginning of the rich tapestry that is New Orleans’ cocktail culture.
So, grab a drink, listen to the jazz, and let the city’s vibrant energy lift your spirits –– you’re in for a memorable journey through one of America’s greatest cocktail scenes. Cheers to the Big Easy!