New Orleans By The Glass

I have already mentioned my trip to New Orleans, the birthplace of many a cocktail, but all I’ve given you so far is a review of one of their breweries. Here’s everything else that I drank while I was there. This is in theory a response to this prompt, but it’s also a travelogue of many drinks. I figure that’s pretty far from normal.

We got in to New Orleans in the afternoon, and took a walk around the Garden District and French Quarter before arriving at Three Muses, a tapas bar where we had some great food (falafel wrapped mozzarella balls, among other things), nice unobtrusive live music, and some nice drinks as well. I had the Knight Takes Bishop (“Silky Irish Whiskey take on a sour using egg white, honey, apricot, dry sherry, and tarragon”– $11), and the PiC had the Minor Swing Margarita (“Hibiscus, jalapeno and blood orange liqueur reinvent this classic drink finished off with grapefruit soda”– $11). We also tried the Flying Squirrel (“A smooth whiskey sour with subtle pine notes and hints of walnut make this anything but predictable”– $11) and The Other Redhead (“Ginger and ancho chili liqueurs spice up this bold Jameson sipper” – $10), which my brother and his wife had. I was impressed by how well the less powerful flavors came through (the tarragon in mine, the walnut in the squirrel, etc.) to bring a new twist to mostly classic drinks. The margarita barely tasted like alcohol, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. And, I like anything with egg whites, so mine worked well too.

The next day we wandered over to Galatoire’s for lunch, primarily on a quest for what are called soufflé potatoes, basically twice fried potato chips that we had seen once on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We also had our first bowl of gumbo here (our goal was to have at least five). The potatoes were… fine? As a vehicle for the béarnaise sauce they were very useful, but didn’t have much to them. The duck and andouille gumbo was delicious. And, of course, we had drinks as well! I had Galatoire’s Special Cocktail (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Herbsaint, Peychaud’s Bitters, simple syrup and a twist – $7), and the PiC had the 209 Cocktail (Pimm’s No. 1, Pearl Cucumber Vodka, sour mix, and a splash of ginger ale – $8). I didn’t love mine, to be honest — it was essentially a Sazerac with bourbon instead of rye, and I felt like the bourbon overpowered the rest and it mostly just tasted like whiskey. The 209 was basically a Pimm’s cup, and was pretty good.

We next investigated the amazing beignets at Café du Monde but didn’t drink anything so I won’t dwell on it. They are famous for their cafe (and chicory) au lait, I guess? I don’t like coffee. At this time we discovered that my brother and his wife had holed up at a nearby divey bar, Coop’s Place, where we joined them. We had another cup of gumbo (#2, not as good as Galatoire’s), and our first Abita beer, Turbo Dog ($4). It was very nice, a dark brown ale that cut through the gumbo’s stickiness well. I almost thought it was a stout, based on texture and the darker coffee and chocolate notes, but apparently it is not.

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We did various things throughout the day (it’s very odd to only focus on the drinkable parts of the vacation) and ended up at Jacques Imo’s for dinner. If you go there, get the Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake. We also had gumbo #3. I had the Abita Andygator ($5), a Helles Doppelbock which was sweet and malty as well as being strong. Both the Abita website and our waiter were very cautious about the high alcohol content (8%) but really that’s not that bad… The PiC had the Abita Purple Haze ($4.50) which was a little fruity for my tastes but she enjoyed it. It’s a raspberry flavored lager, and I do remember that it tasted like actual raspberries more than it did like raspberry flavor, so at least there was that.

Day 2’s lunch was Commander’s Palace, and their famous 25-cent martini lunches! Honestly, the food here was much more of note than the alcohol, except for the price. I wish I could have eaten more, but I had had a donut breakfast sandwich earlier in the day and was still recovering. Anyways, to the alcohol! There were actually four variations of martinis that we were allowed to have for the 25 cent price (three max per person). The classic (gin or vodka), a cosmopolitan, a blue curaçao and vodka mix that I think was called the Commander’s martini, and something with melon liqueur that none of us tried. We had all versions of the first three though. They were fine for what they were – very alcoholic. I don’t really like martinis (I had mine very dirty and still didn’t really enjoy it). I don’t have pictures of these because we didn’t think we were supposed to use our phones, but you can imagine them. They look like what you’d expect.

We finished up that night at Cochon Butcher, where I had a beer. Unfortunately, I did not track what it was. But it was good! And looked like this:

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The next day we were all on our own. My brother and his wife had gone back to the wilds whence they came. So, we went to a wine bar, Bacchanal, for lunch, and did what you would expect us to do at a wine bar — get a beer! Actually though, this place was pretty awesome, and was recommended to us multiple times before we went. It’s a little out of the way, but it’s worth it. You walk into the wine/cheese shop, and pick your drinks and cheeses (and meats, if you like), and they make a really nice plate with it, full of spreads and breads and all sorts of things. Then, you sit outside in their huge patio with live music and eat it. It’s great. Anyways, we got a Californian, so sue us, beer from the Bruery — The Terreux Gypsy Tart. It wasn’t quite a sour, but was on its way there, sort of a gateway sour. If I haven’t used that phrase already, which I may have. It was nice to have the sourness without the fruit, as well.

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On the long way back from Bacchanal (a nice walk along the river in a fancy park), we were in need of refreshment, so stopped in the French Market for a mango rum punch (ingredients what you would imagine, with a bunch of miscellaneous juice added that I’m not sure what it was). Didn’t taste at all like alcohol, and was very refreshing and fruity. Not something I’d want to drink with a meal, but on its own, it was perfect. Also, had very tieable cherry stems.

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After another beignet and a display of chinese lanterns, we found ourselves getting dinner at Parasol’s in the Garden District, including an Irish Channel Stout (NOLA Brewing Company) in a to-go cup. I still find the concept of to-go alcohol crazy, but hey, it’s New Orleans. Or Vegas. The stout was a good classic coffee-esque stout, not hugely remarkable other than the fact that we walked around with it on the street.

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Sadly, it was then our last day, but we were determined to drink it to the fullest. We stopped by Pat O’Brien’s, the home of the Hurricane, and got, well, a Hurricane. We had been warned against this by my brother but it was actually pretty good. Very similar to the mango rum punch in that it was sweet, fruity, and deceptively alcoholic. It has dark rum, light rum, passionfruit syrup, and lemon, according to Wikipedia, and Pat O’Brien’s serves a mix that you can use to make your own so it’s probably somewhat proprietary. If you’re eating in, you get it in a classic hurricane glass (shaped like a hurricane lamp, apparently), but we were getting it to-go so weren’t as fancy.

We got our final bowl of gumbo at The Gumbo Shop  (Galatoire’s may still have been best though), and accompanied it with a Brandy Milk Punch, which tasted like a not-nearly-as-cloying eggnog. It was cold, light, and nutmeggy, and the milk really smoothed out the brandy which can sometimes be a little too sharp. It also had the distinction of being one of the nicest looking drinks we had.

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And then, with only a few hours left to kill before the airport, we went to NOLA Brewing Company. But you already know about that.

So that was New Orleans. 19 drinks, or more if you count both mine and the PiC’s. Which you really should. But for one of the few places that’s actually known for cocktails, I think that’s a perfectly acceptable number. One side note: there is an antique gun shop that was the original home of Peychaud’s apothecary shop, where potentially the first cocktail was served. Unfortunately it was closed when we stopped by. But we were this close to a piece of bartending history, and I think that still counts!

And I will say, also, that even if you don’t drink, New Orleans was awesome. We will definitely be going back someday, and I totally understand why my brother has now been 5 times.

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