New Orleans is a bastion for spectacular cocktails and home to several iconic drinks. While many venues on Bourbon Street are known for a non-stop party atmosphere and tall, potent libations, several establishments in the French Quarter and throughout the city retain Louisiana's classic charm and focus instead on well-crafted classic and modern cocktails.
From hot spots that serve up a fantastic Sazerac to Pat O'Brien's hurricane and the revival of the three-martini lunch, the influence of the New Orleans cocktail scene cannot be understated. One of the first chronicles of its impact was Stanley Cliby Arthur's 1937 book, "Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em," which includes the legend that a word used by "the French-speaking people of Old New Orleans" may have led to the word cocktail.
Professional bartenders and mixologists continue that legacy, and New Orleans hosts the annual Tales of the Cocktail event every summer. The city is also the birthplace of a few spirited elixirs, including Southern Comfort and Peychaud's Bitters. And while Germany's Jägermeister may be one of the hottest spirits in the city today, among the classic recipes, you'll find plenty of brandy, gin, rum, and whiskey among the historic recipes.
Whether you're celebrating Mardi Gras anywhere in the world or simply want a great drink any day of the year, New Orleans' most famous cocktails are sure to please. And, despite their esteem, they're all relatively easy drinks to mix up at home.
01 of 07
While the popular tale is that Antoine Amedée Peychaud first created a cognac-based Sazerac in the 1850s, cocktail historians question that account (along with the claim that rye whiskey took over in 1873). The recipe was first documented in print in 1899, and by the turn of the century, had gained notoriety across the U.S. Seen today as one of the greatest whiskey drinks created, it's a simple formula of rye whiskey, Peychaud's Bitters, absinthe, a sugar cube, and a lemon twist. However, it's the process of making it that makes this one magical.
02 of 07
New Orleans Fizz
The late 1890s saw the birth of the New Orleans Fizz. Also called the Ramos Gin Fizz (named after its creator, legendary bartender Henry C. Ramos), it's a lively, creamy cocktail. Also a staple of Mardi Gras, Ramos's saloon famously had a crew of "shaker boys" aiding bartenders to keep up with demand. The keys to this fizzy egg white cocktail are orange flower water and dry shaking it vigorously to produce that luscious foam.
03 of 07
Vieux Carré Cocktail
Flash forward to the 1930s at New Orleans' Hotel Monteleone to the creation of the Vieux Carré. Developed by bartender Walter Bergeron, it's another recipe that showcases the city's love for rye whiskey and cognac. The spirits come together in spectacular fashion when accented by two types of bitters, sweet vermouth, and a touch of Bénédictine.
04 of 07
The forefather to the boozy fruit punches that are so prevalent on Bourbon Street, the hurricane is a well-crafted and delicious drink. The recipe is credited to bartender Louis Culligan of Pat O'Brien's bar during World War II and is one of the few to feature passion fruit. Sweetened with grenadine and simple syrup, this rum-filled cocktail is fun, though it's easy to have one too many.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Brandy Milk Punch
New Orleans bartenders are not responsible for all of the city's renowned drinks. A few were adopted from other areas but quickly became a local favorite, and the brandy milk punch is one of those. This creamy recipe comes from the 1860s, though its origins likely date to the 1700s. Famously served for brunch at Brennan's restaurant with brandy alone, you can add rum and egg white for a slightly more complex mix and enjoy it on the rocks or up.
06 of 07
When in New Orleans, stop by Tujague's Restaurant for a grasshopper. It's disputed as to whether that's where it was created, but the 1918 recipe remains a signature drink of the French Quarter establishment. Definitely unique among the city's cocktail scene, it's a creamy mint-chocolate delight that's fabulous for dessert. Making it at home requires just three ingredients, and you can add that New Orleans touch with a shot of cognac.
07 of 07
Martinis are not a New Orleans original, though the city's restaurants still promote the 25-cent, three-martini lunch. Popular for business meetings from the 1940s to '60s, at places like Commander's Palace and Antoine's Restaurant, you can still enjoy a mid-day round of gin or vodka martnis. The prices are incredibly low by today's cocktail standards, and, like most classic cocktails, they're kept short because they're made entirely of alcohol. Keep it that way when making them at home, and use top-shelf spirits so you can enjoy every sip.