Everything You Need to Know Before Drinking in New Orleans

daiquiri sign new orleans

If you’re heading to New Orleans for this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, we’ve got you covered with a guide to just about everything you need to know before you head to the Big Easy, from a freshly updated guide to the best places to drink in NOLA to an ode to the frozen daiquiri to an account of what it’s like to sit at one of the city’s dive bars for a full 24 hours. Without further ado:

  • 1

    Diary of a 24-Hour Dive Bar

    It’s 10 a.m., and Spider is sweeping cigarette butts from the floor with all the finesse of a waiter cleaning up crumbs between courses at Le Veau d’Or. A scruffy, waiflike man who bears a startling resemblances to the broom with which he’s sweeping, Spider hollers through the empty bar, spittle flying in the morning light, “They just throw ‘em on the floor—don’t care a thing for ‘ol Spider! No damn respect.”

    The mid-morning sun is cracking through the front window of Brothers III, where I’m anchored at the bar spinning one of the perfectly clean ashtrays with my index finger. In a world so saturated with craft …

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  • 2

    Bali H’ai to Bourbon Street and Back: NOLA’s Tiki Love Affair

    My favorite toy as a child was a tiki god sculpture made out of coal.

    My grandfather, a coalminer in Eastern Kentucky, had received the statuette as a gift while working for a company that named all their mines after tiki gods—Martiki, Pontiki, Toptiki.

    “They named them that for good luck, so nothing bad would happen,” he surmised. Why else would tiki culture show up in the middle of Appalachia?

    The tiki god was a catalyst for delving further into a wormhole of splashy, campy tiki treasures. I swooned over Elvis’s gyrating hips in Blue Hawaii, plucked on my grandfather’s ukulele and hornswoggled neighborhood …

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  • 3

    The Only Bar In New Orleans

    In New Orleans’ ever-changing Marigny-Bywater neighborhood, Kajun’s Pub doesn’t immediately stand out. It lacks the newness of the shiny oyster bar down the street within historic (and just restored) St. Roch Market. Its drinks aren’t objects of lust and lore like Bachannal’s wines or Oxalis’ whiskey offerings.

    But there was a time when Kajun’s—this seemingly nondescript, painted brick dive on the west end of St. Claude Avenue—felt like the only bar in the entire city.

    Ten years ago on August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit. Soon the federal levees failed, and chaos ensued throughout New Orleans. At the time, …

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  • 4

    Rap, Immortality & the Frozen Daiquiri

    The bright pink building that is Gene’s Curbside Daiquiris appears almost otherworldly situated on Elysian Fields, a street named after the ancient Greek concept of the paradise heroes venture to in the afterlife. Squinting and hazy, I swing open the door to a blow of ear-piercing squeals from stainless-steel daiquiri machines that foreshadow the ringing, premeditated hangover I know is coming. It’s a little after 10 a.m. on a Saturday and I’m still gaining my composure after last night’s adventures.

    Overwhelmed by where to start, Gene’s employee Kelly Gaus guides me through the frozen offerings: “You can taste as …

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  • 5

    The Grand Dames of New Orleans Drinking

    Three untouched cocktails rest on the custom chef’s bar at SoBou in New Orleans as Ti Martin and Lally Brennan are telling stories that rapidly pinball between seemingly disparate topics. Ti is reminiscing about closing down The Dead Rabbit in New York City on a recent trip. It somehow ends in detailed directions for finding a local NOLA store selling vintage cocktail glassware.

    “This is called ‘taking detours,’” says Lally of their whirlwind storytelling style. “We start one story and it leads into another…” She’s barely finished before Ti bursts in with a welcome, “Somebody try a drink, dammit!”

    Ti, dressed …

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  • 6

    Blues, Booze and Red Beans: Monday Night in New Orleans

    My commitment to the sanctity of free bar food runs deep. I’ve downed my fair share of traditional snacks—popcorn, Chex Mix and the occasional wasabi pea—at bars across the country, thoroughly enjoying their bite-sized, poppable nature (even when they are a little bit stale). I’ve patronized the enterprising food trucks that swarm in front of bars lacking culinary options, and once even briefly operated an “after school special” themed pop-up of my own called Snack Time off of a pool table in the back room of a dive bar. 

    My two-night-only effort as a renegade barroom chef allowed me to sit briefly in the thick of …

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  • 7

    A Modern Proto-Tiki Mecca in New Orleans

    Cane & Table might be the new kid on the block in New Orleans’ French Quarter, but unlike other shiny new cocktail alcoves, the bar feels as if it’s been woven into the fabric of the city for centuries. And while it’s dressed with a disheveled-chic ambiance with a menu that nods to history, the latest bar from the team behind Cure and Bellocq also brings a fresh perspective to the city’s rich and eclectic drinking narrative.

    New Orleans is a melting pot of cultures, cuisines, ethnicities and music, and the era that Cane & Table digs into—the 18th and 19th centuries, specifically—is the root of this reputation in …

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  • 8

    Rolling with the Wine Krewe at Mardi Gras

    “406, my girl, 406!”  Patrick van Hoorebeek, King for Life of the Krewe of Cork—one of the many walking krewes during New Orleans’s Carnival season—is gesturing wildly, wielding his three-gallon, mirrored goblet like a weapon. “In the year 406 B.C., Euripides said, ‘Without wine, there is no joy!’ That’s why our Krewe of Cork will never have any more than 406 members!” His voice lifts at the end in a sort of “heave-ho!” rallying cry, as if calling his small army of wine worshippers to the front lines of battle.

    It’s a gloriously sunny Friday morning two weeks out from Mardi Gras and the krewe is gathering in the …

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  • 9

    Louisiana’s Most Polarizing Bar Snack

    Every city has its own special flavor of homegrown hip-hop, whether it’s tag teams of teens hocking tapes in a Walgreens parking lot or local legends blanketing the town with freshly inked flyers for an upcoming house party.

    More than most cities, New Orleans has a storied history of these neighborhood rap heroes cresting into the national spotlight. Culinary and drinking references abound in the lyrics of New Orleans-bred rappers—even Lil’ Wayne returns to his edible roots from time to time, growling in a recent guest spot, “Damn where you stumble at? From where they make gumbo at?”

    Pound for pound, my favorite …

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