It’s easy to assume New Orleans’ cocktail culture is caught in a time warp; a place where the same old dive bars are uninspiredly boshing-out the same old concoctions tourists travel for and flounder over. These – once relevant – cocktails have become like photocopies of photocopies, and have eventually subsided into irrelevant, overly sweet, and under-complicated gestures of drinks that are far from the original’s intention. Short comings as such are of course magnified when the ocean of industry big-wigs, cocktail chin-strokers, and enthusiastic bar folk arrive in town to fill New Orleans’ hotels, Airbnb rentals, and couches for one week in July during Tales of the Cocktail.
Most visitors don’t leave the legendary six-or-so square block of hedonism that is the French Quarter. But with such shallow investigation to the cocktail scene, it’s easy to assume the mass of cocktails in New Orleans are lousy. However, this is not the case but it means New Orleans needs to be navigated with care. The unlearned needs a guide to be enlightened.
Ideally you would know someone like Ricky Gomez. As a Big Easy native and former World Class USA Champion, Ricky is the perfect guide for showing me around his city. I met him when we competed and BFF’ed back in the global World Class finals held in Rio De Janeiro, 2012. Ricky is the sort of guy that is generally right when it comes to suggesting delicious. I say generally right, as he is the same guy that attempted to sway my opinion on the matter of broiled oysters (Google them). But nobody’s perfect.
Ricky recently donated his two cents to an article featured on makeitworldclass.com, which highlighted the places locals eat and drink in the Mardi Gras city. I met up with him recently in his home town to get a deeper insight as to what to see, do, eat and drink whilst in New Orleans, without coming away from the experience pessimistic.
After a couple of nights spent with Ricky over opinionated debates, live music, cocktails, cake, and not a single broiled oyster, I’ve come up with a list of must-do zingers for your consideration and consumption.
The Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel –
Historically famous for popularising two of New Orleans most famous drinks; the Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz. The latter, a cocktail which due to its protracted methodology, generally earns a customer a raised eyebrow of fury from the bartender when ordered, is quite the contrary when ordered in this stunning hotel bar. Its request is always met with optimism, enthusiasm, and a balanced result. Skip the Grasshopper at Tujague’s and get your dairy-cocktail fix from this NOLA icon instead.
Latitude 29 –
Tiki gets a pretty bad wrap from ‘serious’ cocktails bars. Over-the-top garnishes, two-dimensional flavour profiles, and inappropriate amounts of fire generally are the chief point of contention. Latitude 29, owned by the doyen of modern Tiki Beachbum Berry, unashamedly has all of that. The difference is that it’s done really well. Latitude 29 is not only a place to get a delicious take on a Junglebird, but it also boasts a helluva’ collection of tiki literature and memorabilia. I’m a self-confessed tiki-sceptic, but I loved it. You can safely skip the Hurricane at Pat O Brien’s and rather bee-line it for a Passionfruit Bee’s Knees at Latutide 29.