For a good drink, there’s no place like The Big Easy. New Orleans has a rich, intricate history of entwining stories around creole food, jazz, celebration, and multicultural heritage.
Talking about mixed drinks, the city has a special significance; some of the most famous cocktails were created here. And although once blotted out with the rise of modern concoctions, the old-school, classic cocktails of New Orleans inspiration are back in full effect.
Here are the ten most celebrated New Orleans cocktails and why you should try them today.
The Sazerac, perhaps the better-known New Orleans cocktail, is one of the oldest too. Legend says that an apothecary named Antoine Amédée Peychaud set up shop in the French Quarter in the 1830s and began selling a medicinal bitter to treat several maladies.
Like all nineteenth-century miracle tonics, the aromatic concoction proved itself more useful behind the bar than as a medicine.
50 ml Cognac
10 ml Absinthe
1 Sugar Cube
2 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Rinse a short glass with absinthe, add crushed ice, and set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients with ice and pour.
The name of this cocktail alone transports you to back to 1938, to the French Quarter during the good old days and makes you imagine Walter Bergeron, Hotel Monteleone’s head bartender, making his recent invention for you.
An adventurous combination of Rye Whiskey, Cognac, and Sweet Vermouth flavored by the French herb-scented Benedictine liquor makes this drink as sophisticated as the creations you see in modern bars today.
30 ml Rye Whiskey
30 ml Cognac
30 ml Sweet Vermouth
1 Bar Spoon Bénédictine
2 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Mix with ice and strain in a cocktail glass.
3. Ramos Gin Fizz
If you’re in the business, you know many classic cocktails look alike, and can be grouped in families, but not the Ramos Gin Fizz; it’s on its own category.
Henry Ramos developed this creamy, frothy drink in 1888, at Meyer’s Table d’Hôtel Internationale bar in New Orleans. One of those cocktails you have to see to believe, the original drink was shacked for twelve minutes by the entire staff taking turns to achieve its majestic frothiness, and a few folks down Bourbon Street still honor this tradition.
45 ml Gin
15 ml Fresh Lime Juice
15 ml Fresh Lemon Juice
30 ml Sugar Syrup
60 ml Cream
30ml Egg white
3 Dashes Orange Flower Water
2 Drops Vanilla Extract
Shake all the ingredients with ice except for the soda water and strain. Shake again without ice (dry shake) until foam forms. Serve over ice and top with soda.
4. Brandy Milk Punch
Creamy, frothy cocktails seem to be a New Orleans specialty because there’s more than the Ramos Fizz. There’s controversy about the origins of the Brandy Milk Punch since a version of it was around several years before it became a Bourbon Street staple.
Nevertheless, this milky-white cocktail is now part of the New Orleans cocktail history book as a shorter, less complicated, and not so labor-intensive version of the Ramos Fizz.
2 ounces brandy
1 ½ ounces heavy cream
1 ounce simple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg
Shake all the ingredients, pour over ice in a short glass, and top with grated nutmeg.
This Caribbean inspired drink was conceived in the 1940s in New Orleans before being ubiquitous in bars around the Caribbean islands. As the story goes, the post-prohibition era left a massive amount of cheap rum which was forced to bars by retailers around the country.
What the guys behind the Pat O'Brien Bar, in the French Quarter, did, was mixing the spirit with passion fruit syrup in a flashy, tall tulip glass, which would later be called a hurricane glass.
The result was a strong, but tasty drink that made history, and is now one of the most ordered cocktails in New Orleans, and the world.
2 oz. light rum
2 oz. dark rum
2 oz. passion fruit juice
1 oz. orange juice
½ oz. fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon simple syrup
1 tablespoon grenadine
Garnish: orange slice and cherry
6. Pimm’s Cup
Here’s an interesting one. Pimm’s is a gin-based, fruit-infused liquor developed by James Pimm in 1823 in England. The refreshing drink is still popular, especially in warm summer days, and it has been the go-to drink during the Wimbledon Tennis Open for decades.
It wasn’t until 100 years later that the owner of another French Quarter Bar in New Orleans took Pimm’s No.1 and mixed it with lemonade in a tall, refreshing drink reminiscent of summer. The Pimm’s Cup was born, and it’s today as popular as ever thanks to the rising trend of low-proof drinks.
1¼ oz. of Pimm’s No.1
Add 3 oz. of lemonade
Top off with Seven Up
Fill a tall glass with ice and build. Garnish with a cucumber slice.
7. Brandy Crusta
Like daisies and others, crustas used to be a family of cocktails, and have a special place in some of the oldest cocktail recipe books.
The base spirit can change, but it seems to be the maraschino liqueur and the thick sugar rim, which made them fit in the category.
Joseph Santini invented this rare cocktail in the Jewel of the South, New Orleans bar, in the 1950s and is a precursor of modern-day sours.
52,5 ml Brandy
7,5 ml Maraschino Luxardo
1 Bar Spoon Curacao
15 ml Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Bar Spoon Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Aromatic Bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a glass with a thick sugar rim. Garnish with a whole orange peel.
8. Café Brûlot
Jules Alciatore from Antoine’s Restaurant, in the French Quarter, is credited for making this fragrant coffee-based, flamed after-dinner drink in the late 1880s.
Warm coffee cocktails, in a very French-inspired after-dinner tradition, found a place in the New Orleans scene, especially in fine dining establishments like Antoine’s, a famed restaurant also credited for creating Oysters Rockefeller.
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
1 sugar cubes
2 whole cloves
1/4 stick cinnamon
1 oz brandy
1 oz orange liqueur
1/2 cups hot coffee
Heat all the ingredients in a pan except for the coffee. Flame tableside. Add coffee, strain, and serve.
Tujague's, the historical New Orleans bar and restaurant in the French Quarter claims to have devised this creamy and utterly delicious cocktail in 1918 in the hands of Philip Guichet, the restaurant’s owner.
Simple ingredients in equal proportions guarantee a concoction that’s as flavorful as it’s pretty. The light-green color and the aromatic combination of mint and chocolate is unbeatable, and the low alcohol by volume in the Grasshopper means it has a place in today’s classic cocktail lists.
20 ml Crème de Cacao (White)
20 ml Crème de Menthe (Green)
20 ml Fresh Cream
Shake with ice and pour in a stemmed coupe glass.
10. Absinthe Frappe
The Old Absinthe House, in Bourbon Street, obviously known for its absinthe concoctions, put together this refreshing recipe that adds a touch of minty freshness to the already aromatic wormwood spirit.
Cayetano Ferrer created this cocktail in 1874, forty years before the Green Fairy was banned in the States. Absinthe cocktails are making a huge comeback in the new golden era for the potent spirit.
1 1/2 oz. Absinthe
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. soda water
6–8 mint leaves
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and pour.
There’s more, but you must see it for yourself.