One of North America’s most unique and beloved cities, New Orleans is over three centuries old, and Louisiana’s largest city is full of captivating history, mystery, and folklore. Many a visitor comes to New Orleans with one thing in mind: enjoying the city’s famous nightlife, which ranges from the wickedly debauched to world-class entertainment. After all, this is the birthplace of jazz and cocktails.
While the internationally famous Bourbon Street continues to draw the biggest crowds, the majority of people coming through are curious onlookers, stressed conventioneers, and bachelor party groups. In other words, high-minded travelers looking for the best in nightlife, drinks, and music should look elsewhere. That’s not to say that the historic French Quarter, the gorgeous square neighborhood bisected by Bourbon Street, should be avoided. In fact, some of the city’s best nightlife can be enjoyed just a short walk, or stumble, away.
ARNAUD’S FRENCH 75 BAR
Barely a daiquiri’s throw from Bourbon Street, at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, white-tuxedoed bartenders artfully produce classic cocktails using locally sourced ingredients and homemade syrups, drams, and liqueurs. The bar, originally a gentlemen-only area, was built in the late 1800s, and the space is filled with vintage touches. The namesake cocktail here is made with cognac and not gin, as is the custom. (The bar makes around 250 French 75s nightly.) Be sure to poke your head out back and into Arnaud’s Restaurant, a Creole culinary institution dating back to 1918. And don’t leave without heading upstairs to peruse the incredible (and free) Mardi Gras Museum.
JEWEL OF THE SOUTH
For a more modern cocktail destination, head around the corner to Jewel of the South, a newcomer from one of the city’s most esteemed and decorated bartenders, Chris Hannah (formerly of the French 75 Bar). The bar gets its name from a Jewel of the South restaurant that was opened a few blocks away in 1855 by Joseph Santini, inventor of the Brandy Crusta—an influential (it was the first cocktail to incorporate fresh citrus juice) yet largely forgotten cocktail, which Hannah has resuscitated and made the bar’s signature drink. The handsome back bar, which was built in Wales in the mid-1800s, is housed in a Creole cottage dating back to the 1830s.