Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, Louisiana - Episode 1
On approaching the airport, we began our decent and we flew over the iconic Mississippi River and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was evident. After 26 hours of flying, a shuttle collected me from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, and I made my way to the Hotel Monteleone. The home of the Tales of the Cocktail and my humble abode for the duration of my stay, where I was working as a Cocktail Apprentice, aka CAP.
The Carousel Bar, renowned for the Vieux Carre Cocktail (invented in 1938, by head bartender Walter Bergeron) was my first stop and I met up with 3 other CAPpies from all over the US and Canada. After a couple of local brews, we headed to Pat O'Brien's, world renowned for its Hurricane Cocktail and Bloody Marys, where we scoffed down some deep fried alligator and of course fresh water shrimp. Then it settled in – we were just about in the middle of Nawlands (as announced by the locals) – the heart of American music, food and drink culture, and the birth place of some of the world's most iconic cocktails...
Getting matching tattoos of 'Grenades', another famed Bourbon Street cocktail, in awe of this new found realisation, seemed like the right thing to do at the time. And hey, when in Rome! It was Holly Caverley, bartender from Toronto, who thought it well to add the #NOLA.
Whilst I would like to share every single captured moment of the week to follow in this diary entry, the truth is, my week as a CAP was a stew of work-learning, closed door seminars, networking with industry legends and of course killer parties!! Oh and the occasional tipple or ten... Responsibly of course. Way too much to capture in one go... So I will break it up into 2, maybe 3 inserts. Let's see how it goes.
For the first entry, I wanted to share my must-visit bars during a stay in NOLA.
Old Absinthe House
On the corner of Bourbon Street and Bienville, the building was erected in 1806, originally for the purposes of a general grocer bartering in miscellaneous items, including tobacco and imported liquor. It wasn't until 1815 that the venue started to trade as a tippling palace under the pseudonym of "Aleix's Coffee House". In the early 1870s it was rechristened "The Absinthe Room" thanks to the inventive work of bartender, Cayetano Ferrer, who created the famous Absinthe House Frappe.
Must have cocktail: Sazerac
Arnaud's French 75 Bar
Situated at 813 Bienville Ave, Arnaud's Restaurant, known for their Creole cuisine, was founded in 1918. In 1979 after a renovation, the French 75 bar came into being and is today led by world renowned bartender, Chris Hannah. Originally a gentleman-only bar, today the bar focuses on premium spirits, quality cigars and the best damn French 75 you will ever have the privilege of tasting...
Must have cocktail: French 75
The building at 811 Conti, renovated into a drinking post in the 1950s, was originally built in the French Quarter of NOLA as a single standing family home. In the 1980s the late Jim Monaghan took over ownership of this Irish style watering hole, and after his passing in 2001, left the business to his bar manager and business partner (and current proprietors) affectionately known as Troy and Angie.
Must have cocktail: Irish Coffee
600 Bourbon Street – slap bang in the middle of all of the good wholesome fun that the French Quarter has to offer. The home of the inglorious HAND GRENADE cocktail, made famous through the New Orleans World Fair of 1984. I would like to promise you that this TIKI-looking bar serves the best Mai Tai and Planter's Punch on the face of this planet, but that would be a bit of an exaggeration... Just go there, have a Hand Grenade and listen to the live music while staring at all of the 'beachy' relics! You will have a blast!
Must have cocktail: Duhhhhh – Hand Grenade
And that's all from my diary for this time! Until next time, keep mixing!
The Travelling Bartender (Denzel Heath)