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Posted 31 Jul, 2021 | No comments
Posted in: Cuisine, United States of America

There’s perhaps no city in the US that knows how to party quite like New Orleans. Now I know New York can throw it down, and I realize they call Las Vegas Sin City for a reason, but you just can’t beat the Big Easy when it comes to nightlife.

There are so many awesome cocktail bars in New Orleans that you could go out every night for a year and not have a single repeat.

Think I’m joking?

As of the last count, New Orleans has the highest amount of bars per capita in the country!

In the French Quarter – and especially on Bourbon Street – it seems as if every other establishment is a bar. With so many choices, how do you choose where to wet their whistle?!

I’ve been to NOLA a few times now, and I spent a vast majority of my trips there bar-hopping with friends.

In one weekend, I managed to hit a swanky hotel rooftop bar, a heavy metal joint, and one of those New Orleans Bourbon Street bars where cocktails come in giant plastic tubes.

While the memories may be a tad bit fuzzy, rest assured I did proper research for this one!

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Easy and are wondering where to grab a drink, read on for a look at some of the best cocktial bars in New Orleans.

I’ve actually included some variety in this article to appease beer and wine drinkers as well — so there should be something for everyone in this guide. 

best new orleans bars live music

Here’s my list of the best 10 cocktail bars in New Orleans (+ a couple of wine and beer spots).

Introduction to New Orleans Bars

Bars in New Orleans run the gamut from grungy dive bars to classy cocktail lounges. The city has secret speakeasies, craft breweries, fancy wine bars, and everything in between.

Whether you’re looking for a casual night out or you want to end up dancing on tables, there’s a bar for you here.

One interesting thing about New Orleans bars is that they can stay open 24/7. The phrase “last call” might as well be in a foreign language here! Oh yeah, and did I mention that you can take your drinks to go here as well?

New Orleans is one of very few places in the US that has no open container laws. Just make sure you’re not drinking out of glass on the street and you’re good to go!

Another really cool thing about the bars in New Orleans is that you can try several cocktails in the very bar where they were invented.

It’s pretty amazing to pull up a stool at a bar that’s hundreds of years old and try a famous cocktail in its birthplace. Be sure to check out this post on New Orleans cocktails so you can familiarize yourself with the city’s most popular adult beverages.

It’s always a good idea to put some food in your belly before a big night out, and there’s plenty to eat in this foodie haven. Speaking of food, be sure to bookmark this post on the best New Orleans food to try when you’re in town. 

Alright, let’s get this party started. There are so many awesome cocktail bars in New Orleans bars that it’s near impossible compiling a definitive “best of list,” but I sure tried.

1. Sazerac Bar

  • Must-Try: A Sazerac, of course! 
  • Prices: $7-8 for beer, $9-18 for wine, $12-21 for cocktails (a Sazerac is $18)
  • Hours: Friday – Sunday from noon – 11 pm. Monday – Thursday from 4 – 10 pm
  • Location: 130 Roosevelt Way (in the Roosevelt Hotel)

Our tour of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans begins at Sazerac.

There’s a lot of history at this place, as it’s named after what some consider to be the first real cocktail. The classic Sazerac dates back to the 1830s, and it’s been a go-to cocktail for New Orleanians ever since.

best bars in new orleans sazerac bar

Legendary former governor of Louisiana Huey Long used to hang out here, Ramos Gin Fizz in hand, chatting it up with his constituents. These days, you’ll find a mix of locals and tourists, who flock here to enjoy their creative cocktails. 

The Sazerac is definitely one of the classiest of the many New Orleans cocktail bars.

Recent renovations here uncovered some 1930s murals by painter Paul Ninas, which you can admire while sitting on one of their elegant bar stools. It’s especially lovely here in December when the hotel lobby transforms into a veritable winter wonderland. 

2. The Carousel Bar & Lounge

  • Must-Try: The Vieux Carre is the signature drink here; the Fleur de Lis was also created here
  • Prices: $12-15 for cocktails
  • Hours: 7 days a week from noon – 12
  • Location: 214 Royal Street (inside the Monteleone Hotel)

One of the most quintessential New Orleans bars is definitely the Carousel.

In case you’re wondering, that’s not just a clever name — the bar is an actual, fully functional carousel here. Thankfully they replaced the animals with proper bar stools, so you don’t need to straddle a horse to get a drink here.

While the thought of drinking while spinning around in circles may seem nauseating, rest assured that it’s a pleasant experience.

The carousel takes about 15 minutes to make a rotation, so you’ll barely even notice it. You’ll be too busy chatting it up with the expert mixologists here and trying their classic cocktails. 

Fun fact, the famous Vieux Carre cocktail was actually invented here!

Sip on one of these as you enjoy the sounds of some live jazz, as they usually have live music from Wednesday to Saturday. It’s often crowded, but it’s worth the wait to have this classic New Orleans drinking experience. Find out about their daily events here.

3. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar & Shop

  • Must-Try: Frozen daiquiris are popular here, but most just drink standard cocktails or beers
  • Prices: $5 and up for everything
  • Hours: 7 days a week from 10AM-3AM
  • Location: 941 Bourbon Street

It’s not every day that you get to drink in a bar that’s 300 years old. That’s precisely what you can do at Lafitte’s Blacksmith, which tops the list of oldest bars in New Orleans. It’s actually said to be the oldest building used as a bar in the country!

laffittes blacksmith bar new orleans bars

This historic bar is named after Jean Lafitte, a 19th-century French pirate.

It’s said that he once hid out here when he needed a safe place to smuggle his pirated goods. Whether or not that’s true, he would most likely approve of the cheap, strong drinks that they pour here.

While this bar is in fact located on Bourbon Street, it’s pretty far removed from the chaos.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of New Orleans Bourbon Street bars, but this one is a winner. It’s candle-lit and one of the very few piano bars in the city, making for a very fun atmosphere. 

4. Courtyard Brewery

  • Must-Try: Beer – they have over 30 beers on tap here
  • Prices: $3 and up
  • Hours: Friday – Sunday from 11am – 1am. Monday – Thursday from 4pm – 12am
  • Location: 1020 Erato Street

When most people think of New Orleans bars, they picture people slamming down sugary Hurricane drinks and mass-produced beers. While there’s certainly plenty of that going on, the city is also home to a burgeoning craft beer scene.

One of the best bars in New Orleans to get your hop fix is Courtyard Brewery.

They have an impressive selection of draft beer that’s made in-house as well as quite a few guest taps. Whether you fancy an IPA, stout, or sour, they’ve got a brew for you here.

They don’t have a restaurant, but they do host rotating food trucks for when you need something to soak up the booze. Courtyard also hosts an annual craft beer and food festival called Hopfest, so you might want to check that out if you’re in town at the same time.

New Orleans is famous for its epic festivals and events, don’t miss this one.

5. Arnaud’s French 75 Bar

  • Must-Try: The French 75 (a mix of champagne and cognac)
  • Prices: Cocktails from $12.50-14
  • Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 5:30pm – 10:30pm. Sunday from 10:30am – 1am. 
  • Location: 813 Bienville Street

Not only is this one of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans, but Esquire Magazine named French 75 one of the top five bars in the country.

Originally a “gentlemen only” place, these days everyone can enjoy this classy bar. This is the kind of place where the servers wear tuxedos, so you may want to dress up a bit for this one.

The current incarnation of this legendary NOLA drinking establishment focuses on making classic cocktails with premium spirits. As the name would suggest, the French 75 is their signature drink. There are lots of other excellent options on the menu, though.

Even if you don’t plan to have dinner at the restaurant next door, you can still enjoy some of the food. From 6-10PM, the bar serves a varied snack menu featuring oysters en brochette, cheese puffs stuffed with prosciutto, and much more. 

After all this drinking, you might be ready to do something outside of a bar! Don’t miss these popular swamp tours in New Orleans.

6. Bacchanal Wine

  • Must-Try: Wine and cheese! Take your pick from countless varieties.
  • Prices: Very reasonable (retail prices for wine)
  • Hours: Friday – Sunday from noon – 11pm. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 5 – 10pm
  • Location: 600 Poland Ave

After sampling so many cocktails, maybe it’s time to switch to a wine bar. 

Wine lovers will absolutely love Bacchanal, which bills itself as the city’s “backyard party.” The city shut them down due to a lack of permits, but thanks to local support they managed to bring their wine-fueled shindigs back to the city’s Bywater district.

At first glance, Bacchanal doesn’t look like much. From the outside, it just looks like a regular old storefront.

baccanel wine house in new orleans

Head in and purchase a bottle of wine (at retail price!) and then head out into their lovely courtyard where there’s live music seven days a week (weather permitting). As it’s in the Bywater, you’ll find way more locals than boozed-up tourists here.

One reason that Bacchanal is definitely one of the top New Orleans bars is that they do a bi-weekly free wine tasting. These happen on Wednesday from 1-3PM and Saturday from 3-5. Oh yeah, and it was even featured on the HBO series Treme! How cool is that?

I’m not a huge wine drinker, but even I can admit that Bacchanal is one of the coolest New Orleans bars around.

7. Pat O’Brien’s

  • Must-Try: The Hurricane cocktail is the signature drink here
  • Prices: $6-8.50 for their cocktails (Hurricanes cost $8.50)
  • Hours: Wednesday – Monday from 12pm – 12am 
  • Location: 718 St. Peter

The Hurricane is one of the most famous New Orleans cocktails, and you can try one in the very bar where it was created!

As the story goes, the owner of Pat O’Brien’s once found himself with an excess of rum. At the time, distributors made bar owners buy vast quantities of rum before they would sell them more desirable liquors like bourbon. 

In an effort to get rid of this abundance of rum, he mixed it in with passion fruit syrup and lime juice.

He poured the new concoction into a glass that resembled a hurricane lamp, and the rest is history. While most New Orleans bars serve Hurricanes, you’ve got to try one in the original spot where it was made.

Pat O’Brien’s is actually three bars in one.

There’s the main bar where you can catch sporting events on TV, the patio centered around their famous “Flaming Fountain,” and even a dueling piano lounge. This place is fun any day of the week, but it’s especially lively on St. Patrick’s Day.

8. Napoleon House

  • Must-Try: They’re famous for their Pimm’s Cup (gin, lemonade & 7-up)
  • Prices: $4.50-7 beer, $7-12 for wine & cocktails 
  • Hours: Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday from 11am – 9pm. Friday and Saturday 11am – 10 pm. 
  • Location: 500 Charles Street

One of the oldest bars in New Orleans is the famous Napoleon House.

napolean house best new orleans bars

This historic building dates back over 200 years. Back in those days, then-mayor Nicholas Girod was living here. He offered the house to none other than Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile. 

Actually, Napoleon never made it, but his name did. The bar has been here since 1914, and it feels as if time stood still here. Find out more about the cocktail bar’s history here

With its peeling walls, multiple paintings of Napoleon, and classical music playing, it feels like stepping back in time. You’ll often hear Beethoven’s Eroica, which was actually composed for Napoleon. 

There’s no way to top the description of Napoleon House than what they have on their website: “exudes a European charm that is a mecca for civilized drinking and eating.”

Order up a Pimm’s Cup and a classic Muffuletta and settle in for an evening at one of the best bars in New Orleans.

9. 21st Amendment Bar at La Louisiane

  • Must-Try: The La Louisiane is their signature cocktail (rye, vermouth, bitters)
  • Prices: cocktails are $13
  • Hours: Thursday – Saturday from 4pm – 11pm
  • Location: 725 Iberville Street

For those who flunked (or never took) American History, the 21st Amendment officially repealed Prohibition and made the consumption of alcohol legal again.

When he signed it, President Franklin Roosevelt exclaimed, “What America needs now is a drink!” With the stroke of a pen, he did away with one of the least popular amendments in American history.

The 21st Amendment Bar is a tribute to the Prohibition era when underground speakeasies flourished and mobsters ran the alcohol trade.

Look around the bar and you’ll spot pictures of many of them. As a matter of fact, the place was actually run by mobsters for many years when it was a hotel & restaurant.

These days, 21st Amendment is a popular hangout for both locals and tourists alike.

They mix up hand-crafted cocktails here and there’s live music every day of the week. Be sure to check their calendar to see what’s playing and add 21st Amendment Bar to your list of must-visit New Orleans cocktail bars.

10. Espíritu Mezcal Bar

  • Must-Try: It’s all things Mezcal here! Try the Mezcal with cucumber, or the Mezcal Mule
  • Prices: cocktails are from $9
  • Hours: Tuesday – Thursday from 11:30am – 9pm. Friday 11:30am – 10pm. Saturday 4pm – 10pm
  • Location: 520 Capdeville St.

If you’re craving a bit of Mexico in New Orleans, Espíritu is the place to go. Sustainably sourced mezcal and fantastic Mexican cuisine are on the menu here. 

Whether it’s National Tequila Day or just “Tasting Thursdays”, there’s always something fun going on at this cocktail bar in New Orleans. Visit Espíritu and learn about smoky mezcal, while dining on yummy tacos, tortas, ceviche and guacamole. 

Mezcal has become a popular drink over the past few years, don’t miss the signature cocktails which include Mezcal with cucumbers, peppers, and lime, or Mezcal with lemon, mint, and basil. Salud! 

Bonus! Snake & Jake’s 

  • Must Try: Cheap beers and standard cocktails are tops here
  • Prices: $2-4 for beer, $5 and up for wine, $4-6 for cocktails
  • Hours: 7 days a week from 7pm – 7am
  • Location: 7612 Oak Street

No list of New Orleans bars would be complete without the city’s most infamous dive. It’s Christmas year-round at Snake & Jake’s, as they’re like your neighbors who never take the lights down. 

This is often called the “diviest of dive bars,” and that’s a pretty fitting description for this late-night haunt.

From the street, it looks like the kind of place your mom told you never to frequent. Inside, however, you’ll find jovial bartenders and a few furry friends roaming about. You’ll also find some of the cheapest drinks in town, especially during their nightly Happy Hour from 7-10.

On your bucket-list of booze-fueled things to do in New Orleans, you should definitely add a nightcap at Snake & Jake’s. They stay open until 7am, which always makes for an entertaining scene. 

Ready to Hit The New Orleans Cocktail Bars?

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to party after getting through this post! It really is amazing just how many unique New Orleans cocktail bars (and wine and beer joints) there are.

Once you get past the tourist traps pouring cheap, excessively sugary drinks, there’s an abundance of excellent drinking establishments in the Big Easy.

Just think about all the history behind the walls of these bars in New Orleans. Where else in the world can you drink at a place named after Napoleon and another one named after a 19th-century French pirate? Or try famous cocktails right where they were created? 

The variety of bars in New Orleans is quite impressive as well.

With a few nights in the city, you can experience a bacchanal backyard party, sample some of the city’s finest craft beers, and sip on a historic cocktail while riding a carousel. And that’s only just the beginning.

There are so many fantastic New Orleans cocktail bars that couldn’t fit into this condensed list. 

If you’ve been out in the Big Easy and have a recommendation for a great bar or two, drop a comment below and let us know about it!

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Sasha is a regular contributor to Goats On The Road where he shares his advice as a full-time traveler and digital nomad. In particular, Sasha is an expert in travelling the United States, Mexico and Thailand. He’s also an online English teacher and a video producer. In fact, he studied video production at Michigan State University. He and his wife Rachel share their adventures on their website, Grateful Gypsies.

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