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New Orleans Drinking: 5 Famous Original Cocktails And Where To Try Them

New Orleans, LA

Commonly accepted by many as the city where the cocktail was invented, New Orleans has long been a hub for fine drinking and classic concoctions. In recent years, the cocktail renaissance has gained new footing as the city’s Southern hospitality, and a carefully crafted beverage, have been increasingly paired up by many New Orleans establishments and bars. Today, the traditional cocktails are a staple and there are a few you might not want to miss out on the next time you find yourself in New Orleans.

As the city’s traditional concoctions are only becoming more popular it can be helpful to learn a little more about their origins and history, and of course where to get them throughout the city, so you can try them all on your next visit.

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The Sazerac is the New Orleans classic cocktail, often thought of as the first cocktail to originate in the city. The cocktail is said to date back to 1838 New Orleans when a Creole apothecary mixed it up for his fellow Masons with the name coming from the creator’s favorite French brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge. Over the years the ingredients have changed slightly, but the recipe has remained much the same. The Sazerac requires a sugar cube, 1½ oz. Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon, ¼ oz. Herbsaint, 3 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters, and a lemon peel all in a chilled old-fashioned glass.

If you’d like to try a Sazerac the next time you’re in New Orleans, there are a few places that are known for making the experience great. In 2019, The Sazerac House was created as a dedication to the famous cocktail. Here you can learn about how the cocktail is a part of the traditions and culture of New Orleans, discover the methods used in distilling Sazerac Rye, and go on tours, see exhibits, and stop in for an exclusive tasting. If you only have time for a quick drink, other restaurants and bars around New Orleans are happy to make this classic cocktail. The Sazerac Restaurant, the Carousel Bar, and Hermes Bar at Antoine’s Restaurant are known to make these signature cocktails daily.

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Popular in the French Quarter with many of the visitors is the Hurricane, a sweet rum cocktail served with a cherry and orange slice on top. This cocktail was created during World War II at Pat O’Brien’s bar, an establishment you can still visit today to try this sweet red concoction. Typically, the Hurricane is served in a large cocktail glass that looks like a hurricane lamp, which is where the drink got its name. This cocktail is made with 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, and garnished with an orange slice and cherry.

As mentioned above, today you can visit Pat O’Brien’s bar and sip a Hurricane in the same place it was created decades ago. The courtyard provides a great atmosphere for first time Hurricane drinkers and gives a great view of their flaming fountain. If you want to mix it up a little, or you’re exploring New Orleans on a particularly hot day, a great option might be the frozen Hurricane varieties sold at drive-thru daiquiri stands (like Dat Dog and Tropical Isle) and within the French Market. But some other great places to try the original Hurricane are Old Absinthe House and Hot Tin Rooftop Bar.

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If you enjoy your drinks on the lighter side, then a Pimm’s Cup is the perfect New Orleans cocktail for you. Being a gin-based drink, this refreshing cocktail is low in alcohol and great for brunch or on a hot summer day. Originally created in London by James Pimm in the 1840s, the cocktail was given a New Orleans twist in the 1940s by the owner of the Napoleon House and became a staple of the city. A New Orleans’ Pimm’s Cup is created with 1¼ oz. of Pimm’s No.1, 3 oz. of lemonade, a top off of Seven Up, and garnished with cucumber in a tall 12 oz. glass of ice.

To try a New Orleans’ Pimm’s Cup today, many suggest starting where the drink originated at the Napoleon House. The establishment is a 200-year old landmark that is both casual and unique like its French Quarter surroundings, creating the perfect backdrop for experiencing a Pimm’s Cup. Many other bars and restaurants have this classic cocktail on their signature drink menu, though, including Bar Tonique, a friendly neighborhood cocktail bar, and the rustic and elegant Atchafalaya Restaurant.

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The Ramos Gin Fizz is a New Orleans cocktail made famous by Louisiana Governor Huey Long. First created in 1888 by Henry C. Ramos, this delicious, frothy cocktail requires 15 minutes of shaking by hand, but the end result is worth the wait for many. Made with 3 dashes of lemon juice, 2 dashes of lime juice, 3 dashes of orange flower water, 1 1/4 oz. of dry gin, 1/4 of the white of one egg, 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar, 3 oz. milk and garnished with a cherry and orange slice, this complex cocktail is something you might not want to miss in New Orleans.

The Roosevelt Hotel owns the original rights to the drink today and is a perfect place to taste test the Ramos Gin Fizz made from Ramos’ original recipe. You can also stop at the Carousel Bar & Lounge, where you’ll have some entertainment while waiting for your drink. Other places that create their own twist on the Ramos Gin Fizz are the French 75 and the Davenport Lounge.

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Often ordered alongside a brunch order, the Brandy Milk Punch is another New Orleans’ fan favorite you should try the next time you’re in the city. The Brandy Milk Punch cocktail wasn’t invented in New Orleans, but it is believed by many to have been perfected by Brennan’s, a famous brunch place and a popular place for trying the cocktail. Though the cocktail is associated with the holiday season and often considered a treat, you can try this concoction any day of the year. The recipe for this cocktail calls for 2 ounces of brandy, 1 cup of whole milk, 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar, 3 ice cubes, cracked ice and freshly grated nutmeg.

If you want to decide who perfected the Brandy Milk Punch on your own, you can stop at Brennan’s first for brunch and a cocktail before heading to some other great places and trying their take on the classic cocktail. Some other popular establishments that feature the Brandy Milk Punch are Commander’s Palace, Galatoire’s Restaurant, plus a vegan version at Cane & Table.

Content Writer and Social Media Coordinator. I paint, listen to music, and play with my dogs a lot. When I’m not doing all that, I love to read and try new things. 

Maeve Miller

Writer , River Travel Magazine