Big Easy Boozing: The Insider’s Guide to Drinking in New Orleans

best bars in new orleans barrel proof exterior at night  by rush jagoe

One of the biggest cocktail conferences in the country, Tales of The Cocktail, is taking place this week in New Orleans. TOTC is a four-day wonderland for spirits professionals, enthusiasts, and anyone who has ever had the chance to get good and drunk on a great cocktail or four.

In order to help those going to the Big Easy—or anyone getting ready for Mardi Gras already (we commend you for being prepared!)—we sat down with some of the top bartenders in the Crescent City to see where they go drinking when they go out on the town. Check out their picks and sidle up next to the locals next time you’re in town.

Darrin Ylisto, Bar Manager, Sylvain

  1. Vic’s Kangaroo Cafe

“Yes, it’s owned by an old Australian dude who lives upstairs with his wife.  This is THE Warehouse District service-industry bar, and has been for a long, long time.  Nothing really ever changes here.  I used to go there every night after work when I was in the neighborhood, and a lot of my friends still do.  The best times are from midnight until they close, usually at 4 or 5 in the morning, depending on the night.  Above the bar hang a dozen or more national flags, including a Finnish flag I hung there almost 10 years ago.”

  1. Milan Lounge

“Easily the best under-the-radar bar in Uptown New Orleans, even though it’s been there for seemingly ever.  Just a half block of Prytania St. just uptown of Touro Hospitals, it still has a buzzer on the door, cheap prices, dart leagues, and a following of Chicago Cubs fans in the summer.  The neighborhood has gone totally posh, but this place survives in all it’s dive glory (minus the smoking).”

  1. Homedale Inn

“This is a neighborhood/dive bar in the otherwise suburban-ish neighborhood of Lakeview, wedged in between the west side of City Park, the I-10 and the 610 interstates.  It’s a very big Saints bar during the season.”

Jeff Grdinich, Bar Manager and GM, Angeline

  1. Mimi’s in the Marigny

“Comfortable & friendly – let them do it their way & just enjoy it. A decent beer or some straightforward wine to go with surprisingly consistently delicious food. Trust me…ask the bar staff upstairs about it.”

  1. Bacchanal

“Bacchanal was one of the places I was taken to on my first proper tour of this city & one of the reasons I live here. The quintessential New Orleans experience of honest & superb food paired with the best wine selection in the city & the comfort of your own backyard with your own band. Ask Uznea for her wine picks & raise a glass to toast what Chris established here to keep NOLA truly alive after ‘05.”

  1. Three Muses

“Get KPB to mix you a drink while you take in the music in this oasis from Frenchmen St. chaos.”

  1. Orange Couch & Satsuma

“When it’s not alcohol, I like to relax at neighborhood coffee cafes with a well-done espresso & a Mochi or a glass of restorative juice so you can get back to Mimi’s in fine form.”

Related: How to Make the Perfect Manhattan

Liam Deegan, Co-owner and bar manager, Barrel Proof

  1. The Saint

“It’s an awesome dive, with great bartenders and it’s always fun.”

  1. Cure

“Some of the best cocktails and bartenders in New Orleans or the country for that matter.  Great spirit selection, and their country ham plate rules.”

  1. Erin Rose

“Always on my list for anyone visiting New Orleans. Irish Coffees, beers and shots.”

  1. Bacchanal

“Relaxing and truly New Orleans.”

Christopher Brian, Bar Curator, Meauxbar

  1. Black Penny

“Black Penny has, by far, best industry after hours and best canned beer list in the city.”

  1. Cosimos

“A local favorite with a fun atmosphere”

  1. Mimi’s in the Marigny

“Where else will you get Tapas after 1.”

  1. Molly’s on the Market

“The best place for cheap booze and great live, local music.”

Max Messier, Cocktail & Sons

  1. Barrel Proof

“Go see Thomas Thompson or Liam for the best whiskey selection in NOLA.”

  1. Avenue Pub

“Amazing beer selection.”

Scot Mason, El Guapo Bitters

  1.  Crown & Anchor English Pub

Just a quick ferry ride across the river from the base of Canal St. And while on the ferry you get the best views in the city. The neighborhood is free from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter with lovely New Orleans architecture. When you walk into the pub you are welcomed by the neighborhood regulars. Pints are proper sized (bigger than usual) and the traditional British versions of cocktails like the Proper Gin and Tonic and Pimm’s Cup will refresh you on a hot day.

Lauren Myerscough, Beverage Program Director, Press Street Station

  1. High Hat Cafe

“Technically, this is a restaurant. But their bar program is amazing. The homemade amaro alone makes it worth the trip across town. Plus they have great pie, and who doesn’t want pie when you’re drinking?”

  1. Mimi’s in the Marigny

“Unpretentious and friendly with consistently great food and a jukebox. I’ve been coming here after work for years, and they’ve never disappointed me.”

  1. Revel

“I can sit at Chris McMillian’s bar forever and listen to him talk about history and cocktails. Also he has some great food to soak up the booze from all of those cocktails you’ll want to try.”

  1. Pal’s

“Solid neighborhood bar with great bartenders. Plus their go cups are handy the next morning to bring your coffee with you in the car.”

  1. Barrel Proof

“A killer whiskey and beer program with a great happy hour and knowledgeable bartenders. I mean, their shot and a beer menu is called the Passport to Drunkenness. You can’t beat that with a stick.”

(Photo credit: Rush Jagoe)

Updated 7/18/2016