The 7 Best Cocktails in New Orleans and Where To Find Them

New Orleans Cocktails

New Orleans has a reputation for partying, which has been part of the city’s history since the French first founded it as a port city in the 1700s. Even during Prohibition, attempts to curb alcohol consumption faced significant challenges. Bootlegging and underground speakeasies thrived, earning New Orleans a nickname as the “alcohol capital of America.” Down with cocktails in New Orleans!

When Prohibition ended on April 13, 1933, by a decree from Congress legalizing 3.2% alcohol, 911 permits were issued to New Orleans within days. “New Orleans can have a jubilant legal whoopee party…the skyscrapers will be a-rocking and a-reeling before midnight,” said a local newspaper. Therefore, it’s understandable that even today, “The Big Easy” is a city that takes its booze seriously. It has been responsible for some of the most iconic cocktail creations in the world. 

NOLA’s Iconic Bourbon Street

Pubs and bars with neon lights in the French Quarter, New Orleans USA
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Bourbon Street is one of the most infamous strips in the French Quarter with its wall-to-wall bars and clubs. Chris Falvey, partner of Unique NOLA Tours, says, “While Bourbon Street is famous for many things, you’ll most certainly want to move a few blocks away to find the best cocktails � you can only do so many frozen, sugary, plain but strong concoctions.”

Depending on what type of experience you’re looking for, local real estate agent of French Quarter Realty and cocktail enthusiast Ed Shedlock says, “There are sophisticated establishments that offer civilized drinking in a classic setting.”

These are the best cocktails in New Orleans, including where to try them.

1 – The Sazerac at The Roosevelt New Orleans

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If the idea of an apothecary creating a concoction sounds intriguing, you’ll be pleased to know that’s how “the sazerac” stumbled into creation. Antoine Am�d�e Peychaud set up his dispensary in the French Quarter and was known for serving this blend of cognac, absinthe, sugar, and Peychaud’s bitters, creating a flavorful and aromatic drink.

In 2008, it was decreed as the official cocktail of New Orleans. 

2 – Hurricane at Pat O’Brein’s

Customers waiting outside Pat O'Briens in New Orleans.
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This tropical cocktail is made with rum, fruit juices, and grenadine. It’s known for its bright red color and sweet, fruity flavor. Like many cocktails, it’s sometimes difficult to taste the alcohol, but you will undoubtedly feel the effects.

The history surrounding the creation of this drink leads to Pat O’Briens. This iconic must-visit bar was officially opened in 1933 but ran unofficially before. In short, rum was abundant when other spirits were not after WWII, and this drink was created in response.

3 – Grasshopper Cocktail at Tujague’s

Grasshopper cocktail.
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Suppose you like your cocktails to resemble a desert. In that case, this is it. A “grasshopper cocktail” is a creamy, minty concoction made with green cr�me de menthe, white cr�me de cacao, and brandy.

In 1918, New Orleans bar Tujague’s entered this drink in a cocktail competition in New York. It came in second place but is definitely the number one drink at this historic Decatur Street bar. 

4 – The Vieux Carre at Hotel Monteleone’s

Hotel Monteleone has one of the best cocktails in New Orleans.
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The French Quarter is the tourist epicenter of New Orleans where all the fun happens. In French, it translates as “Vieux Carre.” The “vieux carre” cocktail was created in the French Quarter in 1938 and is a sophisticated drink blending whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters, resulting in a rich and complex taste.

The bar at the Hotel Monteleone is known as the Carousel Bar. It features a unique experience as it is built to resemble an antique carousel and turns as you sit and sip your drink.

5 – French 75 at Arnaud’s

One of the best cocktails in New Orleans is the French 75.
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A “French 75” is a sparkling cocktail featuring gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar, creating a refreshing and bubbly drink. It is said to have been made during WWI in Paris and gets its name from the French 75mm field gun. 

The bar at Arnaud’s is named for this classic cocktail. “This place is a snapshot in time,” says Ed Shedlock. “If you have never been to New Orleans and have an image in your mind of what a true cocktail bar in the French Quarter looks and feels like, then this is the place!”

Shedlock suggests this is the place to go if you only have a short time in the city. There’s also a free Mardi Gras Museum upstairs. 

6 – New Orleans’s Style Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House

Pimm's Cup cocktail.
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The “Pimm’s Cup” is a British-inspired cocktail using Pimm’s No. 1. Pimm’s No. 1 is an herbal liqueur mixed with lemonade and various fruits, delivering a light and fruity beverage. It is perfect for warm days.

While this drink was initially created in London in 1840, it received a French Quarter makeover in the 1940s from the Napoleon House bar with the addition of lemonade and a cucumber garnish. 

7 – Hand Grenade at The Tropical Isle Bar

Hand grenade cocktails can be found at Tropical Isle.
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The “hand grenade” is the signature drink of the Tropical Isle Bar on Bourbon Street. While the bar now has various locations, this cocktail began its journey at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans. It combines spirits such as gin, vodka, and rum with fruit liqueur, delivering a strong and refreshing punch. In 1992, the bar started serving it in a yard glass shaped like a grenade. 

Honorable Mentions

Colorful architecture in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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While the best places to experience these cocktails are where they were created, there are other places where you can also try them out. Tour company owner Chris Falvey says to try May Baily’s for a laid-back vibe or The Bombay Club for a higher-end experience.

“If you’re looking to add a cigar experience with great cocktails, try Cuban Creations Cigar Bar on Toulouse Street,” suggests Falvey. “And if you’re looking for something with a larger group, head on down to The Will & The Way.” Unique NOLA also offers a Llewd Spirits Tour if you want to sample a variety of New Orleans bars and drinks.

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