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Mixologist Claire Smith on Her Favorite New Orleans Watering Holes

Claire Smith at Friday's Belvedere Pool Party

Belvedere's head mixologist Claire Smith held court last Friday at the Omni Royal's rooftop pool, the scene of one of Tales of the Cocktail's more laid-back events?a lemon tea pool party, complete with inflatable beach balls and unfortunately shirtless revelers. Between helping bartenders fill and refill guests' rapidly emptying cocktail glasses, Smith sat down with Eater to share her favorite New Orleans cocktail venues and explain why drinking in the South is always a civilized affair.

Smith explained that the difference between drinking in New Orleans and drinking pretty much anywhere else has a lot to do with the destination?New Orleanian drinkers rarely have one. "Where I'm from," she said, "in the U.K., we drink with a destination in mind?we drink to get drunk. In New Orleans, you can just sit, relax, and enjoy a cocktail any time of day without anyone batting an eyelash." She added that, though a lot of cities have embraced the cocktail culture, New Orleans has always had a special "affection" for the cocktail that sets it apart.

As for her list of must-visit watering holes, Smith mentioned a special affinity for Sylvain, Carousel Bar, and, for a late night jaunt off the beaten path, Bacchanal. She was also pretty jazzed to check out one of the city's newest cocktail venues, Batch, which has been serving up house-infused liquors since moving into the French Quarter Hyatt in May.

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