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Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar
Hotel Monteleone Official

The Hotel Bars to Visit Now (and Through the Holidays)

Cocktail expert Elizabeth Pearce weighs in

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Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar
| Hotel Monteleone Official

New Orleans has never wanted for hotels or bars. In the 19th century, opulent establishments like the Saint Charles and the Saint Louis Hotels catered to wealthy travelers and locals alike. But in modern times, having a great hotel bar has proven another matter. Too often such watering holes lacked for character and in recent decades the number of New Orleans hotel bars that passed muster with locals were all too few.

Fortunately the last few years have given rise to a spate of historic renovations and smaller, chic hotels whose square footage favors bar space in lieu of grand lobby statements. Savvy hoteliers have caught on that tourists aren’t the only draw and that creative happy hours and cocktail programs can pull in regulars.

Drinks historian Elizabeth Pearce, owner of Drink & Learn and author of the New Orleans bar guide Drink Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Best Cocktail Bars, Neighborhood Pubs and All-Night Dives, weighs in on the city’s developing hotel bar scene. Here are seven of her current favorites, just in time for the start of the holiday drinking season:

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Sazerac Bar

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130 Roosevelt Way
New Orleans, LA 70112
(504) 648-1200
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Rumor has it that Governor Huey Long built a state highway from Baton Rouge to New Orleans just so he could get to his favorite bar, the Sazerac, in under an hour. While that story may not hold up to scrutiny, what is certain is that the “Kingfish” flew the Sazerac’s head bartender to New York to instruct northerners in the proper way to make a Ramos Gin Fizz. If Long’s stamp of approval isn’t enough reason to visit, Paul Ninas’ WPA-era murals depicting New Orleans, golden wood-panelled walls and the equally crafted drinks make the Sazerac a must-see. It’s located inside the Roosevelt Hotel, and — come December — the ornate, gilded lobby becomes a wonderland of white lights.

2. Hotel Monteleone

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214 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70117
(866) 338-4684
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The Carousel Bar was always one of the most beautiful, delightful bars in the city. But a 2011 renovation that opened up the space for more seating and a music stage has now arguably made the Carousel one of the most glamorous spots to drink in the country. Sartorially spiffy bartenders add to the ambiance as they ply guests with classics, including the in-house specialty, the Vieux Carre. And yes, the Carousel does actually move. It takes about fifteen minutes for a seat to circumnavigate the bar. Plan your drinking accordingly.

3. Catahoula Hotel

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914 Union St
New Orleans, LA 70112
(504) 603-2442
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The pisco-focus of the bar shines in a cocktail menu that transports drinkers to the wilds of Peru. The decidedly updated feel of the architecture with its spare wooden bar and black and white floor tiles is balanced by a warm, welcoming staff deft at mixing cocktails by night, and by day keeping the surrounding business district’s coffee mugs filled with quality pours. The rooftop bar is also worth a visit when open, especially for indie movie nights paired with themed drinks.

4. Ace Hotel New Orleans

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600 Carondelet St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 900-1180
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The Ace offers three worthy spots. The lobby bar is what a lobby should be: mostly bar with ample cushy seating arranged into cozy groupings perfect for visiting. Across the way, the ever-so-elegant French-inspired Josephine Estelle bar also serves up tasty bites from the restaurant. Finally, the rooftop bar’s pool beckons drinkers to doff their shoes and dip their toes. Fortunately, we can do this in New Orleans even in December. All offer top notch drinks served by a staff that just stepped out of an H&M ad.

5. The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery

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535 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 527-5271
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Travel and Leisure ranked The Old No. 77 number 13 on its list of continental U.S. city hotels. One big reason is its stellar restaurant, Compere Lapin, whose bar program is overseen by Abigail Gullo, Heaven Hill 2016 Bartender of the Year. Located in a former warehouse, Old No. 77’s original brick walls serve as a vintage background where Gullo’s team serves up fresh takes on old favorites. The combination of amazing food, carefully crafted drinks and a friendly staff make this a top spot for those seeking inventive imbibing.

6. The Pontchartrain Hotel

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2031 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 941-9000
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This venerable institution received a thoughtful, well-deserved renovation in 2016. The cozy Bayou Bar downstairs retains its original Louisiana landscape murals painted by Charles Reinike; drinking a classic cocktail here makes one feels as if time stopped at 1950. The Hot Tin rooftop bar is an airy living room that opens onto a balcony with a 270 degree view of the city that can’t be beat.

7. The Columns Hotel

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3811 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 899-9308
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Locals sometimes forget this is a hotel since we are so used to treating it as only a bar. While the interior’s jewel-toned Victorian vibe transports guests to late 19th century New Orleans (it’s no accident Pretty Baby was filmed there), it’s the front porch, with its views of Live Oaks and passing streetcars, that gets my vote as one of the best drinking spots in the city for an Old Fashioned. New Orleanians may still be wearing shorts come December, but should the temperature drop, drinkers can head inside for a warm Irish coffee or nice pour of Scotch and take a seat at either the classic bar or in one of the cozy booths.

1. The Sazerac Bar

130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, LA 70112

Rumor has it that Governor Huey Long built a state highway from Baton Rouge to New Orleans just so he could get to his favorite bar, the Sazerac, in under an hour. While that story may not hold up to scrutiny, what is certain is that the “Kingfish” flew the Sazerac’s head bartender to New York to instruct northerners in the proper way to make a Ramos Gin Fizz. If Long’s stamp of approval isn’t enough reason to visit, Paul Ninas’ WPA-era murals depicting New Orleans, golden wood-panelled walls and the equally crafted drinks make the Sazerac a must-see. It’s located inside the Roosevelt Hotel, and — come December — the ornate, gilded lobby becomes a wonderland of white lights.

130 Roosevelt Way
New Orleans, LA 70112

2. Hotel Monteleone

214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70117

The Carousel Bar was always one of the most beautiful, delightful bars in the city. But a 2011 renovation that opened up the space for more seating and a music stage has now arguably made the Carousel one of the most glamorous spots to drink in the country. Sartorially spiffy bartenders add to the ambiance as they ply guests with classics, including the in-house specialty, the Vieux Carre. And yes, the Carousel does actually move. It takes about fifteen minutes for a seat to circumnavigate the bar. Plan your drinking accordingly.

214 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70117

3. Catahoula Hotel

914 Union St, New Orleans, LA 70112

The pisco-focus of the bar shines in a cocktail menu that transports drinkers to the wilds of Peru. The decidedly updated feel of the architecture with its spare wooden bar and black and white floor tiles is balanced by a warm, welcoming staff deft at mixing cocktails by night, and by day keeping the surrounding business district’s coffee mugs filled with quality pours. The rooftop bar is also worth a visit when open, especially for indie movie nights paired with themed drinks.

914 Union St
New Orleans, LA 70112

4. Ace Hotel New Orleans

600 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130

The Ace offers three worthy spots. The lobby bar is what a lobby should be: mostly bar with ample cushy seating arranged into cozy groupings perfect for visiting. Across the way, the ever-so-elegant French-inspired Josephine Estelle bar also serves up tasty bites from the restaurant. Finally, the rooftop bar’s pool beckons drinkers to doff their shoes and dip their toes. Fortunately, we can do this in New Orleans even in December. All offer top notch drinks served by a staff that just stepped out of an H&M ad.

600 Carondelet St
New Orleans, LA 70130

5. The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery

535 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Travel and Leisure ranked The Old No. 77 number 13 on its list of continental U.S. city hotels. One big reason is its stellar restaurant, Compere Lapin, whose bar program is overseen by Abigail Gullo, Heaven Hill 2016 Bartender of the Year. Located in a former warehouse, Old No. 77’s original brick walls serve as a vintage background where Gullo’s team serves up fresh takes on old favorites. The combination of amazing food, carefully crafted drinks and a friendly staff make this a top spot for those seeking inventive imbibing.

535 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130

6. The Pontchartrain Hotel

2031 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

This venerable institution received a thoughtful, well-deserved renovation in 2016. The cozy Bayou Bar downstairs retains its original Louisiana landscape murals painted by Charles Reinike; drinking a classic cocktail here makes one feels as if time stopped at 1950. The Hot Tin rooftop bar is an airy living room that opens onto a balcony with a 270 degree view of the city that can’t be beat.

2031 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130

7. The Columns Hotel

3811 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115

Locals sometimes forget this is a hotel since we are so used to treating it as only a bar. While the interior’s jewel-toned Victorian vibe transports guests to late 19th century New Orleans (it’s no accident Pretty Baby was filmed there), it’s the front porch, with its views of Live Oaks and passing streetcars, that gets my vote as one of the best drinking spots in the city for an Old Fashioned. New Orleanians may still be wearing shorts come December, but should the temperature drop, drinkers can head inside for a warm Irish coffee or nice pour of Scotch and take a seat at either the classic bar or in one of the cozy booths.

3811 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70115

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