Culture of Booze: 3 Must-Hit Spots on the Ultimate NOLA Alcohol Crawl

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New Orleans is a drinking city. From the oldest bar in America, to legally being able to take your drink outside in a “go cup,” to drive-through daiquiris, and the invention of the Sazerac cocktail, NOLA is all about booze culture. But where to go? The city is packed with bars, so on my recent visit with my dog Karl, I checked out quite a few — and now present the top three spots.


Drink at the oldest bar in the U.S. (just watch out for frisky ghosts). (Photo: Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo)

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is regarded as the oldest structure to be used as a bar in the United States, and is considered one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans. Legend has it that back in the day, the pirate Jean Lafitte used the shop as a front for his smuggling operation.

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Lafitte operated out of the port of New Orleans in the early 1800s. He and his brother would outfit privateers who would then seize vessels in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico — bringing the stolen goods back and hiding the booty in the walls of the shop. He was eventually pardoned or his smuggling operations by then Gen. Andrew Jackson after informing on the British during the War of 1812. Today many say the place is still haunted (by more than the stale smell of cigarettes and vomit) and women claim to have been pinched by Lafitte — who apparently is as much a ladies’ man as a ghost as he was in the flesh.


Oh hello, I’ll take all three, please! (Photo: Mario Framingheddu)

Go Cup Culture and Daiquiri Drive-Throughs

Booze outside of bars is 100% legal in New Orleans and involves something called the go cup (as in, “I’ll take it to go, please”) — which basically means no more not finishing a drink, ever). But, this city aims to satisfy your cravings whenever, wherever — which means, even if you’re in a car. Throughout the city, there are also drive-throughs where you can pick up sealed alcoholic daiquiris on the go. And yes, they are delicious!


Barrel Proof

New Orleans has no shortage of cool spots, and Barrel Proof is one of the coolest. It’s a sleek, dark wood-paneled space with an extensive menu of imported whiskeys and spirits — head cocktail maker Liam Deegan can make you any drink — but you should always start with a Sazerac, the unofficial cocktail of New Orleans. The Sazerac is associated with a Creole apothecary from Antoine Amedie Peychaud (of the so-named aromatic bitters).

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The Sazerac, a New Orleans staple. (Photo: Getty Images)

According to legend, in the mid-19th century, an establishment called the Sazerac House (until then known as the Merchant’s Coffee Exchange) mixed the cognac with sugar and Peychaud’s bitters — the purported cure-all of the local pharmacist – and the Sazerac cocktail was born.

And when you get home, make your own, with this recipe:

1 cube sugar

1½ ounces (35 ml) Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon

¼ ounce Herbsaint

3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Lemon peel

  • Pack an Old Fashioned glass with ice

  • In a second Old Fashioned glass, place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube

  • Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar

  • Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint

  • Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass, and garnish with lemon peel


Karl kept watch while I took a nap after a long hard day of “research.” (Photo: Mario Framingheddu)

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