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Bitters and Believers: The History of Downtown's Country Inn

What history do Sazeracs and Catholics share in New Orleans? Would you believe a chain hotel? The elegant Country Inn & Suites New Orleans French Quarter downtown (315 Magazine St.) housed a distributor for Peychaud's Bitters — you know, that irreplaceable Sazerac ingredient — in 1904. Located behind that space, in the same building, were the offices of the Clarion Herald, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Walking in the present-day building gives you a sense of these historical touchstones: the walls are adorned with black-and-white photos of the Clarion Herald's printing presses in action, and, as you walk further in, the charmingly small bar beckons. Jonathan Serigne, one of the hotel's staff members, brings out a vintage Sazerac bottle for me to see, its plain white letters adorning an unexpectedly large bottle — a far cry from the tiny, paper-wrapped thing I'm used to shaking into my cocktails.

Like the bottle, the hotel is unexpectedly large. Dating back to the 1850s, it was originally seven warehouses designed by one architect, that were all later unified into one building. You'd be hard pressed, however, to tell apart the separate structures, as they all create a continuous facade when looking down Magazine Street's west side.

Inside is more revealing, with exposed beams and bricks presenting a rustic feel that pleasingly complements the hotel's opulent drawing room. Continuing the tour, we pass an original elevator belt system preserved for display, then step outside, where ivy climbs the courtyard's walls. This Country Inn and Suites, where Catholic and cocktail history blends with timeless style, deserves a shot.