In honor of Eater's wonderful Cocktail Week, Curbed NOLA has headed to the bar. While we love these new fall cocktails and the amazing new alcohol coming out of New Orleans, we can't help but love a good, old bar. After the jump, we present eight of the oldest, most historic bars in the city. Got a favorite? Let us know or head on over there and enjoy a cocktail. Cheers!Read More
Mapping New Orleans' Most Historic Bars
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
Deemed allegedly the oldest bar in America, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is shrouded in mystery and candlelight. Legend has it that the circa 1770s French provincial was owned by pirate Jean Lafitte, who engaged in shady business deals and actual blacksmith work there as well as drinking. Its exposed brick and posts provide an immediate marker of its age and fragility, though little has changed in the shop itself, a one story building in the rear received improvements in 1901.
Tujague’s opened its doors in 1856 and has been at 823 Decatur since 1929. The building itself dates back to 1827 as Begue's Restaurant. The building has undergone major changes over the years, from the removal of its arches to a similar rustication of its facade as Lafitte's. Tujague's was the originator of the minty drink known as the Grasshopper and also the first standing bar for those needing a long stretch and a good drink.
The Old Absinthe House
Built in 1806, the Old Absinthe House began its life some nine years later as Aleix's Coffee House, a saloon known then and now for its Absinthe House Frappe. The bar would be destroyed during prohibition and moved "underground" to a warehouse that now contains a Mango Mango. The Old Absinthe House has been back at its original location for ten years along with its beautiful ornamental absinthe fountains.
Arnaud's French 75 Bar
Unfortunately, Arnaud's French 75 isn't the only bar on this list to be "gentleman's only" during its hey-day. The bar itself was renovated and reopened in 1979 as the Grill Bar, though Arnaud's Restaurant and its surrounding buildings date back to the 1840s. Its namesake, Count Arnaud, has his own colorful past as a headstrong wine merchant who opened his restaurant on a bet in 1918. Arnaud never quite felt the sales impact of prohibition because he brazenly never stopped serving alcohol and was even once jailed for his continued illegal activity.
The legendary Sazerac Bar is not only known for its signature cocktail but for its patrons and their ferocious needs to be served. Housed under the Grunewald when it opened in 1893, the Sazerac Bar is allegedly the reason that Huey P Long built Airline Highway (to get from Baton Rouge to his beloved drink more expediently) and why the Kingfish flew a bartender all the way to NYC to school those northerners on making his drink right. The Stormin' of the Sazerac in 1949 saw the admittance of women and is still celebrated every September 30th.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge
What makes the Carousel Bar so spectacular is its innovative circular bar slowly revolving at one revolution per 15 minutes. 2,000 steel rollers propel the chain motor that turn the Carousel. Its 1/4 horsepower offers less of a dizzying effect and more of a sparkling, inspiring ride. Built in 1949, the bar itself is perhaps one of the newest features at the Hotel Monteleone, which dates back to 1886. Numerous authors cite the Monteleone as their favorite hotel including William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams.
Napoleon House Bar & Cafe
Once a civil war hospital, 500 Chartres has operated as the Napoleon House since mayor Nicholas Girod offered up his house for Napoleon to seek asylum in 1821. Sadly, Napoleon never made the trip as he died shortly after in St. Helena after escaping his forced exile to Elba Island. Napoleon House celebrates its centennial as a bar this year.
Pat O'Brien's began as an illegal establishment to satisfy the needs of the prohibition crowd. Its namesake and owner moved the bar to its current location in the mid-1930s. 718 St Peter St dates all the way back to 1791 as the site of New Orleans' first French Theater Company. Pat O's is famous for inventing the hurricane drink and music can still be heard throughout the establishment as it (and Lafitte's Blacksmith) is one of the most famous piano bars in the city.