I love to head to destination towns in the off-season. New Orleans in particular is great in the middle of summer. Before you shake your head in humid disgust, consider this. The hotels are cheaper. You lose the crowds, but gain lovely farmers markets. Reservations at the hottest restaurants are a breeze, antiques are on sale and don’t forget crawfish boils galore.
The Big Easy also hosts incredible festivals in the summer. Tales of the Cocktail, July 17-21, celebrates the art of craft cocktails with massive parties and seminars. Bastille Day parades occur on July 14, and the musical Satchmo Summer Fest happens the first week of August.
Yes, it’s hot here in summer, but the cocktails cool you down. Have a tipple in the town’s newest — Cane & Table, opening this month, or drink in the historic The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. Just don’t forget to have at least one Sazerac. America’s first cocktail was invented in New Orleans.
Originally the Swan Room, where Liberace was the first ticket on the bill, the Carousel Bar opened in the Hotel Monteleone in 1949. Carved jesters and cherubs line the rim above the elegant carousel, which is pulled by 2,000 steel rollers in the floor, connected to a single chain. When your barkeeps need something outside of the bar, they actually have to hop over the top to get out.
This bar is famous for more than the Vieux Carré cocktail, which was invented at the hotel by Walter Bergeron back in 1938. Musicians from Etta James to Gregg Allman have sat on the slowly revolving painted wooden barstools or touched the keys of the adjoining piano. Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote were both fans of drinking at the Carousel, and were they still with us, would no doubt adore last year’s expansion and renovation that more than doubled the bar’s footprint.
Order: Anything Marvin Allen is making. He’s been bartending here for a very long time and you are in extremely capable hands.
Details: 214 Royal St.; 504-523-3341; http://hotelmonteleone.com
CANE & TABLE
Before 2007, when absinthe was re-legalized, there were whispers that you could get a taste of the real stuff if you knew the bartenders down at Pravda on Decatur. Was it true? Who knows? But because of the rumors, the bar’s name stuck with me.
Absinthe is readily available now. Pravda has been purchased and will open as Cane & Table late this month.
“The heart of it is going to focus on the impact that rum has had on the drinking culture in the Americas,” explains Nick Detrich, co-owner, who’s also part of the city’s other amazing cocktail bars, Cure and Bellocq. “This menu will feature colonial cocktails, flips, Prohibition-era drinks and also include a few from the first decade of Tiki.”
Adam Biderman, who made a name for himself at Holeman & Finch in Atlanta, is filling the role of executive chef. The food will also lean on the tropical vibe, with dishes like yucca sliders and ropa vieja. A large patio, a painstaking design inspired by the building’s Spanish roots, and an incredible staff sets this place up to be one of the best additions to the summer of 2013.
Details: 1113 Decatur St.; 504-581-1112