1. The Whiskey Destination: Bourbon House
The bourbon boom was years away when Dickie Brennan opened Bourbon House in 2002. Fifteen years later, its early focus on the trending spirit feels prescient. "(Brennan) had this foresight when we envisioned the restaurant originally," said Barry Himel, beverage director for Dickie Brennan Company. "We specialize in bourbon."
The seafood restaurant and whiskey bar recently released its own Maker’s Mark bottling. "We custom-made our own bourbon," said bartender Will Fox. "It has a robust flavor. You can taste the French oak in there."
The unique bottling is one of 230 available whiskeys. About 20 "master tasters" have sampled every bourbon at Bourbon House, and more than 4,000 people are members of Bourbon House’s New Orleans Bourbon Society (NOBS). The NOBS is free to join and offers tastings, dinners with master distillers, and complimentary pours for members.
2. The Neighborhood Hangout: Barrel Proof
When Liam Deegan and Robert Leblanc opened Barrel Proof in 2014, they envisioned it as a neighborhood joint with a laid-back, bourbon-heavy menu.
"(Barrel Proof) features the style of drinking we do when we’re hanging out," Deegan said. "Beer and whiskey, mostly shots. We don’t drink cocktails, even though we like them a lot."
Located in a dim, cypress-trimmed space that has housed bars for more than a century, Barrel Proof stocks 294 whiskeys. There’s a wide array of craft beers and cocktails, plus elevated bar food and rotating pop-ups in the kitchen. However, Deegan said most people come for the Old Fashioned, which costs $3 during happy hour (4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays).
3. The Tropical Oasis: Tiki Tolteca
Through its proximity to the Caribbean and history as a rum mecca make New Orleans a natural fit for tiki bars, the scene lay dormant for decades after Bali H’ai shuttered in the mid-1980s. That changed in 2013, when Tiki Tolteca launched.
"(Tiki Tolteca) was the first tiki bar to open since then," said Charles Arinder, director of operations for Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria. "The tiki scene had been nonexistent."
Perched above Felipe’s Taqueria in the French Quarter, Tiki Tolteca is "literally an oasis," Arinder said. It features a thatch-roofed bamboo bar, tropical floral prints, tiki heads, glowing sea glass orbs and cowhide furniture handmade in Jalisco, Mexico–not to mention the fruity, flower-bedecked cocktails.
"When you give a guest a drink, you can see it’s a little bit of a mind-blowing experience," said head bartender Michael Beaugez, who designed or tweaked every drink on the menu.
Tiki Tolteca stocks 120 rums. Every syrup and liqueur is made in house from scratch. From the drinks to the décor, tiki bars are all about a transportive, tropical experience–which may explain their recent renaissance.
This article appeared in the Fall 2017 Issue of Adore.