If you, like me before this latest trip, have never been out drinking in New Orleans, I would highly recommend it. There are a multitude of factors unique to New Orleans that add to the experience that make it . . . you know what? I’ll just let Hannibal Buress describe it because he’s a hysterical comedian, he explains it better than I could ever hope to, and because I’m too lazy to plagiarize him. And “Rule of Three” for comedy.
Watch it, I’ll wait.
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Wasn’t that great? Okay now . . . wait, what do you mean you skipped over it? You really don’t know what you’re missing. Here’s a link to it again. Watch it this time, it’s very funny, I promise.
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See what I mean??? Amazing! Okay now, like I mentioned in Part 1, this post will be all about the drinks and the bars in New Orleans. I didn’t make it to a lot of bars or really go out in the French Quarter like it probably deserves, but I did check out the more famous bars and the drinks that they’re known for (or that people are reminded of the next morning).
Let’s get started!
No, not that Pat O’Brien. That would make no sense. I’m talking about the bar Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans. You know, the home of the Hurricane; the drink that is basically a BIG glass of rum with a splash of fruit juices? Right, that Pat O’Brien’s.
And that’s exactly what I was there for, the Hurricane. A hyped and glorified rum punch that has possesses the alcohol content to prepare you for Bourbon Street or black you out on Bourbon Street depending on what stage of the night (or day) you’re in.
Pat O’Brien’s is a surprisingly expansive bar with a courtyard, dueling pianos bar, and a regular bar, which is were we decided to consume out Hurricanes. While the Hurricanes were good and I can understand how they can be dangerous as you can hardly taste the alcohol, my favorite thing about Pat O’Brien’s is that it’s an old, dark, walls-made-of-stone building. All of that together makes it a very cool (temperature and slang) place to grab a drink, because NEWS FLASH: NEW ORLEANS IS HOT.
Even at 10:00 am. What? I was on vacation, okay!?!
A quick little story about going to Tropical Isle: We showed up about 10 minutes before it opened (11:00 am), so we waited across the street because we are degenerates on vacation, but we didn’t want to look like degenerates on vacation. However, once the doors were opened for business, and despite being 30 feet from the doors, we were still not the first patrons to set foot in the bar that morning.
I guess the important lesson here is that no one judges you on Bourbon Street, so go for the gold. Or everyone judges you on Bourbon Street, but the bars are open, so whatever. I can’t decide which one it is.
At Tropical Isle, where they proudly don’t serve Hurricanes, the drink of choice is the Hand Grenade; literally just a bunch of liquors poured together with some ice – it is dangerous. The Hand Grenade is very sweet and the only other note I have on it is that it tastes like “tropical melon Starburst”, but don’t be fooled, it packs quite the punch. There’s even a guideline for the number of Hand Grenades to drink that concludes with “Drink #5 – You’re on your own! We don’t recommend drinking 5!” Woof.
They also have a Skinny Hand Grenade for the health conscious dipsomaniac, which my cousin claims to like better and I agree (less sweet), so that’s nice. They’re considerate of your waistline at Tropical Isle.
Tropical Isle definitely has more of a college bar feel to it. There are crazy decorations hanging from the ceiling and propped in corners, photos of patrons, owners, and Mardi Gras-ers lining the walls, and beads on the taps. Even right when it opened, it had a fun and easygoing atmosphere.
By the time we were ready to leave Tropical Isle (which admittedly could have been much sooner, but I had already forgotten that you can drink in the streets in New Orleans – what a place), the place was starting to get packed and space was at a premium; and it was barely past noon! But, who am I to judge?
The Carousel Bar and Lounge
I’ve never been a huge fan of carousels. Wherever there are carousels, there’s usually a much more entertaining ride right next to it. Who want’s to slowly rotate around a circle while sitting on a statuesque animal that may move up and down a bit if you’re lucky when you could be riding a roller coaster?? See what I mean? They’re not that great.
BUT – turn the carousel into a bar in New Orleans and I am all the way in!!
The Carousel Bar and Lounge is located in the Hotel Monteleone in downtown New Orleans and may seem a bit gimmicky, but is sooo much fun. This place is definitely more about the vibe and the ambience than the drinks, but the drinks aren’t bad either, so it’s worth a visit for sure.
The circular bar, decorated as an old school carousel, in the middle of the room actually rotates in keeping with the carousel theme! I mean, come on – that’s pretty awesome! Granted it spins very very slowly, which is probably for the best when alcohol is involved, but the fact remains that it is a spinning bar! (It spins so slowly that it is difficult to notice at first glance. When I told my brother about it, who had been out drinking at the very same bar the night before, he didn’t believe me until he stared at it for a minute, “Huh. . . It really does spin.”) (You would think all the drinks would make the carousel spin faster. Maybe with enough drinks, the room spins but the bar is stationary?!?) (Whoa)
The Carousel Bar and Lounge is still a hotel bar, so the drinks are a little more pricey than the the ones you can find a block away on Bourbon Street, but none of those bars are a FREAKING CAROUSEL! I don’t think that can be stated enough.
Now, this place is definitely not a bar, but sno-ball stands (yet another treat unique to New Orleans) aren’t really restaurants either, so I lumped them in with the drinks. And this is my blog, so I can do whatever I want, mwahahahaha!!
Anyways, while Sal’s Sno-Balls is definitely one of the more established and best sno-ball stands in all of New Orleans, it’s has a little more significant for me personally. My aunt, uncle, and cousins used to live on the same street as Sal’s Sno-Balls growing up. Some of my very first memories of New Orleans were of being at that house and walking down to Sal’s for a sno-ball on a hot and humid New Orleans afternoon.
A sno-ball is essentially a snow cone; however there is one small, but at the same time, very big difference. The shaved ice of a sno-ball is much finer and softer compared to the coarse and crunchy shaved ice of a snow cone. Now, that may not sound like a big deal, but it I assure you, it is indeed a big deal. Like I said earlier, the texture difference makes the sno-ball softer than a snow cone, but it also allows the ice to absorb more of the flavored syrup rather than pooling at the bottom of the cup. You know, like a snow cone does.
Additionally, and I’ve never seen this with anything other than a New Orleans style sno-ball, you can add toppings to your sno-ball. Traditionally, soft serve ice cream or sweetened condensed milk are your choices for toppings. As you can see in the above photo, I like to top my sno-ball with sweetened condensed milk. It provides a different kind of sweetness from the flavored syrup as well as a creamy or dairy taste that is reminiscent of ice cream. It’s pretty good, if I do say so myself. You should try it.
While there is no shortage of good sno-ball stands in New Orleans, Sal’s Sno-Balls is a great little inexpensive neighborhood joint perfect for those hot New Orleans summers (and springs, and falls, and winters) with an extensive menu of flavors for everyone. Besides, I didn’t go to those other sno-ball stands when I was a little kid, so forget them.
Any way you look at it, New Orleans remains one of the most unique cities in the country. Wether it’s the culture, the food, or the drinks, you’ll find something here that you can’t find anywhere else.
I can assure you that there are many more phenomenal places hidden around the city that I wasn’t able to make it to during my short trip. But, I know that it definitely won’t be another 10 years before I make my way back down to New Orleans.