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Photograph: Courtesy Jewel of the South/Denny Culbert

The best bars in New Orleans

For a fabulous drinking experience, visit the best bars in New Orleans

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
Laura McKnight

You can sip on any kind of drink you’d like when you’re in New Orleans. The cocktail was invented here, after all, so expect to find iconic bars and skilled bartenders, loyal patrons, friendly atmospheres and so much more. Tourists may hit up Bourbon Street for fishbowls of neon-tinged booze, but the best bars in New Orleans serve everything from elevated, award-winning cocktails to a simple, excellent pint of beer. You can don your finest and sip a classic cocktail at the bar of a top New Orleans restaurant or keep it casual and head to a historic neighborhood watering hole to hang with the regulars. Whether you’re looking for must-try New Orleans classics—like the Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz, or brunch fave Brandy Milk Punch — an inventive new cocktail or just an ice-cold beer, these bars have you covered. If you can’t finish your drink, just ask for a to-go cup and take it for a stroll. Hot tip: if you're feeling a little sluggish the next day, one of the best brunches in New Orleans will get you back on your feet and ready to explore more of the best things to do in the city.

Best bars in New Orleans

This landmark, named after the city’s official drink, exhibits qualities that define a classic New Orleans bar: grandeur, quality service and cocktails interlaced with local history. Ease into a seat at the lengthy wooden bar and order the signature sazerac, which legend holds was invented in the early 1800s by Creole apothecary Antoine Peychaud. The white-coat-clad bartenders can also shake up a frothy delicacy: the Ramos Gin Fizz. The drink, favored by storied Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, is like cake in a glass. It does, however, require some heavy lifting, so be sure to tip your bartender accordingly.

Opened by Chris Hannah, one of the city’s most esteemed bartenders (formerly of the French 75 bar), this modern cocktail destination is tucked into a Creole cottage that dates back to the 1830s. It’s named for a restaurant that was opened by Joseph Santini, inventor of the Brandy Crusta. Hannah has revived this largely forgotten but influential drink—it was the first cocktail to incorporate fresh citrus juice—and has made it the bar’s signature offering, alongside skillful interpretations of the classics.

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Offering house-made ingredients and masterful mixology, Sylvain serves tasty classic cocktails but truly shines when crafting its own inventions. If you’re looking for a complex drink to sip and savor, Sylvain is a must. Though it's at the forefront of modern drinking culture in NOLA, the bar and restaurant exude a historic ambiance given the location in a former carriage house in the heart of the French Quarter.

Finn McCool's has a tight-knit group of regulars and loyal patrons who pack the bar inside and out for camaraderie over cold beers and cocktails. It's a destination for catching games (international soccer and rugby fans routinely settle in for early-morning matches) as well as playing darts and pool. In business since 2002, Finn's has weathered many a storm, supported by its devoted patrons.


This Uptown beer mecca is worth a pilgrimage, especially if you’re a beer geek or whiskey devotee. The two-story pub on busy St. Charles Avenue houses a world-renowned collection of brews stacked with Belgian-style beers and rarities from around the world, along with specialty ales from Louisiana craft breweries. Connoisseurs will appreciate the bar’s whiskey list, especially the bourbons. The pub’s balcony offers a scenic view of New Orleans’ downtown, and the first floor remains open 24/7.

This stylish hotel on St. Charles Avenue is housed in a Victorian-era mansion. All are welcome to enjoy drinks at the elegant bar or on the porch, where you can watch as the streetcars roll by. For summer vibes, hang out by the pool with a classic cocktail, a cold beer or a crisp glass of wine. Check the calendar for occasional musical offerings.


The Elysian Bar, another venture by the Bacchanal team, opened in the fall of 2018 inside Hotel Peter and Paul and has swiftly drawn acclaim for its lush and original design coupled with a drink menu that features French, Spanish and Italian vermouths, amaros and other aperitif wines, many mixed into cocktails. The space radiates a warm pink glow and forms part of the restoration of a historic church complex in the artsy Marigny neighborhood.

This cocktail bar in the Kimpton Hotel Fontenot is a fun and fanciful option for handcrafted cocktails and tasty small plates in elegant surroundings. At once opulent and eclectic, you’ll want to settle in for the evening. Sip on classic cocktails or a selection from Pride of the Flock, like the tart and floral El Pavo Real featuring Patron Silver, ancho chili, hibiscus, pomegranate. The bar has an impressive collection of spirits and offers elevated snacks and shareable plates. Don’t miss Robin Barnes and Da Lovebirds on Thursdays.


Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is a treasure. It’s one of the oldest structures in the city (it survived two major fires!) and is said to be the New Orleans base for privateer brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte. Is it touristy? Yes. Is it haunted? Maybe. And if the outlaw tales aren’t enough to capture your interest, it’s worth visiting to see the building’s French Creole architectural style, briquette-entre-poteaux (brick-between-posts), and enjoy the romantic setting.

Don’t let the term “proto-tiki” scare you away from Cane & Table’s festive, carefully crafted tropical sippers. The concept plays on Caribbean drinks that preceded the tiki movement sparked by Don the Beachcomber. What you can expect to find: fresh, complex takes on tiki standards and tropical variations on classic cocktails. Aged brick walls and the greenery-lined courtyard are visual reminders of New Orleans’ connection to the Caribbean.


Another unique New Orleans attraction, the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar features a rotating wheel of seats decorated with tigers, monkeys and other traditional circus animals. The bar, celebrating its 74th year, is not just a sideshow: bartenders know how to make a lengthy list of classic cocktails, including local specials like the Vieux Carre, Sazerac and the Monteleone.

The lobby bar at the Four Seasons New Orleans is nothing if not glamorous. The stunning namesake chandelier hangs high above this classy gathering spot where you can enjoy exceptional versions of classic New Orleans cocktails. Splurge on champagne and caviar, or choose from a list of seasonal offerings, like winter’s Masquerade Cocktail that puts a twist on the Old Fashioned with banana and cacao. For bites, there’s a selection of shareable plates by renowned chef Alon Shaya.


Perched atop the Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles Avenue, Hot Tin serves classic and innovative cocktails alongside one of the best rooftop views in the city. Sip a Sazerac or something more daring like the Master of Chai (Wild Turkey 101 Rye, blood orange, falernum, and chai-spice infused zinfandel) while you gaze at the Mississippi and downtown from the buzzy outdoor area. The cozy main room features eclectic, 1940s-inspired decor. Stop here for a drink before dining at the equally buzzy Jack Rose restaurant.

Located in the century-old Creole restaurant Arnaud’s, the French 75 bar offers a step back in time. The dark, intimate space is adorned with monkey lamps and vintage decor. Order a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned or a sidecar, or ask the expert bartenders for an inventive concoction. Either way, you’ll be impressed. Try the soufflé potatoes, an Arnaud’s specialty, then check out the intriguing Mardi Gras museum upstairs.


Many visitors discover Pal's because of its location in the Mid-City neighborhood that is home to Jazz Fest. It's a local favorite where neighbors gather. The classic corner bar is always buzzing with activity, the bartenders are friendly, food popups keep you fueled up and well-made drinks are strikingly affordable

This former dive bar still retains its welcoming vibe, delighting the neighborhood crowds who stop in for high-quality cocktails. Sip on concoctions like the Minerva Mink (vodka, grapefruit liqueur, Cocchi Rosa, lime) while playing video poker or kick back in the outdoor area with a PBR—all are welcome here.



Tucked into the furthest reaches of the trendy Bywater neighborhood, Bacchanal offers a curated selection of wines and cheeses in a casual backyard setting filled with mismatched chairs, flickering tiki torches and acoustic jazz. The once-hidden oasis has grown in popularity, so your best bet is to visit during the daytime or a weeknight, especially when going with a group. Be sure to order a cheese plate and settle into a seat under the twinkle-lit trees.

This 50-year-old Bywater hangout is a quintessential New Orleans neighborhood music dive, with barstools worn in by longtime patrons, regular pot-luck-type meals, and—fairly often—a collection of sleepy dogs lying outside near the cypress-stump tables as their owners catch up on gossip. The barroom includes a jukebox stacked with local tunes and a spacious floor for dancing, making Vaughan’s a great after-party spot for a group of friends. Thursday nights, trombonist Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet set the place aflame, but any night will be fun here.


This sophisticated, Euro-accented bar dazzles with its sultry decor and creative cocktails. Attached to the Maison de Luz, the space is accessed from the hotel through a faux bookcase. Sidle up to the bar or settle into a cozy chair and enjoy cocktails such as the Modern Muse, featuring vodka, Pineau des Charentes (a French aperitif), verjus, pepita orgeat and mint.

Like many Irish pubs, Molly’s at the Market serves as a community hub: a starting point for smaller French Quarter parades, a watering hole for journalists and a refuge for service-industry workers. Its walls are festooned with yellowing newspaper articles and first-responder patches from across the country. The bar gives off a Cheers-like vibe, inviting locals and tourists to have a seat, sip a frozen Irish coffee and gaze out of the wide front windows for some prime people-watching action.


With its expansive patio and various drinks on tap, Wrong Iron caters to a cross-section of New Orleanians who often roll up from the nearby Lafitte Greenway bicycle path. The Mid-City spot, a relatively new one, boasts a wide selection on tap: 50 beers (including local craft brews), along with wines, cocktails and frozen drinks. During cold months, grab a woven blanket from the bar and sip wine by a fire pit. In the summer, enjoy a light beer or strawberry frosé in the shade.

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