How to Drink Like You're in New Orleans at Home

by Kelsy Chauvin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday April 20, 2020

Night Tripper cocktail at Jewel of the South.
Night Tripper cocktail at Jewel of the South.  (Source:Denny Culbert)

In hard times, the tough get thirsty. And few indulgences offer such glamour, flavor, and solace as a well-made cocktail. EDGE turned to the city where cocktails were born to collect five top bartenders' beloved drink recipes. With their freshly shaken and stirred concoctions and home bar tips, here's what you need to know to summon a taste of classic New Orleans to your house.

Night Tripper

Chris Hannah, Jewel of the South

Dr. John, aka the "Nite Tripper," created his own style of iconic "swamp funk" music and was one of New Orleans' most celebrated singer-songwriters. To honor Dr. John, who died in June 2019, acclaimed bartender Chris Hannah invented the Night Tripper, a bourbon-based cocktail served at Hannah's Jewel of the South.

"This drink is unique to New Orleans because its design is similar to a Vieux Carre [made from rye, cognac, and vermouth]," says Hannah. "It's named for the amazing Dr. John. I was able to tell him about this drink, and he texted his daughter in Vegas the recipe."

Hannah earned fame behind the bar of legendary < link||Arnaud's> on Bienville Street, before opening Jewel of the South in March 2019. (Its upstairs restaurant opened in early 2020.)

His home bar tips consist of mid-priced straight spirits like gin, vodka, bourbon, and rum (plus vermouth), along with "fun bitter modifiers" including amaro; aperitivos like Campari, Aperol, Peychaud's; and liqueurs such as St. Germain, Curacao, Maraschino and even coffee.

"A wide range of cocktails can be made including the straight spirit, bitter modifier, and liqueur," says Hannah. "You can do low-proof drinks with vermouths and bitters along with club soda, and whatever wines might be around."

Night Tripper

1.75 oz. bourbon

.75 oz. Amaro

.25 oz. Stegall or Yellow Chartreuse

2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Orange peel

Stir ingredients with ice and strain over ice, garnish with orange peel.

Sam Kiley, Cane & Table

"New Orleans is a place of magic, a place where people have gathered for centuries to exchange goods, ideas, food, art and music. A place where this multi-cultural exchange has produced some of the most iconic cocktails ever made."

Sam Kiley could go on and on about the Crescent City, and about libations. As bar manager of the atmospheric, rum-centric Cane & Table, Kiley recommends the Vellocet for home bartenders. The cocktail was created by bar owner Kirk Estopinal, who also owns Cure in the Freret neighborhood.

Kiley calls the Vellocet "a proto-tiki style drink that combines herbaceous French Green Chartreuse with fresh pineapple juice, Peychaud's bitters, Caribbean bitters and spiced rum. We top it with a generous amount of mint, douse it with more Green Chartreuse, then light it on fire," says Kiley. "Dinner and a show!"

Originally from North Carolina, Kiley has worked with many LGBTQ nonprofits, and spent time educating, advocating, and organizing for pro-queer policies. In New Orleans, she contributes to the People's Assembly, "a grassroots group that works to uplift the working class," she explains.

To elevate your cocktail game, Kiley considers a pair of metal shaking tins and a Hawthorne cocktail strainer essential, and recommends a range of liquors and fresh citrus.

"Fresh citrus makes all the difference. It's easy to hand squeeze, and it incorporates the citrus oil from the peel into the juice. This alone will bring your drinks to the next level."

She offers this pro tip, too: "Fresh garnishes like mint or a citrus peel will add another sensory element. Make sure you incorporate something aromatized, bitter, sweet, spiced, or herbaceous."

.75 oz. fresh lime juice
.50 oz. Falernum
1.5 oz. fresh pineapple juice
2 oz. Green Chartreuse
14 drops of Angostura Bitters
14 drops of Peychaud's Bitters
Shake and garnish with fresh mint.

Brandy Milk Punch
Lu Brow, Brennan's

"There must be places where sipping a cocktail at ten in the morning may be a no-no, but New Orleans is not one of them," says Brennan's Head Bartender Lu Brow. A native of Shreveport, Brow has been pouring some of the Crescent City's top tipples for more than a decade — five of them at Brennan's, one of the Quarter's classic restaurants since 1946.

Brow points to the frothy, nutmeg-toped Milk Punch as a "traditional 'eye-opener' ever-popular among generations of New Orleanians." Having a morning cocktail in the Big Easy, she says, "Is looked on as a way, on the right occasion, to put oneself in the proper mood for the day. In some circles, bourbon is the functioning pick-me-up. Others say brandy, especially a cognac, tempers the drink's sweetness." Either way, it's a soothing alternative to a pre-lunch Bloody Mary or Mimosa.

Get your home bar right to heighten the flavor of a milk punch, and include a fine whiskey like Buffalo Trace. (The label's owner, William Goldring, is a lifelong New Orleans resident and chairman of the Sazerac Company, the country's second-biggest spirits company.) Brow adds, "That real vanilla bean is key. There's something about looking down in your glass to see that little speckle. You know it's good vanilla."

Brandy Milk Punch
2 oz. milk
2 oz. cream
1.5 oz. Bourbon whiskey or brandy
1.5 oz. vanilla bean-infused simple syrup
Combine all ingredients over ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a coupe or wine glass with no ice. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Alan Walter, Loa Bar

Inside the Warehouse Art District's International House Hotel, tipplers can sample the poetic musings of "Spirit Handler" Alan Walter at Loa Bar. Walter leads the lounge's cocktail culture, where he lends his poetic nature to create daring concoctions -- both uncommon and classic.

For an iconic taste of the city, Walter names the high-flavor, mild-alcohol Bellucci cocktail. It's a dreamy fresh drink, made with cucumber and orange juice shaken with a trio of spirits.

"The soul of New Orleans is shaped by the contours of its rituals — rituals inherited from the earliest immigrants who settled in New Orleans," says Walters, who's also a songwriter and playwright. "In the spring, we celebrate the Italian feast for San Giuseppe, known as St. Joseph's Day.

"Italian aperitifs and cocktails like the Bellucci are not only a tributary nod to St. Joseph's Day, but an homage the continuous Italian influences on New Orleans's culinary and cocktail culture." Walters loves to pour this cocktail in honor of its namesake, Italian actress and model Monica Bellucci.

For a homemade Bellucci, Walters recommends a Breville brand electric juicer, ideal for juicing a cucumber or fresh fruit. He suggests stocking Nardini Acqua di Cedro Limoncello, "a drier brand that will better suit the profile of the cocktail." Maraschino liqueur from Luxardo also makes a great experimental ingredient. "It is a dry sour cherry liqueur from Italy. But use sparingly, it's strong!"

1.5 oz. Aperol
.5 oz. Limoncello
.5 oz. Armagnac
.75 oz. fresh cucumber juice
.75 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 splash lemon juice
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters
Shake cocktail ingredients. Serve over ice, garnish with an orange twist.

Classic Daiquiri
Clinton Parfait, The Country Club New Orleans

When you're in a sugar-growing state like Louisiana, rum's the thing. It's the base of many Bourbon-Street classics, but the daiquiri stands apart as a cocktail you can dress up or down — literally, as in "up" (chilled without ice) or "on the rocks" (with ice).

Bartender and Lafayette native Clinton Parfait has been pouring perfect daiquiris at the Country Club New Orleans for nearly a decade. The homey Bywater bar and restaurant is a go-to for LGBTQ guests, who come for Creole cuisine, swimming-pool access, Sunday drag brunches and more.

Parfait says there's nothing better to sip than the daiquiri, "a New Orleans classic that represents the strong connection that New Orleans has with Caribbean culture. Our Classic Daiquiri uses a local Louisiana-sourced spirit called Three Roll Rum that comes in white, dark, spiced and Brazilian (Cachaça). It's used in nearly all of our rum-based drink recipes," he says.

You can try shaking up Parfait's daiquiri and other Country Club libations at home with his pointers: "Stocking a home bar is all about keeping what you like to drink in stock and having the appropriate accoutrement," says Parfait. "The daiquiri is pretty straightforward, but if you want to branch out and develop a small repertoire, learn their ingredients.

"When buying spirits, supporting local distilleries is a great way go," he says. "It's good to have Angostura and Peychaud's bitters, which will cover all the bases when it comes to the classics. And be able to make a quick simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water), and keep fresh citrus around for juicing."

Classic Daiquiri
1.5 oz. Three Roll Rum white rum
.75 oz. simple syrup
.75 oz. fresh lime juice

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBTQ interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.