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A culture of sophisticated drinking
September 4, 2006 12:56 PM   Subscribe

A little more than a year after leaving New Orleans, I miss the culture of sophisticated drinking. Sure, maybe not on Bourbon Street, home of the sickly sweet hurricane and Hand Grenade. But you head off Bourbon and you can get a very pleasant Pimms cup at the Napoleon House. And just down the street is a military antiques store that was once the pharmacy where Antoine Amadie Peychaud invented the sazerac, which lays claims to being the word's oldest cocktail. Any good bartender in New Orleans will be able to make you one; finding a sazerac-capable bartender outside the city is almost impossible. Of course, just outside the French Quarter, in the Fairmont Hotel, is the Sazerac bar, but, surprisingly, their specialty is not the sazerac, but the favorite drink of Huey Long, the delicious Ramos Gin Fizz. Nearby, back in the Quarter, on an upper floor of the Pharmacy Museum, was the former home of the Museum of the American Cocktail -- now seemingly in transit after Katrina. At the opening, cocktail chef Dale Degroff served up his specialty -- pre-Prohibition cocktails, including a brandy crusta that still makes me weep from the pleasure of it. Sure, up here in Minneapolis we invented the cosmopolitan, but somehow a drink that's also become popular as a perfume doesn't have that same Crescent City je ne sais quoi.
posted by Astro Zombie (36 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whatever you do, don't drink the coffee with chicory.
posted by keswick at 1:09 PM on September 4, 2006


Oh, yay! What a fun post.
posted by dejah420 at 1:31 PM on September 4, 2006


Your post reminded me of a BBC series earlier in the year called "Balderdash and Piffle", which saw Jerry Hall in New Orleans looking for the origins of the word cocktail.

I can't find much info, apart from this Observer article (the cocktail thing is half way down), but if you're interested in this stuff (and it looks like you are!) then it might be worth trolling the internets for a torrent. The various theories on the etymology of the word were very interesting.
posted by derbs at 1:47 PM on September 4, 2006


Oh, the Pimm's cup. Great with extra cucumber!
posted by taschenrechner at 2:05 PM on September 4, 2006


creative anti-fogmatics
posted by caddis at 2:08 PM on September 4, 2006


Huey Long even flew his favorite bartender to New York with him to teach bartenders at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel how to make the drink.

Great post.
posted by ColdChef at 2:18 PM on September 4, 2006


I think the Fairmont is still closed for renovation after Katrina. It's just down the street from my apartment and the chainlink fencing is still surrounding it. In fact, I think I have a pic somewhere from this past spring that is still accurate.

Yep, I took this pic back in February, but it still looks pretty much the same:


Awesome post Astro Zombie.
posted by djeo at 2:40 PM on September 4, 2006


Great post! Give Astro Zombie the post of the day!

Oh - and a drink!!
posted by matty at 3:10 PM on September 4, 2006


Well, I was going to say "good post," but everybody else has beaten me to it. Thanks for the trip back to N'alwlins.
posted by meh at 3:51 PM on September 4, 2006


N'alwlins? That may be the most unusual spelling I have seen yet!
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:54 PM on September 4, 2006


wonderful post. i am most delighted by the continued existence of laura's (nondrinking sugar-eater here).
posted by sdn at 4:07 PM on September 4, 2006


keswick writes "Whatever you do, don't drink the coffee with chicory."

Why the hell not??

Great post, AZ.
posted by brundlefly at 4:07 PM on September 4, 2006


Don't forget the revolving Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, home of the Vieux Carré.
posted by trip and a half at 4:09 PM on September 4, 2006


Aw, I can't believe I forgot that one! It was my most frequent drinking spot. My girlfriend was especially fond of the goodie, although Dr. Cocktail doesn't think much of the drink.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:16 PM on September 4, 2006


“Corpse-haunted and still half-submerged in flood water, the city, feared dead, was breathing, and eating,"

New Orleans Regains Its Appetite
posted by ColdChef at 4:24 PM on September 4, 2006


great post indeed, AZ/max. only one thing to do... move back!
posted by ab3 at 5:15 PM on September 4, 2006


I want to make all of these drinks! Thanks for the bookmark-inducing post. :)
posted by nonmerci at 5:19 PM on September 4, 2006


Thanks for the post.

Anything about drinking (or eating) in New Orleans is welcome.
posted by melkozek at 6:30 PM on September 4, 2006


This is great, it made me miss drinking in New Orleans and I've never even lived there!
posted by echo0720 at 7:07 PM on September 4, 2006


Few people know this, but Frank Herbert nearly came to blows with a New Orleans bartender after accusing the bartender of substituting the Peychaud Bitters with a cheaper and less flavorful knockoff. The barman kept denying it, but Herbert was adamant the whole time that the drink "WAS an Ersatz Sazerac". He was eventually thrown out, and the issue was never satisfactorily resolved.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:39 PM on September 4, 2006 [3 favorites]


Damn you, AZ. Now I must have a Pimm's cup. The last one I had was after brunch at a little place called Rosie's off Chartres St. Then we walked through the sticky summer afternoon stumbling over enormous green caterpillars that were plopping out of the overhanging trees. Later we split a forty in a brown bag in Jackson Square before eating rabbit at K-Paul's and toddling back to our room.

dammit the liquor store's closed
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:45 PM on September 4, 2006


Herbert was adamant the whole time that the drink "WAS an Ersatz Sazerac".

That's the best esoteric pun I've ever seen on MeFi. Bravo, sir.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:12 PM on September 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Bravo, my friend, bravo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:18 PM on September 4, 2006


Thanks! It's a (mostly useless) skill. Hopefully I'll get to try one of the real things one of these days, they sound fantastic....
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:58 PM on September 4, 2006


While I am a great fan of both the Sazerac and the Pimm's cup (Sazerac at the Fairmont, Pimm's at the Napoloeon House), as a New Yorker, I must object to the idea that the Cosmopolitan was invented in Minnesota. The discredit for that drink belongs to New York and the Odeon restaurant, home to a bunch of characters straight out of Jay McInerney's bolivian-marching-powdered brain.

We own up to our failings.

Also, Chicory coffee ain't half bad. Otherwise, the post and the thread are both great.
posted by lackutrol at 10:56 PM on September 4, 2006


Yeah, you New Yorkers also try to claim the Reuben sandwich, but we all know it was actually invented in Nebraska.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:22 AM on September 5, 2006


Ah, here is the New York documentation. Toby Cecchini doesn't claim to have invented the Cosmo, he claims to have "re-invented" it, whatever that means. Neal Murray's claim predates Cecchini's, so I'm still claiming ownership. Interestingly, Wikipedia's reference for the Neal Murray claim was written by yours truly, but my source was the article linked in the FPP.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:39 AM on September 5, 2006


*waits for Miguel to appear*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:33 AM on September 5, 2006


This is a wonderful post, Astro Zombie. Thanks.

I miss Lafitte's Blacksmith, the only non-horrible bar on Bourbon St.

I heard it had closed down after Katrina. I wonder if they ever reopened.

posted by dersins at 2:09 PM on September 5, 2006


For more on the bar culture of New Orleans, see Obituary Cocktail: The Great Saloons of New Orleans, by Kerri McCaffety:


That's the bar at the Napolean House on the cover.
posted by timeistight at 2:14 PM on September 5, 2006


Two UNO professors, Richard and Rima Collins, wrote a great cookbook on NO cooking, spanning Creole and Cajun dishes, with a great section on NO drinks, including both sazerac and Ramos gin fizz. I've been serving the latter with heaping helpings of jambalaya and gumbo to grateful friends and relatives in periodic feasts at our house.

I recommend the book to everyone.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:21 PM on September 5, 2006


poppy z. brite often posts about nola food and drink. her food-themed novels -- liquor, prime and the recently released soul kitchen -- are wonderful and will make you even more homesick.
posted by sdn at 4:34 PM on September 5, 2006


Great post - makes me wish I could take another trip to NO, but I keep having to put it off. Never could get into the Sazerac - I more of a Hand Grenade or Hurricane drinker. I wonder if Houston barkeeps have learned to make these...
posted by batgrlHG at 5:27 PM on September 5, 2006


I am SO glad you posted this!

After a 10 year bought of sobriety, I’m newly learning to drink. In preparation for my very first time ordering a drink at a bar (at age 31) I poured through online drink recipes until I found the cocktail that sounded most appealing to me: a gin fizz. When I sauntered up to the bar and asked for one I got a blank stare from the bartender. She asked if I meant a sloe gin fizz which I did not. Since she’d never heard of a gin fizz and I didn’t know how to make one, I let my friend order for me and got nicely drunk on a gin and tonic.

Anyway, I started asking everyone I knew for their cocktail recommendations. Now I’ve tried cosmos, martinis, seabreezes, bloody marys, and lots of other drinks, but I have not been able to try what is becoming my holy grail: the sazerac. Someone told me I’d love them, but I’ve now tried to order one in half a dozen bars and not one bartender has heard of it. Just two nights ago I was in a bar and asked for one. The bartender even handed over his drink recipe book, and we couldn’t find the sazerac in the index. My girlfriend who has seen me try to order this drink a number of times doesn’t even believe me that this drink exists. I’ve just sent her your link to prove I’m not crazy.

Thank you for this post! Maybe I’ll print out a copy to take with me next time I go to a bar.

Cheers!
posted by serazin at 1:18 PM on September 6, 2006


Dersins, it's cool - Lafitte's is totally open from what I've heard.
posted by kuperman at 3:38 PM on September 6, 2006


I look forward to getting back to breakfast at Galatois and dinner at Pascal Manale's and drinking everywhere in between.

And I like coffee with chicory. I have friends in Lake Charles that send me a pound of Community periodically to get a fix.
posted by kjs3 at 7:48 PM on September 6, 2006


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