You won’t have any trouble finding a place to drink in New Orleans. Heck, thanks to “go cups,” you won’t have to spend a minute without a drink in your hand. But there’s more to this town than bars (much), and more to bars than Bourbon Street (ditto), so as with all things, let moderation preside. There, that’s our sermon. Now read on for some of the most convivial, quaint, or downright eccentric spots in which to spend your precious cocktail budget. Also keep in mind that many restaurants also have excellent bars.
The French Quarter & the Faubourg Marigny
Pat O’Brien’s, 718 St. Peter St. (www.patobriens.com; [tel] 504/525-4823), is world-famous for the hefty, vivid red drink with the big-wind name. The bar’s owners created the Hurricane’s rum-heavy formula during a 1940s whiskey shortage. It’s served in signature hurricane-lamp–style glasses, or a 3-gallon magnum that’s taller than many small children, served with long straws, and takes a group to finish (one profoundly hopes)—all of whom must drink standing up. Naturally, this attracts tourists and collegians in droves. The line can stretch down the street, despite the plethora of nearby drinking options . . . and the fact that the Hurricane is kinda sickly sweet.
Pat O’s is nonetheless worth a stop as a reliable, rowdy, friendly introduction to New Orleans. The large, dueling-pianos lounge is fun (music starts at 7pm) and locals populate the main bar up front, but when weather permits, the rambling, often boisterous tropical patio is the place to be. Your Hurricane automatically comes with a $3 charge for the 28-oz. glass, refunded if you return before leaving. If you’re keeping it, ask for the packing materialsElsewhere Around the City
The St. Claude scene -- The scruffy local alternative types have carved out a pretty pulsing, punk-infused scene (well, with some garage rock, bluegrass, metal, and whatever else) along a stretch of St. Claude Avenue, where bars like the Saturn Bar, the Hi-Ho Lounge, the AllWays Lounge, and Siberia book music most nights. Hours, shows, and covers vary so do call ahead. If this sounds like your thing, do take a cab and don't wander in this transitional area. AllWays Lounge, 240 Saint Claude Ave. (tel. 504/218-5778; www.theallwayslounge.com); Siberia, 2227 St. Claude Ave. (tel. 504/265-8855).
If you’d rather drink with Tom Waits than Tom Cruise, you’ll appreciate New Orleans’s fine dive bars—and by fine, we mean down-and-dirty, neighborhood holes-in-the-wall with regulars straight out of a Jim Jarmusch casting call. Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge’s only illumination comes from dwindling Christmas lights, which doesn’t make it easier to find this crowded, sweat-soaked, off-the-beaten-path shack. It’s BYOD (dog), so you know it’s friendly (7612 Oak St., Uptown; [tel] 504/861-2802). Aunt Tiki’s, in the depths of Decatur Street, is laden with stickers, Halloween dreck, and affable, slouching degenerates. As if that’s not draw enough, drinks are strong and cheap (1207 Decatur St., French Quarter; [tel] 504/680-8454). At the Elvis-themed Kingpin, 20-somethings in CBGB tees come for shuffleboard and cheap drink specials (1307 Lyons St., Uptown; www.kingpinbar.com; [tel] 504/891-2373). The Abbey has a few motley stained-glass windows, but everything else is the antithesis of church. Yet the David Lynchian clientele pray at their bar 24/7, and any jukebox offering both classic country and the Cramps is worthy of worship (1123 Decatur St., French Quarter; [tel] 504/523-7177).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.