While folks in most parts of the country anxiously await summer for its warm weather, school vacations, beach days and scantily-clad women, here in New Orleans, summer is not necessarily our favorite time of year. It’s darn hot. Like, sweltering, don’t-touch-anything metal, plastic-melting, dash-for-air-conditioning-if-you-dare-even-move-at-all, kind of hot. Business slows down when many people run screaming from the heat and humidity. Shade is a hot commodity and everything else is, well, just plain hot. But that said, we wouldn’t be New Orleans if we didn’t still have fun, even in the sweatiest of circumstances. And summer in New Orleans definitely still has some things going for it: Red Dress Run, festivals, the beginning of football season, and lots of cool and refreshing things to eat and drink that taste even better when it’s hot. Here is a list, in random order, of 12 cool treats for summer that can help you beat the heat:
1. Ice Cream from Angelo Brocato
Nothing brings out your inner kid like ice cream. And this time of year, when your inner kid happens to be a hot, sweaty brat, you better go for a double scoop.
Italians do a lot of things well: pasta, opera, romance and, of course, gelato. Head over to Angelo Brocato Italian Ice Cream & Pastry in Mid-City for a taste of Sicily in New Orleans. They have traditional Italian pastries like tiramisu and biscotti, though in this heat, the ice cream is definitely the way to go. Brocato's serves up a mighty sweet cone. Or cup. Or pint. Their gelato and ices come in a wide range of sinful flavors, such as amaretto and coconut, along with other frozen goodies like Baked Alaska or Cappuccino Ice Cream Pie. Angelo Brocato's, 214 N. Carrollton Ave., angelobrocatoicecream.com
2. Frozen Irish Coffee from Erin Rose
If you have to have your coffee fix even when the weather is as steamy as a cup of joe, yet you can’t stand the heat, this is the perfect drink for you. Skip the iced lattes and skim frappuccinos, and go for something even better—a frozen coffee drink with a kick. It’s cold and creamy and tastes just like a spiked milkshake, or a frozen mudslide, or a cup of icy heaven. Erin Rose is an iconic Irish pub with cheap drinks and a friendly atmosphere, but it’s their Frozen Irish Coffee that really put them on the map. I don’t think there’s much caffeine in these coffee concoctions, but they’re still every bit as addictive.
Erin Rose, 811 Conti St., erinrosebar.com
3. Sno-Balls from Imperial Woodpecker
In New Orleans, we take names very seriously. It’s not a sandwich, it’s a po-boy. It’s not the median, it’s the neutral ground. And don’t you dare call this frosty treat a snow cone. Besides, there’s a difference. Sno-balls are soft and fluffy like the fresh-fallen, Christmas-variety, and more closely resemble Hawaiian Shave Ice than snow cones (which are made of hard, crunchy pellets of ice).
Bring the temperature down with a little summertime sno-storm. At Imperial Woodpecker, you can get the whole rainbow of flavors from wedding cake to tutti frutti, including cream flavors. With add-ons like condensed milk, ice cream or marshmallow cream, it really is just like a sno-y Christmas in July. Imperial Woodpecker now has a stand in two locations—one on Magazine Street and one at Spanish Plaza across from Harrah’s Casino. Let it sno. Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls, 1 Poydras St. and 3511 Magazine St., iwsnoballs.com
4. Ice Cream Daiquiri from The Gazebo Café
Want something cool and refreshing, but can’t decide if a daiquiri or ice cream will better satisfy your chilly craving? Then get them both together. The Gazebo Café at the French Market is the self-professed “Home of the Original Ice Cream Daiquiri". In delicious flavors like White Russian, Banana Split, Grasshopper and Almond Mocha Freeze, it’s a daiquiri blended with ice cream. “It’s like an alcoholic smoothie,” the server said. You can sit outdoors in the shade of an umbrella in their courtyard, enjoying live music (or live entertainment of the weirdo-watching sort. It’s the French Market, after all). Or, order one from their walk-up take-out window and stroll through the market while sipping your tasty drink. The Gazebo Café, 1016 Decatur St., gazebocafenola.com
5. Absolut Hibiskus Frozen Lemonade at the American Sector, The National WWII Museum
Wandering around an air-conditioned museum is a great way to come in out of the heat, and you might even learn something interesting while you’re at it. But learning can be exhausting. Give your brain a break and get it a little brain freeze instead. Head over to the museum restaurant, The American Sector, and cool yourself off further with one of their Absolut Hibiskus Frozen Lemonades. Made with Absolut’s hibiscus and pomegranate-flavored vodka and served in a giant 16-ounce mason jar, it’s just the right combo of sweet, sour, and cold. The alcohol might make you forget the date of the D-Day Invasion that you just learned about, but it’ll also, if only for a minute, help take your mind off just how doggone hot it is outside. The American Sector Restaurant + Bar at the National WWII Museum, 945 Magazine St., nationalww2museum.org/american-sector
6. Sodas from Rocket Fizz
An ice cold Coke tastes great on a hot day, but wouldn’t a nice bottle of Bacon Soda somehow cool you off even more? Or at least, be a whole heck of a lot more enjoyable? Rocket Fizz helps you ward off heat stroke with ice cold sodas for every appetite. Flavors range from the classic (Orange Cream, Lime Rickey) to the odd (Apple Pie Soda, Chocolate Almond Fizz), to the downright disgusting (Ranch Dressing Soda, Dirt Soda). For something really weird, try a bottle of Pimple Pop or Gross Gus’s Dinosaur Dung. The store has an old-fashioned, 1950s feel—an odd and eclectic blend of candy store, soda fountain, five-and-dime, and novelty shop. Where else can you get a pair of squirrel underpants, a dancing hula girl for your dashboard and a bottle of Worm Ooze Soda all in one place? Perfect for your one-stop-shopping needs. Rocket Fizz, 831 Decatur St., rocketfizz.com
7. Milkshake from Stanley
You might as well cut to the chase and get your ice cream in liquid form to start with. In this heat, it’s going to very quickly end up that way anyway. And there are plenty of good places to get a milkshake around town. Take Stanley, for instance. They offer basic, kid-friendly shakes in the classic flavors of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. Or, order one of their grown-up milkshakes like the White Russian, Irish Coffee or Brandy Milkshake Punch—a blended version of the Southern classic brunch cocktail. Whatever flavor you opt for, these milkshakes really bring the boys to the yard. You can also turn any of their shakes into a malt. Or, if the only malt you crave is in malted liquor form, Stanley also sells beer. Stanley, 547 Saint Ann St., stanleyrestaurant.com
8. Frozen Yogurt from Fro-Yo Café and Sweets
At Fro Yo, you can create your own artsy masterpiece of frozen yogurt. Choose from their selection of 24 self-serve yogurt, gelato, or sorbet flavors, such as sea salt caramel pretzel and cake batter. There are gluten-free, dairy-free, even fat-free varieties. Fill up your cup with as much or as little as you like. Then you can add any of their endless tasty and esthetically-pleasing toppings, including syrups, cereals, fruits, candies, and baked goods. Next, embellish your work with whipped cream, hot fudge (sugar-free or regular) or any of their multi-colored palette of sprinkles. Go crazy. But just remember that you’re paying by weight, and crazy gets heavy after a while. Fro Yo Café and Sweets, 819 Canal St., froyocafeandsweets.com
9. Homemade popsicles from Meltdown
What started out as a free-wheeling popsicle dealer in an ice cream truck is currently in a more stable, permanent locale in the Bywater. Yet proprietor and popsicle chef Michelle Weaver also pedals her pops on the go from her recently-acquired refrigerated bike where she peddles them at festivals. Each of Meltdown’s frozen treats is handmade with just a few wholesome, natural, farm-to-popsicle ingredients, most of which are sourced locally. They are smoother and far less icy than your average pop and come in flavors such as pineapple cilantro and my all-time obsession, salted caramel. It’s the perfect sizzling-weather snack. But eat them fast ... they don’t call them “Meltdown” for nothing. These guys melt in your mouth, but they also melt in the sun. Meltdown, 4011 Saint Claude Ave., meltdownfrozenpops.com, (Check Facebook for opening times, as store hours are limited).
10. Watermelon Cocktails from The 700 Club & BMac’s
Ah, watermelon—the fruit of summer. It brings about memories of summer picnics, seed-spitting contests, watermelon carving competitions … and cocktails. At the 700 Club Bar, the bartenders make a mean watermelon mojito from scratch. They puree their own watermelon with a hand blender and even grow fresh mint on their upstairs balcony. It doesn’t get any more homegrown than that. But it’s a very labor-intensive process. “It takes about an hour and a half to get a little over half a gallon of puree,” the bartender told me. Well-worth the effort, though. On a similar note, BMac’s makes an “Adult Watermelon Lemonade” to order by mixing fresh watermelon puree, lemon juice and vodka (any flavor) for a refreshing seedless drink. 700 Club, 700 Burgundy St., 700clubneworleans.com; BMac’s, 819 Saint Louis St.
11. A chilled shot from Infusions at Rick’s Cabaret
Hanging out on Bourbon Street might not be your thing, especially during the hot summer months. The sheer volume of people packed into the area probably already raises the temperature a few degrees, and the Bourbon Street stench gets pretty rank in the hot sun. But a trip to “Infusions”, the shots bar in the front of Rick’s Cabaret, just might make you change your mind. They have a selection of 10 different dispensers full of house-infused liquors mixed into creatively blended shots like rum, pears, and apples, or tequila, habanero, and mango. They use fresh fruits and all-natural ingredients and infuse them with the selected booze for up to two weeks, for a classier and more sophisticated shot than you’ll find in most bars along the strip. Have it as a nice chilled shot or a refreshing cocktail. Still sweating? They also have $5 daily drink specials all week and two daiquiri machines. See, Bourbon Street ain’t all bad after all. Infusions Shots Bar at Rick’s Cabaret, 315 Bourbon St., rickscabaretnola.com
12. Royal Raspberry Martini from The Bombay Club
Nestled inside the Prince Conti Hotel, The Bombay Club is a hidden gem in the French Quarter. With live music, great food, and a Happy Hour that would drive anyone to drink, this is the perfect spot to soak up a little shade or soak up a little booze. Their Happy Hour is seven days a week from 4 to 7 p.m., and includes a $3 beer selection, $3 wine selections and a $5 cocktail. They also offer $3 snacks and bites.
Try a Royal Raspberry Martini, just one of the many selections on their impressive martini list. It’s made with Plymouth gin, lemon juice, fresh raspberries and an egg white for a nice foam on top. Watch the bartender work up a sweat shaking your drink while you cool off with one of the hardest-working air conditioners in the Quarter. For another cool treat, opt for the Dulce Bar—an ice cream sandwich with dulce de leche ice cream sandwiched between two layers of devil’s food cake. Now that’s cool. The Bombay Club, 830 Conti St., bombayneworleans.com