Courtesy of Port of Call

The French Quarter's Famous Drinks | 5 Essential French Quarter Concoctions

07:00 July 25, 2023
By: Joey Cirilo

The Tastiest, Most Dangerous Drinks in the Vieux Carre

The staggering possibilities of establishments capable of serving you a cold one in the French Quarter are enough to leave your head spinning. Before you've had your first sip, you must trust that there is a method to the madness.

The Quarter—sprawling 14 blocks from Esplanade Avenue to Canal Street, and from North Rampart to Miss River—is where one can engage in nefarious activities ranging from, but not limited to, disappearing into a seedy unknown 24-hour watering hole to quench one's thirst, pairing bevys with the best French Quarter cuisine, toasting to the famous architecture with a to-go cup, and more.

Joao Francisco/Unsplash

The French Quarter is equal parts dimly lit bars that are dingy, magnificent, and awe-inspiring, as much as they are mysterious. For tourists, it's an understandable must-see, oftentimes where the majority of their vacation will be spent. Wild hair? Going through a breakup? Shitty week at the office? Time to rideshare—it's a French Quarter night.

Whether you're swinging through the Crescent City on borrowed time but insist on hitting all the staples or you're a resident, properly drinking like a tourist is a necessity. Here are the absolute spots you shouldn't pass by—with signature cocktails good enough to make you miss your flight, kiss a stranger, or perhaps even confess to a bartender your innermost secrets.

Tropical Isle - Hand Grenade

Courtesy of Robert Witkowski

When Tropical Isle owners Earl Bernhardt and Pam Fortner created the Hand Grenade, they named it with intent-because after downing one, you'd much rather jump on a live one than order a second. Boasting to be the strongest drink in New Orleans, once the Hand Grenade received rave reviews at the 1984 World's Fair via drunken head nods and positive cash flow, it was only natural that it make its way to the French Quarter.

They're easy to spot. Look for the over-sized fluorescent green plastic container resembling-you guessed it-a Hand Grenade. Tropic Isle sure knows a thing or two about branding.

Composed of a "wonderful melon flavor drink," lots of liqueurs, and profuse secret ingredients, the Hand Grenade operates in stealth. The candied beverage offers you a warm, familiar nuzzle up front. But on the backend, if one isn't careful, a few too many and you're speaking in tongues trying to barter with the Lucky Dog cart employee, offering up your pants as a form of acceptable currency. Tourists beware.

Port of Call - the Monsoon

Courtesy Port Of Call

On most people's first visit to Port of Call, they asked if they could have fries on the side of their burger, and the server quickly replied, "No, because we don't serve them." Respect. This 50 plus year old dive is known for their mouth-watering and arguably best burger in New Orleans, coupled with a loaded baked potato so large it doubles as a lethal weapon.

But what gets overlooked too often when French Quarter boozing is the monsoon. Neptune's monsoon is described on their website as "an old recipe used frequently as a last request by pirates condemned to walk the plank." Most couldn't tell you what's in it if their life depended on it; although, when consuming, you'll most likely have to firmly grasp your signature plastic cup with both hands as if you were a toddler with its sippy cup.

One Monsoon will leave you walking as if you've grown a peg leg. Just one.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop - Purple Drank

Alexander Grey/Unsplash

If you know, you know. If you don't, well, you're about to find out. Built sometime between 1722 and 1732, Lafitte's is reputed to be the one of the oldest standing structures originally used as a bar in the United States. Its dimly-lit walls have dusty photos from various celebrities who have sauntered in throughout the years.

And unless you wish to appear to be a walking-talking TripAdvisor representative, refrain from uttering the words "voodoo daiquiri." It's purple drank. Sounds cute, right? Don't let the delicious grape flavor and ease going down fool you, it's essentially an Everclear slushy. Your vision will dissipate, the candle-lit bar will begin to blur, your jokes are funnier, people are more attractive.

Wait! Is it still daylight outside? If you're lucky, stick around long enough and a piano player will sit in a seated position tucked into a dark corner and before you know it, you're embracing strangers while belting out Elton John's "Rocket Man." Lafitte's is a favorite among locals and tourists alike—a rare occurrence.

Pat O'Brien's - the Hurricane

Joey Cirilo

Pat O's was constructed in 1791 and was the first Spanish Theatre in the United States until Pat O'Brien and Charlie Cantrell purchased the property in 1942 and transformed 718 St. Peter Street into what it is today. It is not just a hurricane—it is the Hurricane—as in, the original.

In the 1940's, compliments of World War II, domestic liquor was scarce but rum coming into New Orleans up the Mississippi River was practically being given away. Pat O's seized this as the perfect business opportunity, developed a recipe, threw it into a glass shaped like a hurricane lamp and—boom—the Hurricane was born.

Sure, the outside patio is spacious, and, yes, there's a fountain of fire, but the real party is on the inside—three words: dueling piano bar. Two copper-topped baby grand pianos face one another upon a stage surrounded by enough inebriated patrons positioned in wooden chairs to make the fire marshal raise an eyebrow. The performers are a class act and yes, they take requests in exchange for tips. If you really want to bring the house down, toss "Zombie" by the Cranberries into the mix. You're welcome.

Molly's at the Market/Erin Rose - Frozen Irish Coffee

Frozen Irish Coffee [Molly's at the Market Facebook]

As Kevin McCallister once said, "You guys give up? Or are you thirsty for more?" Jim Monaghan's frozen Irish coffee can be purchased at either location, so why restrict yourself to just one? Sweet, mind-numbing, and delectable—it's the perfect boozy pick-me-up after one too many at your previous destinations.

Both of these French Quarter bars operate more as a neighborhood joint. It's the people that make them. If your timing is fortunate, grab a spot at the window and allow those passing by to provide the entertainment as the day settles into night.

If you're feeling particularly adventurous, order a shot of Skrewball (peanut butter whiskey) to throw in the mix and revel in your ingenuity/borderline alcoholism. The frozen concoction will undoubtedly force you to slow things down just a tad while providing that extra much-needed caffeine kick.

A French Quarter Night You Won't Want to Forget

It's clear to see that after downing these essential French Quarter drinks, you won't be thinking clearly. Suddenly hungry after a night out or hoping to prevent a nasty hangover? Stop by these bars with great late-night bites.

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