Happy Hour in New Orleans

17:03 November 21, 2014

The average American likely views Happy Hour the same—as a reward for hard work. Libations, under any circumstance, are the stuff of decompression, and medical science now proves that an occasional cocktail lowers blood pressure. Pair that with a 2-for-1 promotion at the close of the work day and you have yourself a sure thing. After hours meetings, communal social junctures, or just some potent firewater to wash down the bitter pills of the day are all frames from your typical early evening bar scene. We've all suffered a bad day at the office, but cozying up to the trough until last call is a whole other beast that requires a bit of taming.

In a place like The Big Easy where the champion attraction is alcohol leniency, people tend to capitalize on the “I'm on vacation” mindset and allow excuses to result in poor pace. New Orleanians, for the most part, tend to exercise control when living daily life in a duly reputed party destination. Helpful to this cause, perhaps, is that the social get together and business meeting tend to revolve around the cocktail. It's not abnormal for a new recruit or colleague to be taken to a venue like The Columns Hotel and introduced to the Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans, or be given a bit of cocktail history whilst sipping his or her first Ramos Gin Fizz at Tujague's. Educating a transplant on pre and post prohibition Nola is almost as important as explaining the lore of Carnival chronicles, as it makes the city what it is today. With the history lesson comes the understanding that cocktails are inevitable here, and most importantly, that they should be respected. 

Aperitifs and Digestifs are a great way to get in some variety and not 'sauce the pasta' too much during working hours. At Emeril's you could follow up a L'Amuse Brabander Goat Cheese Board and Arugula Salad with a glass of Nocello. Nutty liqueurs tend to lend the same effect on the palate as a flavored coffee without the jolt to the central nervous system. A great digestif is going to be a little sweet hence rounding off the meal (think dessert), while aperitifs will supply more of a dry/bitter piquancy to create appetite. Some don't like to day-drink at all, but if you do, have lunch at Commander's Palace and enjoy 25-cent martinis Monday through Friday. The concept of a quarter-priced cocktail is almost unbelievable from a marketing standpoint, but in Louisiana there is a relatively light liquor taxation and regulation which directly results in lower liquor cost. Just remember that martinis are like boobs: one is fun, two is amazing, three is just weird. Or you could put the kibosh on booze until dinner where you can preface a meal at Mariza in the Bywater with "The Pearl," an aperitif made with gentle measures of Gin, Aperol, Lillet Blanc and Prosecco. 

For a Happy Hour from 3 to 7pm that includes tiny bubbles, might I suggest Salú. The Salú Champagne Cocktail will add some necessary fancy to your day, and during Happy Hour you can get it, along with mussels and flatbreads, at half price. During the same hours and just two doors down, Basin showcases a featured cocktail, glass wines, beer specials, and a limited $4 menu. Over in the Arts District at La Casita, bartendress Tiffany serves up such a solid house margarita that you may find the interior a bit narrow. If crowds in small spaces aren't your thing, there's an outdoor patio with additional tables at the rear. Weather is influential, so for layered perfection on a brisk day, try the Irish Coffee at The Irish House—made with Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, coffee, fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. When it's hot, a choice idea is always a snoball. I prefer Pandora's orchid plus Stoli Blueberry Vodka—but you'll have to add the latter ingredient on your own. Get it home (or to the bar) before it melts. 

People tend to drink more in the Summer, around holidays, and during festivals, however the issue is not allowing your practical enjoyment to turn into excessive addiction no matter the event. Without a doubt, the caloric value of alcohol and flavored mixers will increase weight. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram on average, and mama always said no smart decision comes from a booze-soaked brain. Drunkenness lowers inhibitions resulting in substandard choices like drinking and driving, which is attributed to most fatal car accidents in the US. This on top of the damage incurred to internal organs, it's no wonder alcohol is still viewed as a toxic drug even in light of medical findings supporting infrequent drinking is good for you. Fitness and nutrition expert Max Wettstein explains, “The reason this will always be subject to controversy is because alcohol is a drug and is toxic when abused, particularly to the liver which solely provides the enzymes to oxidize it. However, such a generalization is incorrect because in moderation, alcohol is becoming widely recognized as beneficial to heart disease prevention, red wine in particular.” 

A recent study on Resveratrol, the antioxidant found in red wine, revealed that the process by which it breaks down sugars can improve memory. Though it doesn't take a doctor to understand drinking a bottle of wine won't help you remember a damn thing, the fact is body chemistry varies. What affects one subject won't molecularly affect another the same. Additionally, drinking with food reduces the prospect for weight gain since alcohol metabolizes first. Your stomach is able to absorb the nutrients that would otherwise be lost via frequent urination due to alcohol's diuretic properties. Alcohol also boosts appetite, so having diet-geared willpower helps. Good to know now that porch-sipping wines like rosé will soon be traded for heartier reds like pinot noir. Wine experts John Keife and Jim Yonkus at Keife & Co. can recommend bottles and nibbles like cheese and charcuterie meat for whatever your situation commands. Evaluate select picks of their stock at your leisure by attending one of their weekly tastings on Thursdays from 5 to 7pm. 


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