Three men wearing camp shirts and pleated shorts check into the Hyatt French Quarter - and they're all pulling wheeled coolers (to ice down Hand Grenades? Chill electric blue martinis in test tubes?) Then one guy cocks his head in the direction of the hotel's just-opened bar, Batch, flooding me with hope.
To attract both locals and tourists, French Quarter bars need good drinks and a cool hook, like an underground vibe, funky bartenders or gorgeous bar food. That goes double if you're a hard-thumping block off Bourbon Street.
What Batch brings to the party is an exciting program of barrel-aged cocktails and flask-ready infusions, as well as pre-mixed classic drinks served tableside in charred oak baby barrels. (Batch sources the barrels from the same place supplying Old New Orleans Rum, and Batch carries ONO as its featured rum.)
If you want to control the amount of ice, soda water or citrus in your drink, ask for flask service, and pour either straight spirits or infusions (like lemon-sparked gin, orange- and vanilla-drenched vodka) from brushed aluminum canteens (engraved with the Batch logo, and yours to keep for an extra $25).
You can, of course, get a single cocktail made to order, and I'd start with the Manhattan, based on bourbon that Batch infuses with their own house-cured bacon. Remarkably, the bacon here plays up bourbon's deep toffee and vanilla notes, rather than its smokiness.
Paired with local honey and garnished with an almond-laced wild black cherry, this Manhattan has a lush roundness and velvet texture, with a chocolate bite at the finish. (It was made for me by Dana Nault, who tended bar in Europe but has made her way back home.)
Batch's ambitious cocktail list will eventually include three barrel-aged cocktails (a Manhattan, an old-fashioned, and a bacon-infused vodka) - all still resting, becoming nuttier and smokier. (While you wait, feast on Chef Derek Fritzel's fresh stack of fried green tomatoes, crisp oysters and Bibb lettuce.)
Darlene Marcello, HRI's vice president of food and beverage, hints at the next round of barrel-aged cocktails: possibly a margarita made with aged tequila, a sangría based on aged reds or whites, and a gin drink. "With locals, I want this to be their place," she tells me. "We want to inspire a cult following."
Which, in turn, will attract in-the-know tourists. As for those men with the coolers - if they plan to party in their room, why not order Batch's in-room barrel service? And if they're going to drink on the street, be discreet, fellas. Spring for the Batch flask.
What's your advice for FQ bars who want to appeal to locals and tourists? Let's talk on Facebook or on Twitter @AnneBerryWrites.