For the two weekends of Jazz Fest, everyone, it seems, is on foot, and not just the lemonade and water peddlers. Well outside the Quarter, we're taking our drinking to the streets:
Bayou Beer Garden.
If the weather's nice, enjoy the sprawling deck, where live music continues weekend evenings (and on Sunday nights, it comes with a crawfish boil). The bottled beer list is broad, and you can pair your brew with bar fare like gravydrenched fries, meat pies, burgers and wraps.
Canal Street Bistro.
A fresh fruit-and-veggie juice bar gives this lush, globally-inspired bistro an advantage when it comes to making seasonal cocktails. Mixologist Samuel Shanks writes specialty drinks (through football season, he put Wild Turkey's American Honey in many of my coffee cups), and you can also customize their existing juices by adding spirits (try bourbon in a glass of juiced ginger, lemon and apple, topped with sparkling water). Or sample their premium tequila selection, offered on a rolling truck.
One of the liveliest joints in Mid-City, Finn's hosts nightly pub quizzes, and pool and dart leagues, when they're not busy showing football or soccer matches. Hungry regulars flock to Boo Koo BBQ's smoked meat-smothered pub fare, with specialties like deep-fried mac and cheese balls. Lately, Finn's has stepped up its cocktail list.
Liuzza's By the Track.
The dressing on their roast beef po-boy is touched with horseradish, and garlic butter-soaked oysters grace another po-boy - breathtaking little touches that set this trackside dive bar apart. During Jazz Fest, crowds swell on their sidewalk just off Esplanade, one of the city's prettiest streets, and you'll see as many visitors as locals. Nobody expects craft cocktails, and anyway, nothing would taste better with these tweaked New Orleans classics than a cold schooner of beer.
Where Pal's stands out from other dark and locals-packed dives is a broad cocktail list that's also seasonal warm weather signatures include the rye-and-ginger Motorboat, while cold weather calls for the Cajun Buttered Rum, local spiced rum loaded with Pal's own sugared butter batter.
Ralph's on the Park.
"This is my office," bartender Tito Thomas told us the last time we were there, and the graceful oaks of City Park probably do make the prettiest view of any local bar. Tito skillfully matches that view with fresh takes on classicinspired cocktails that are deceptively simple.
John Slavich writes the cocktails at this French bistro, relying on juices, syrups and fruit trees in the tiny yard for seasonal drinks like the Quat, You Like It's spun from homemade kumquatcello (watch it infuse on the bar counter), Irish whiskey and herbaceous Danish honey wine.
Small, rich plates (and the city's best dirty rice) call for fresh and juicy cocktails, many of which are available by the pitcher here. Beyond martinis, margaritas and seasonal punches, the bar staff frequently comes up with quirky, event-specific drinks that are off the menu (think Halloween's Black Widow, based on naturally blackened Blavod vodka). Pop in to see what they've crafted for Jazz Fest.
Twelve Mile Limit.
On Jazz Fest weekends, pop into this craft cocktail bar for the Destroy All Coffee brunch and a bourbon-Cokefl oat; return at night for Chris Shortall's meaty menu that includes smoked ribs and crispy tater tots loaded with pulled pork, roasted Brussels sprouts, mac and cheese and adobo slaw. The master mixologists craft drinks like the gently crisp Wealth of Nations, made from a Viennese dry gin, a boozy artisanal tonic, and California verjus.