We should all be so lucky to be able to take Neal Bodenheimer’s professional advice: Follow your interests and then try to turn them into a job. This manifesto led him to open Cure, the widely lauded Uptown watering hole. His latest endeavor is Bellocq, a lush and lavish venue located in the Hotel Modern at Lee Circle.
After exploring new trends in mixology at Cure, Bodenheimer and his partners turned their attention backward to the 19th century, focusing specifically on the cobbler. The cobbler is an older form of mixed drink that consists of a base spirit (originally some form of fortified wine), sugar and fresh fruit. It dates from at least the 1830s, and made use of two items very new to people of that time – ice and straws. Bellocq retains that focus, serving the drink with the iconic cobblestone-shaped ice that gave the drink its name, as well as the delicate wheat straws that would have graced 19th century cobblers.
Today, we take for granted the easy availability of wine, but historically it had to be shipped from afar and often arrived to the United States in bad condition. Fortified wines kept their flavors best, so that is what much of America drank. Bodenheimer notes that cocktails made from lower-alcohol fortified wines are perfect for New Orleans drinking, especially in the summer. “We wanted to do something weather appropriate. Cobblers make sense here.” Although you can make a cobbler out of anything, Bellocq’s cobblers feature Madeira, Sherry, Port and Vermouth.
Bodenheimer is a a fan of Bellocq’s clarified Brandy Milk Punch and Madeira Cobblers, especially those made with Charleston Madeira. My friend Amanda and I both enjoyed a Port-based cobbler, which was balanced and refreshing. It arrived in a frosted silver cup garnished with enough fruit to make Carmen Miranda feel at home. We agreed it would be a great summertime sipping drink.
The bar is named for E.J. Bellocq, noted photographer of Storyville. The bar’s name came about from exploring the Belle Epoque as it played out here in NOLA and the décor is a nod to that time period. The pewter Octopus Punch Bowl is a real gem, reigning atop the zinc bar. Low benches “for two” are hidden behind beaded curtains — a gesture of privacy. Lighting is low, but the high ceiling and windows keep the venue airy. The seating is comfy and intimate with cushioned armchairs and settees arranged in small groups. The baby grand piano reminds you to return for live music. Just outside the bar is a foyer with luxurious daybeds and divans for lounging when weather permits. Bellocq has a great happy hour menu and also serves small plates out of Tamarind by Chef Dominique Macquet, a new restaurant also located in the hotel.
It’s now late March, so the cool months are behind us. When you are in New Orleans, you are always just a few steps from the 19th century, when there was no air conditioning and the ice houses dotting the levee offered respite from the heat. Head to Bellocq, stretch out on a chaise lounge and cool down with a cobbler.
936 St Charles Avenue
Hours Monday-Thursday 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Friday-Saturday 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Sunday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Elizabeth Pearce is a culinary historian at the Hermann-Grima House, where she directs their hearth cooking program. She also gives cocktail and culinary walking tours of the French Quarter. When she’s not drinking or talking about drinking, she’s writing about drinking at Neat with a Twist. To find out more, visit Elizabeth’s website.