Visiting New Orleans in December feels distinctly different from Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest seasons. Decked out in holiday finery, the city takes on a decidedly more formal feel. And with the temperatures and leaves dropping — as well as a gambit of holiday visits and fancy dinners — we tend to seek cozier libations in line with the season.
There are plenty of classic bars that can smoothly and tastefully accommodate high-brow tastes and multiple generations. Some of the bars below are institutions; others are newer, but all of them exude enduring taste.
The cooler weather also means it’s time to reconsider what to order from the bar. Autumn and winter cocktails favor the less icy and more brown-based cocktails (think whiskey, bourbon, cognac, dark rum and Grand Marnier).
New Orleans Bars for Holiday Libations
Carousel Bar & Lounge at The Hotel Monteleone
It always feels festive at The Carousel Bar, a longstanding favorite in the French Quarter since 1949 for both tourists and locals alike. But this time of year, it’s all decked out for the holidays. With its lights and colors, the bar itself resembles a Christmas tree. The glamorous and expanded lounge area features crystal touches and club chairs, all the better to accompany nightly live jazz. Stay warm with the seasonal Spiced Pear cocktail, a hot drink with St. George spiced pear liqueur, ginger liqueur, and a pat of spiced butter. Also available at this rotating bar is the Reveillon Punch made with Old New Orleans Cajun Spice rum, Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Clement Creole shrub, fresh lime juice, and fresh orange juice. 214 Royal St. / (504) 523-3341
This diminutive French Quarter bar with posh touches of animal print is next door to Arnaud’s restaurant and is quiet enough for getting caught up with friends and relatives. Head bartender Chris Hannah is a local celebrity in cocktail circles. The namesake drink is always recommended, but give the holiday Wassail a try, made with Applejack, apple brandy, Pimm’s, Cynar, Wassail dram, and DeGroff bitters. 813 Rue Bienville / (504) 523-5433
This Ritz-Carlton bar’s namesake musician and headliner has been a staple of the New Orleans music scene for many years. With its comfortable chairs and sofas, this bar is a safe bet for mature relatives who want to hear classic New Orleans jazz. Seasonal treats include the Winter Sparkler, made with Domaine de Canton, St. Germain, Prosecco, and a grapefruit slice garnish. For something a little heartier, try the Manhattan Miracle, made with Maker’s Mark, Amaro Nonino, cranberry juice, clove syrup, and Peychaud’s bitters. 921 Canal St. / (504) 524-1331
During its incarnation in his day, Governor Huey P. Long considered The Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel one of his favorite sipping grounds. Today, this art deco-inspired bar, with its wall murals of Mississippi River life, offers finely crafted, stiff Sazeracs, comfortable seating, snack mixes, and attentive service. The ornate, gilded lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, is especially dazzling during the holidays. The bar further embraces the season with special cocktails like the Cajun Hot Buttered Rum, Holiday Fashioned, Santa’s Candy Cane, and Mrs. Claus’s Cookie. 123 Baronne St. / (504) 648-1200
Brighten up the shortened sunlight of the season by hitting tiki wonderland Latitude 29 for Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, an event in collaboration with NYC’s Boilermaker and Chicago’s Lost Lake. The pop-up event runs from December 1-24. Latitude 29’s creations include the Nantucket Sleigh-Ride, made with Demerara rum, dark Jamaican rum, apricot brandy, allspice dram, lime juice, simple syrup, and grapefruit juice. Contributions from the other two locations include ...And a Parrot in a Palm Tree with tequila, mezcal, curaçao, Lost Lake Spiced Coconut Syrup, and lime from Lost Lake, and I Saw Mommy, made with vodka, pink grapefruit, Branca Menta, and Hershey’s chocolate. Drinks will be served in appropriate holiday-themed glassware, and Latitude 29 general manager Annene Kaye-Berry says that the extensive holiday decor will “evolve” throughout the month.
Uptown’s newest cocktail and music haven (easily accessible from the St. Charles streetcar) boasts special holiday attention from co-owner and booze goddess Kimberly Patton Bragg. Settle in for some local music while sipping on a Sleepy Hollow toddy, and other drinks featuring Bragg’s house made Irish cream, like the Who’s Bailey?! and mulled wine.
Freret Street business leader and New Orleans’ ultimate modern cocktail lounge, Cure is always low lit and provides tons of cozy seating. The bar serves a variety of original cocktail creations as well as classics and always feels like a special occasion. For the holiday season, bar manager Ryan Gannon has whipped up an extra special Marley’s Nog, made with Bristow aged gin, Sercial Madeira, and Abbott’s bitters.
This corner Bywater bistro is perfect for setting in and watching New Orleans pass by. The restaurant’s signature frozen Negroni skews summer; but don’t forget, Louisiana temperatures can (and do) swing wildly, so indulge in the winter-spiced frozen Negroni on a warmer day, and rock the mulled wine and eggnog on cold days. Also available for the most wonderful time of the year: a holiday daiquiri with ginger, vanilla, and red wine as well as a cool cachaca sour with cardamom and allspice.
Even more holiday cocktails are yours to behold in our photo gallery!