New Orleans is a fun place to drink… and not just for the booze. There are legendary, non-alcoholic beverages deeply associated with, and some even born in, New Orleans. Some are still locally made and all are certainly slurped with gusto, to this day – think pink, almond-flavored Nectar Soda; Big Shot soda (pineapple and peach are the jam); and of course, New Orleans’ deep, dark coffee. Drink it all in with these standout sips, minus the alcohol, but chockfull of quenching spirit.
Shaya – This Magazine Street restaurant from Alon Shaya features a rotating list of fruit infusions in smart combinations. Based on which fruits are in season, flavors like the stunning Strawberry Rose soda give way to a more acidic, lightly spiced Apricot-Cardamom. (Those who prefer caffeinated to carbonated can order the Halva Cappuccino, with its warm, nutty flavor laced with tahini and sesame).
Pho Cam Ly – Soda Chanh is a simple affair of muddled sugar and lime juice at the bottom of an oversized tumbler. Crack open the provided mini bottle of sparkling water, pour over the sugar-lime mix, stir to dissolve the sugar, then pour that bubbly goodness into the ice-filled glass (also provided) for serious, cold, sparkly limeade.
Kebab – The soda spritzer range goes from notes like the surprisingly tart-and-sweet beet or blackberry to more complex combinations like grapefruit and cardamom.
Bar Tonique – This spot is great for those looking to get a drink with friends because of the designated driver special. As the designated driver of your group, you get free non-alcoholic drinks, a great incentive for safety. While you’re surveying the menu, check out the Phosphate sodas made with charged water.
Lemonade, Limeade, and Iced Tea
Café Reconcile – The café that helps at-risk youth learn life skills serves an outstanding lemonade that goes with everything (including Thursday’s Shrimp & White Beans special). Their Strawberry Lemonade is a rock star and a Jazz Fest favorite, while the Watermelon Lemonade, newer to the menu, is another example of how these folks turn lemons into… you know.
Lebanese Iced Tea is a New Orleans invention, and Mona’s is the Mecca.
Mona’s Cafe & Deli – Lebanese Iced Tea is a New Orleans invention, and Mona’s is the Mecca. Plain iced tea and lemonade with a splash of rose or orange flower water and a small shower of pine nuts is a perfect marriage of taste and texture.
Shakes and Ice Cream Sodas
Creole Creamery – Put a couple scoops of any Creole Creamery flavor into a frosty parfait glass, and pour over an old-school New Orleans Nectar Soda, with its almond-cherry flavor and bright pink color. A timeless taste of old New Orleans.
Kin – This matchbox-sized restaurant with a brilliant ramen lunch menu does a killer version of Vietnamese iced coffee (dripped espresso over a hefty amount of condensed milk), with a secret-not-so-secret ingredient: Jasmine tea. The floral punch lends a bit of astringency and is totally unique.
HiVolt – For recovering from the night before, for an afternoon lift, or just because… the Cola Cocktail, composed of two espresso shots, vanilla syrup, and Mexican coke, nearly defines the word “jolt.” Also, it’s mighty tasty.
French Truck – With three locations now, you can’t miss the signitaure yellow that is French Truck Coffee. Stop in for an afternoon pick-me-up and stay a while.
Coast Roast Coffee & Tea – Caffeinating the vendors and customers of St. Roch Market, head brew-guy Kevin Pedeaux recently created a frothy concoction of espresso, vanilla syrup, and orange bitters, shaken with ice to add to his coffee menu. The “Roch Fizz” tastes remarkably like a cold, dark chocolate-covered orange peel. Delicious!
Spitfire – At Spitfire in the French Quarter, you’ve got lots of options to get your coffee fix. We recommend the iced mocha–it’s a blend of homemade chocolate sauce, one of their collection of fine espresso, and dairy or non-dairy (try the almond milk), swirled together over ice. Heaven.