It was a Wednesday when I got the call. One of my old college friends was coming to visit New Orleans for the weekend and wanted to “see the city.” I was thrilled – I love having friends visit! But I always feel pressure to make sure they have THE BEST WEEKEND EVER, which requires a delicate balance between doing the iconic tourist sights (i.e. Bourbon Street, Café du Monde, Jackson Square) and showing my friend what “real New Orleanians do.” Choosing a specific itinerary can be a struggle since “real New Orleanians” will really do just about anything!
I was chatting with a local friend over drinks and happened to mention my conundrum. “Oh that’s easy,” he said. “Take her on The Cocktail Tour.”
“What is that? Like a bar crawl?” I asked. “Those can get so expensive.”
Nope. Turns out that The Cocktail Tour is part of its own very special breed. It’s not a bar crawl at all. It’s a historical tour with a splash of humor – and booze!
So I signed up for three spots – one for my friend Carrie, the fun expert; the next for my friend Greg, resident NOLA history buff; and the last for myself, an expert boozer. The three musketeers… or the three stooges?
We showed up to start the tour at Vacherie, a French Quarter Restaurant and Bar, and were greeted by a smiling Elizabeth Pearce, inventor of The Cocktail Tour. Elizabeth is a culinary historian who specializes in telling the story of New Orleans through food and drink – especially cocktails. She passed out sacks full of cocktails and we were on our way!
Most of the stops on the tour correspond to one of the drinks in the sack, and Elizabeth weaves the history of the cocktail and the history of the location together seamlessly. I don’t want to give anything away, but keep your ears open for a particularly hilarious story involving whiskey and a former governor of Mississippi.
When a second line parade danced down Royal Street blocking our route, Elizabeth was able to improvise a bit. She explained about the history of second lines and answered questions on the fly. It seems she can handle anything the city throws her!
During the tour, I got to chat with a few of the other guests. I talked to two Australian visitors who heard that The Cocktail Tour was “a very authentic way to learn about the history of New Orleans.” There was also a raucous group of six couples all visiting the city to celebrate a friend’s fortieth birthday. But my favorite story was from a girl on a cross-country trip. She was sitting in a bar in St. Louis and mentioned to her bartender that New Orleans was next on her agenda. The bartender responded, “Just make sure you check out The Cocktail Tour.”
Getting shout-outs from a city that’s 700 miles away? I’d say that’s a good sign for The Cocktail Tour.
After the tour was over, Carrie, Greg, and I had a meeting of the minds and decided that The Cocktail tour deserves the following grades:
Check out The Cocktail Tour every Friday at 6:00 p.m. in the French Quarter, or by special appointment. Cost is $45 and includes cocktails! If you’re not a big drinker, don’t worry. There’s plenty of history and humor to keep you entertained! You can get more information and buy tickets online!