Oct 1, 200912:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

You Should Know

But How Often Do You Fumble With the Answer?

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Inevitably a friend, or even a relative (they can be different, you know), comes to New Orleans intent on enjoying the great cultural opportunities that we mostly take for granted.

And along with the where-do-you-suggest-we-dine questions comes one that’s sometimes a stumper for locals: Where can we go to hear some good New Orleans music?

Then you pause, you think, you wonder, and maybe you call one of your friends who spends more time in such pursuits than you. Frenchman Street comes up, maybe Snug Harbor, but, of course, you have no idea who is playing there.

After that, the pickings seem to get slim. Who’s at Tip’s? House of Blues? Anywhere?

Even if you settle on a place, there is a downside that has to do with the quality of the beverages. In many places, emphasis is placed on entertainment and not on cocktails or wine.

As a loyal reader of these weekly epistles, there’s no doubt that having a proper beverage is important to you and therefore, by extension, to your friends.

We decided to drop in on a few places recently, and the results were most satisfactory. In fact, I am happy to recommend them to you so you can recommend them to … OK, you get it.

Let’s begin by just noting places that have good music and cold beer. In the 700 block of Bourbon is Fritzel’s: good New Orleans jazz played by guys having a good time. Happy and traditional sounds permeate the smoke-filled room, and the service, despite the crowds, is attentive and responsive.

Also keep in mind that Palm Court in the 1200 block of Decatur is a fine music destination. Older practitioners of New Orleans jazz enjoy the gig, and many of their friends drop by, so the jam is like nothing else anywhere in this world. Palm Court offers food –– jambalaya and the like. It’s decent, not great, but it works in this setting. The drinks are honest, but nothing to call your mama about.

A new addition to the scene is Irvin Mayfield’s Club just off the lobby of the Royal Sonesta. Even when Irvin is not playing, and that’s most of the time, the band he puts up on the stand is terrific. As you would expect, the place is mostly filled with visitors, but they are having a great time.

The bonus here is that the cocktails are simply outstanding. They’re creative, even innovative, with fresh ingredients and top-of-the-line spirits. Let Tiffany Coles, the talented lady behind the bar, guide you through the cocktail menu. She’ll do right by you, and you’ll discover flavors that you did not even know you liked together. Cucumber and jalapeño peppers in a silver tequila-based margarita? Don’t knock it.; try it. A blueberry mojito using sparkling wine instead of tonic? Killer.

Four more advantages: fine wine selection, many by the glass; bar bites, which are special nibble-type dishes, sort of American tapas, that are well-prepared and hot; excellent atmosphere because this really is a classy place; and the music, for sure.

Oh, and one more: There’s no cover and only a one-drink minimum. You were going to do that anyway, so why not get music?

I have not, for too long, been in such a lively bar, visiting with friends, ordering snacks and good beverages and enjoying the evening. It’s fun, and it’s real New Orleans, particularly when there’s a bossa nova beat to Satchmo’s standard “It’s a Wonderful World.”

Outside –– the courtyard on one side, Bourbon Street on the other –– is the steamy Crescent City night, and inside is joy. Works for me.

The next stop is Jeremy Davenport’s Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Jeremy has put together a smooth, pleasurable, happy evening with his trio, and the area the Ritz has set aside for him is practically ideal.

There’s a long bar in the same room. I mean, what else does one want? The drinks, needless to say, because this is the Ritz, are absolutely perfectly prepared. The place has added a cocktail star to its impressive lineup, our own Daniel Victory.

This guy is good. How good, you may ask? GQ magazine just awarded him fourth place in a Bombay Sapphire competition, and that’s out of more than 1,200 international entries, quite a nice achievement.

The drink he created is the Courtyard Cooler, and I am not going into detail here on what it is or how it is made, but suffice it to say that it involves three states of being: liquid, solid and gas. Pretty neat, huh?

Then as the evening is winding down, why not saunter over to French 75 bar in Arnaud’s? It’s a great spot for a quiet nightcap.

The namesake cocktail, prepared by resident mixologist par excellence Chris Hannah, can include either gin or cognac. Chris is partial to the cognac style, but it’s your drink; you figure it out.

Here’s a bonus: Felipe’s in the Quarter stays open late, real late. Fresh Mexican cuisine accompanied by a freshly made margarita top off a great evening.

Don’t eat heavy, but just order enough of the carnitas or a tamale, with a bit of guacamole, and you’ve done it.
 
There you have it, a night out in old New Orleans –– and guess what. You did not need to move the car or even have a car. Just walk from place to place at your leisure, carrying a drink if you wish and soaking up the “culture of the street.”

The next time one of your out-of-town guests asks the question, you will have no hesitation with the answer. Fortunately, you never have to give up correctly made cocktails or other excellent adult beverages to enjoy the flavor of our very special city.

What a joy it is to have this available whenever I want, without one airport or interstate highway between me, music and drinks! Gotta love this place!  
 

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

about

In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

 

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.

 

Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

 

Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

 

They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.

 

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

 

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.

 

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

 

It’s a good gig. 

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