(Not So) High Rollers
Casinos, cocktails and inexpensive treats in ritzy locales
On my 21st birthday, my mom and grandparents took me to a casino. It was the first time I’d ever set foot in one, seeing as you have to be of drinking age to get in, and it was the first time I ever played roulette or pulled the handle of an actual slot machine. Grandpa had a piggy bank slot machine my brother, cousins and I found endlessly entertaining, but there was a release hatch to reclaim your coins, and therefore never any threat of losing those hard earned pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. That day for my birthday, he gave me $20 to play the real slots. This was not long after casino boats had been legalized in Indiana, so we drove 30 minutes from where we lived in Kentucky and boarded a paddleboat (similar to the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans), then set out to cruise out on the Ohio River for an hour or so. After about 20 minutes, the cash Grandpa fronted me was property of the house and I was enjoying my first legal cocktail on the top deck of the boat with my mom and grandparents. In truth, drinks on deck were the actual reason for the excursion. No one in my family is much of a gambler. We enjoy our low-dollar thrills on occasion, but finding fun places to imbibe and taste-testing new drinks or discovering delectable desserts is a pastime upon which we never mind laying down a few bucks.
In grade school, mom brought me into the fold on the treat-finding missions. Once or twice per year, I could count on a call from the school secretary instructing me via the intercom that my mom was here to pick me up. This continued in junior high and high school. It was always a surprise, but each time as I gathered my things, it was a clear we were headed out for an adventure. We’d take the scenic route into the city and mom would take me to a swanky restaurant where she would have a Brandy Alexander, a grasshopper or some other decadent after dinner drink and I would get a dessert. She found courtyards, revolving restaurants, riverboats and countless fine dining hotspots where we would indulge and enjoy the view. It was her way of sharing a small luxury with me, without breaking the bank.
My grandparents and my mom have since passed and I carry on our tradition with my husband Mark. We are always on the hunt for a sweet happy hour deal or just a spectacular view. To date, our favorite vistas in Louisiana to pair with a cocktail are at the rooftop bars Hot Tin at The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans and Tsunami in Baton Rouge; the overlook at Cypress Bend Resort in Toledo Bend; and the deck at L’Auberge in Baton Rouge.
A few years ago at that L’Auberge location, Mark and I spent all of about five minutes in the casino where we each placed a $5 bet at the roulette table. After immediately losing our money, we decided to retire to the deck with a couple of Old Fashioneds and look out on the Mississippi River for a spell. Turns out that was a sure bet.