Saturday, July 31, 2010

Barfly's Beat: Tales of the Cocktail - Last Call

Last Call for Tales goers
"Where is everyone going for after hours? Old Absinthe? d.b.a?"

"Old Absinthe House."

This short conversation is repeated nightly as official Tales of the Cocktail evening events wind down. Where will party continue for a crowd already saturated with specialty cocktails, complimentary tastings, liquid pool parties, and spirited dinners? Where to call it a night depends on the day of the week, but generally there are a few stalwart establishments where the spirits community gathers to party until the wee hours.

First stop is Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House on the corner  Bourbon and Bienville streets, a fixture in New Orleans cocktail history for over a century. It is the home of the famous Absinthe House Frappe cocktail, which was created in 1860s by Cayetano Ferrer, and has quite a cocktail menu of traditional New Orleans and Southern drinks.

"Everyone You Have Ever Known or Ever Will Know Ends up at the Old Absinthe House."

On Friday night, as the Grand Marnier Bar Room Brawl wrapped up, I posed the question to  Catdaddy Moonshine Bar chef challenge winner Payman Bahmani and Sam Ross of Milk & Honey. Old Absinthe House was the consensus. So we left Generations Hall and hailed taxis to Bourbon Street.  The bar's ambiance is a wonderful mish-mash of history and customer driven decoration.  Business and "calling" cards are stapled to the walls, it has a gritty dive bar feel, comely female bartenders, worn out oak bar, and all sorts of under garments hang from the ceiling along side antique chandeliers.  The place is like Cheers! when we enter with recognizable faces packed three deep to the bar. The Tales crowd kept the party going as promised. Their drink of choice? Beer and a shot.

That's right. The world's best barkeepers and cocktail aficionados keep it simple at the Old Absinthe for Last Call. No frappes, no absinthe drips, no sazeracs, and for Godsake - no Ramos fizzes! Just an Abita or a Budweiser in a bottle, and a shot of tequila, Fernet, or turkey.  That is the Tales wind down.

The party overflowed into the street where merriment, conversation, and tomfoolery was not in short supply. Bonus: Hotel Monteleone is only three blocks away so the stumble home is a short one.

Vaughan's Lounge at 4229 Dauphine in Bywater is a Thursday night tradition. Why take a taxi a few miles from the French Quarter to a divey roadhouse? Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers jazz/brass band plays every Thursday until the wee hours. Vaughan's is an authentic Crescent City party that welcomes everyone. Play ping-pong in the back room, enjoy cheap drinks, and get your dance on to Kermit's krewe.

Some advice:
  • Never agree to Green Chartreuse shots with certain notable Boston mixologists at 2:30am. If you agree that this is a good thing, then it is already to late for you. 
  • Exit Strategy: Take the cab driver's information on the way to Bywater so you can call them for extraction. Bywater, which is east of the French Quarter and most hotels, is a pretty desolate neighborhood after hours. It is not easy to flag a cab so call ahead when you are ready to head back to the hotel.
  • Cash Bar and $10 cover but it is often waived late night.
d.b.a at 618 Frenchmen Street on the outskirts of the French Quarter is the Big Easy outpost of the popular East Village watering hole. Like its' Yankee cousin, d.b.a. New Orleans has a tremendous selection of brown spirits and beers prominently displayed on massive chalk boards above the back bar. Try the Abita Imperial Stout and NOLA blonde ale to start, maybe an award winning Four Roses Yellow bourbon on the side. There is also live jazz nightly at d.b.a. Best feature, the come as you are attitude and no pretension.

Mind you, this is the rated PG version of the Tales night cap destinations. There is a rated R version which is best experienced and not written about. That said,  see you at the Old Absinthe House where everyone ends up.

- Fredo

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