New Orleans, Louisiana has a vibe all its own.
The Big Easy, and its famous Bourbon St, have long been THE destination for bachelor parties, spring break escapes, and anyone looking for a wild weekend. The birthplace of Jazz, the illustrious French Quarter is a world-famous party spot. It is home to Mardi Gras, and supposedly the birthplace of the cocktail. There is a plethora of live music venues, elegant wine bars, and some of the oldest drinking establishments in the United States.
New Orleans has a nightlife scene that can accommodate everyone, but the sheer number of options makes choosing a place to grab a beer daunting. No worries, because we have you covered! You are sure to find something in your neighborhood on our list of the best bars in New Orleans.
The COVID pandemic has hit New Orleans hard, resulting in some of the most strict regulations in the United States, aimed at controlling the spread in this notorious party area. We recommend you check the website for each venue, as some have not reopened, while others have limited hours, spacing, and various rules to contain the spread. Everyone is doing their best to maintain the New Orleans spirit, but things look a little different right now, so just do your research.
Discover the Best Bars in New Orleans with Let’s Roam
Looking for a unique way to experience New Orleans nightlife? Get our New Orleans Ballin’ Bar Crawl Scavenger Hunt and compete to win the Bar Crawl Champion Title. We’ll guide you and your friends through the dives, sports bars, and jazz halls of the French Quarter in friendly competition you are all sure to remember!
We are super excited that you are going to have a great night out in New Orleans. Just remember to have a designated driver or hire an Uber. The best night out is the one where everyone makes it home safely!
Best Bars in the French Quarter
The French Quarter needs little introduction. Its 90-square blocks are centered around Jackson Square, or Vieux Carre (Old Square), and it is the most historic and well-preserved part of the city. If you only have a day or two, spend it in the French Quarter. With its ample museums, shops, restaurants, and bars, you will definitely not be short on things to do!
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is a legend. For one thing, it is one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans. In fact, at almost 300 years old, it’s one of the oldest in the entire United States. The architecture is French Creole briquette-entre-poteaux (brick between posts), and it is absolutely charming. The old girl has survived two fires, and it also just might be haunted! It is thought to be the storehouse of the legendary privateer (a kind word for pirate) Jean Lafitte. While Jean was a bit of a shady character, he did use his procurement skills to gather large amounts of gunpowder and weapons that helped send the British running in the Battle of New Orleans, and he earned himself legendary status in the area. Located in the French Quarter, but away from the strip of nightclubs, you can breathe a little at Lafitte’s. Order the purple drink and soak up the history and charm of the area.
The Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel
Leatherbound chairs, a bartender in a white coat, a grand mahogany bar surrounded by murals from a bygone era, the Sazerac Bar oozes grandeur. This elegant bar has won several awards for the “best hotel bar” in the US, in the Americas, etc, so it has some major chops! Make sure to dress appropriately, as this is not an enter-in-flip-flops zone.
The bar is named after the signature drink of New Orleans, and perhaps the oldest cocktail in the world, the Sazerac. The classic cocktail, a concoction of Creole apothecary Antoine Peychaud in 1838, has evolved over time, but it now combines sugar, Rye whiskey, Peychaud bitters, absinthe, and lemon peel. It became the signature drink of the Sazerac House, one of New Orleans ’ oldest and best established “coffee houses.” The Sazerac House has now been turned into a full-fledged museum, bar, and distillery reopened in 2019.
Manolito is an elegant and small ode to Havana and Manuel Carbajo Aguilar. Manuel was the longtime bartender at Havana bar, La Floridita, the little jaunt where Hemingway often sat and battled his demons. Manolito has local bartending legends Chris Hannah and Nick Dietrick behind the bar, so the drinks are mixed with care and skill. New Orleans is notoriously hot, so their frozen cocktails are well-received. You must try their signature Jazz Daquiri.
Just a few steps off Bourbon Street, Erin Rose has maintained a local feel. It’s a little Irish pub, in the middle of the French Quarter, but it serves up the best Bloody Mary in New Orleans, and their frozen Irish Coffee is always a hit. The little pub is always full, due largely to their $4 and under menu! If it’s too busy, you can always grab your signature drink from the walk-up window in the back.
Jewel of the South
Another of Chris Hannah and Nick Deitrich’s creations, Jewel of the South, a true cocktail bar, is an ode to a much older 19th-century tavern of the same name. The Creole cottage hails from the 1830s, and though remodeled, still maintains all the brick and wood charm. The original Jewel of the South and bartender, Joseph Santini, are responsible for the Brandy Crusta, one of the first cocktails to include fresh citrus juice. The popular bartenders have given the old drink new life, along with their plethora of other slightly-tweaked classics. Jewel of the South hosts “The Cocktail Hour,” which are unique, themed cocktail events. A reservation is necessary, and the $45 ticket includes a cocktail on arrival, two drinks of your choice, and snacks.
The Black Penny is a simple establishment with a huge love of beer! The 1830’s building keeps to its roots and still doesn’t believe in electricity. Ok, we’re kidding, but it is really dark in there, which lends to its intimate and comfortable vibe. The star of the show though is their 100-label beer menu, featuring local, regional, national, and imported craft beers. They know and love their beer and are really patient with patrons trying to navigate the menu. The bartenders make great recommendations, and you are sure to find a new beer you love here. They do have plenty of the stiffer brown stuff too but don’t expect any fancy umbrella drinks here. They don’t even have a real website, but you can check out their events and frequent pop-ups (restaurants that “pop-up” for appearances at local bars and clubs) on their Facebook page.
Arnaud’s French 75
James Beard Award-winning Arnaud’s French 75 used to be a gentlemen’s only club. Now, the ladies are welcome, but it maintains that upper-class French club feel. The vintage Mahogany bar and backing from the 1800s, elegantly anchors the space, and it is the platform for some of the best cocktails served in New Orleans. The bartenders dress to the nines, in white tuxedos, but you don’t need to; the dress code is casual for patrons, so it’s a perfect blend.
Cane & Table
A prime example of New Orleans ’ Caribbean heritage, Cane & Table has all the Cuban flair. It’s not just a bar though, it’s an award-winning restaurant too, featuring beautiful small plates of Caribbean flavors and Cuban influences. The bar serves up creative cocktails, centered around the “tiki” influence of the islands. Though the dive bars of Lower Decatur surround it, Cane & Table is different. Upon entrance, you will be transported to a colonial bar in Old Havana. Admire the beautiful bar, then grab your fruity concoction and head outside to the beautifully green and lush outdoor patio. Right in the middle of the French, this lovely garden gives an intimate and secluded feel and is the perfect place to sip a cold daiquiri.
Carousel Bar & Lounge
The Carousel Bar is an icon in New Orleans. Set in the famous Hotel Monteleone, the one-of-a-kind, carnival-inspired bar actually spins. The bar has been drawing in locals and visitors alike for over 70 years and features 25 seats around a circular bar, adorned with an elegant circus motif. The bar is huge, rising almost to the ceiling. With its perfect location overlooking Royal Street, you can sip one of their signature cocktails, like the house favorite Vieux Carre, listen to live music and enjoy all the French-Quarter-people-watching your heart desires.
Best Bars in The Bywater
The Bywater district of New Orleans is a riverside neighborhood, just east of Marigny, that is in full-fledged renovation mode. The area, once home to a bunch of derelict homes, has been renewed with a slew of hipster bars and cafes, surrounding Crescent Park. Historically the neighborhood was home to immigrants and freed people of color, and it has always been a hub for artisans. It still is, and you can find tons of small galleries hidden among the restaurants and dives.
Saint-Germain is a lovely little French-inspired wine bistro. Featuring grapes from far-flung places like the Czech Republic and Slovenia, you are sure to find a wine you haven’t tried before. Several wines are available by the glass, for as low as $6, and you can enjoy them in the beautiful backyard garden. Try their St-Germain Spritz, a dreamy cocktail of elderflower liqueur, sparkling wine, and lemon. Bring a friend, as the lovely spritz is served by the pitcher. Look for the neon sign out front that reads “Sugar Park.”
A fixture of the neighborhood for well over 100 years, the Markey’s building has been many things over the year. However, since 1947, it has been a friendly neighborhood watering hole. Markey’s Bar harkens back to a day when the 9th ward had a large Irish American population. The little Irish pub is a no-frills, corner, dive bar perfect for a beer and the game. With 27 beers on tap, tons of classic bar food, and 13 flat-screen TVs, Markey’s is a perfect place to bring your best buds and have a laid-back evening watching sport. Markey’s has undergone some recent renovations but retains its original charm, and it now offers shuffleboard!
Galaxie is a labor of love in every way: handmade furniture, a unique crafted paint color, ingredients shipped in from Oaxaca, and homemade tortillas are just part of what makes this taqueria and bar so special. The building itself is on the Register of Historic Buildings. It was a creation of Walter Teague, a noted American industrial designer, famous for his “Style C” Texaco gas stations with their signature fins. In fact, that is exactly where Galaxie is housed, in a lovingly remodeled 1940’s gas station. Chef Hank Shackelford spent years working in Mexico and has now created a beautiful taqueria with odes to the Oaxaca region. His Tacos al Pastor is the signature dish, with corn imported from Oaxaca, ground, rolled, and pressed daily into fabulous, handmade tortillas. The bar consists of frozen drinks and classic cocktails from their expansive stock of mezcals and tequila.
Best Bars in Mid-City
Just North of the French Quarter, Mid-City is a popular residential area, and its bars and clubs have a great neighborhood feel! But, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great fancy cocktail here. There are plenty of options, and Mid-City gets more and more popular by the day.
Finn McCool’s Irish Pub
Finn McCool’s is New Orlean’s signature Irish pub. You will find neighborhood locals with their daily pint of Guinness, sucking down fish and chips and yelling at the telly, which is undoubtedly showing futbol, rugby, or other Gaelic games. It has been voted one of the Top Ten Irish Pubs in the World by the Irish Times. With all the pub essentials: whiskey, beer, and football, McCool’s draws international tourists but retains that neighborhood bar feel. Grab your buddies and head in for Monday night trivia, or join in the darts and pool, available every day.
Twelve Mile Limit
An unassuming place with a lavender paint job, Twelve Mile Limit doesn’t really catch your attention. Venture in anyhow, because owner T. Cole Newton is a legend in the craft cocktail world. As a result, Twelve Mile has oft been featured on “best bar” lists in New Orleans. His “cocktail dive” bar occupies a building that has been a bar since 1920! Enjoy a fancy cocktail in a rustic, comfortable environment with low wood ceilings and a pool table, or spill out onto the yard with everyone else!
Best Bars in Uptown and The Garden District
Surrounded by a lake and river, The Garden District is one of the prettiest parts of the city. With its grand mansions, it is a beautiful place to take an afternoon stroll. Then, head to one of its award-winning cocktail bars for a unique nightcap.
In the Lower Garden District, Barrel Proof is a bonafide whiskey bar, one of the few in New Orleans. With warm wood ceilings and a rustic environment, you might feel like you are in the Pacific Northwest, instead of NOLA, but it all lends to the laid-back vibe that permeates Barrel Proof. Their whiskey collection consists of over 300 labels from local favorites to rare Japanese imports. The bartenders are whiskey experts, and their affordable flights give you the ability to try several new whiskeys, without breaking the bank.
Cure took over the space of a 1903 abandoned fire station on Freret Street and ushered in the cocktail revival. The incredible architecture, with its wall of arched windows, creates a lovely industrial ambiance, and the 14-feet-tall shelves of fabulously displayed spirits are a sight to behold. Cure bartenders are true craftsmen. While you can enjoy a classic cocktail or one of their daring creations, you can also give the bartender your taste preferences, and they will whip up an original just for you. They are always up for the challenge. Oh, and by the way, Cure was a winner of the James Beard Award for Best Bar Program, so you know it’s good.
The Avenue Pub sits on St. Charles Ave in the Garden District, in a giant 19th Century house, with a wraparound porch and darling blue shutters. The Avenue has one of the best-curated beer selections in the country, and it has been the go-to for great beer in New Orleans since 1989. Their bartenders are knowledgeable, and it is a great place for any beer novice to experiment. Enjoy a beer downstairs in the very English-pub-inspired space, with its tin ceiling and wooden accents. Then, hop upstairs where the smaller bar serves up bourbon, whiskey, and a select collection of other spirits. Take your beer out on the balcony and look out over St. Charles Street and its iconic streetcar. This place is full of charm, has room for everyone, and truly has a love for great beers.
Best Bars in Fauborg Marigny
Fauborn Marigny, or just Marigny, borders the edge of the French Quarter and is the center of nightlife in the area. Frenchmen Street is its centerpiece, so named for 6 French men who were hung on the street. They reportedly suggested a new government be formed, 8 years before the Declaration of Independence. This apparently wasn’t well-received, and therefore, they were hanged! The neighborhood is a Creole suburb and an interesting mix of long-time residents, a wave of new, young adults, and a thriving LGBTQ community.
Perhaps the most beautiful bar on the list, the Elysian Bar is actually a series of spaces in the Peter and Paul hotel. The hotel used to be the Saints Peter and Paul church. The epic dining area occupies the old sanctuary, featuring an arched ceiling with columns and an elegant, pastel color scheme. The stained-glass window bathes the space in amber light, and the warm feeling permeates through the spaces. Besides the dining room and bar, the complex boasts two parlors, an outdoor courtyard, and an atrium. The bar is small and focuses on a carefully curated list of American wines by Bacchanal Fine Wines & Spirits, but of course, serves up spritzes and great cocktails as well. The Elysian perfectly reflects its namesake, as it is an absolute paradise and a must-see in New Orleans.
Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
This one has a bit of a misleading name, while Bacchanal is famous for its wine collection, this is anything but a stuffy wine bar. Bacchanal is truly unique and prides itself on what it calls NOLA’s best backyard party. They sell wine by the bottle, at retail prices, in the front shop. Grab a bottle and take it out back to the immense garden, where nightly live music fills the courtyard. It is a jazz club like no other. Bacchanal won its fame in the wake of Katrina when chefs from all over the city started coming out to the original NOLA pop-up and serving dishes in the little Bywater Joint. Ït went from an unassuming backyard party (with no licenses or permits) to a bonafide backyard jazz legend. It’s a very popular place, so make a reservation!
Kermit’s Treme Mother-In-Law Lounge
Founded by local musician, Ernie K. Doc, Kermit’s was named after his famous hit, Mother-In-Law.” Kermit Ruffins, a legendary local trumpeter, now owns the bar and often plays live shows at the little dive. It has maintained its love for music, which is evident in every aspect of the ambiance, including the colorful, music-inspired, murals that cover its facade. There is nothing fancy about Kermit’s. In fact, it feels a bit like a basement, but the vibe is genuine New Orleans. The music is good, and the food is often free. While in season, Kermit’s hosts FREE crawfish boils on Fridays.
Best Bars in the Warehouse District
Twenty years ago, this area was a conglomeration of abandoned warehouses. In recent years, this neighborhood has undergone huge gentrification. Subsequently, it now serves as the city’s arts district. Galleries, museums, jazz bars, and elegant hotels now fill the once-abandoned warehouses. It is a neighborhood on the rise, and there is something new to see every day!
There is no more seductive bar in New Orleans than MariLou. Attached to the Maison de la Luz Hotel, it is lush! Push your way through the fake bookcase and enter the most decadent library imaginable. Quixotic Projects of Paris designed the bar, and it is their only design in the United States. It features tiger-striped carpets, deep red walls and ceilings, and fringe-lined barstools. The whole place has a french cabaret feel, but with comfortable big armchairs for relaxing. Its cocktails are just as creative as the space, and we vote Bar MariLou as the best date spot in New Orleans.
Howlin’ Wolf is primarily a music venue. In fact, they have two venues in one location, and what a location! The legend is located in a large warehouse that was once the New Orleans Music Hall. Stop and be mesmerized by the giant jazz-inspired murals that cover the facade. Then, step inside to the equally historic and special interior. The giant mahogany bar in the main room is from Al Capone’s hotel, chosen for its Fleur de Lis design. The black curtains lining the walls are from the historic Orpheum Theatre, salvaged before its gutting. Most importantly, the stage has hosted everyone from Jimmy Buffet, to the Foo Fighters, Death Cab for Cutie, BareNaked Ladies, Harry Connick Jr, and many more.
Live music still plays several nights a week in the main room. The Den, just next door, hosts comedy shows, local bands, and art installations. The Den Bar and Grill is small, with intimate seating, but they have over 100 local, canned brews, and 25 beers on tap. Plus, every Sunday evening, the Grammy-nominated Hot 8 Brass Band lights up the small stage. Howlin’ Wolf has an incredible history, but it is still one of the best places to spend an evening in the Warehouse District.
New Orleans has so much to offer in the way of watering holes that you really can’t go wrong. Therefore, use our list as a guide, but don’t be afraid to bar hop. Wander the beautiful streets of the French Quarter and take in the sights. It’s one of the best places in the world to people watch; you never know what you might see. Try a new, weird craft beer, or a sample of wine from an obscure Eastern European village. It’s all at your fingertips in the Big Easy!
What did we miss? Let us know your favorite New Orleans bar in the comments!
Frequently Asked Questions About The Best Bars in New Orleans
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