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Saturday, April 30, 2016

#2445 - Sazerac Bar, New Orleans - 3/16/2014

Yuri, myself, Ray and Russell
Ramos Gin Fizzes at the Sazerac Bar, New Orleans
Try the: Ramos Gin Fizz

The Sazerac's title as first ever cocktail may be in dispute, but it is my favorite classic cocktail, and there are few places better to enjoy it than the historic bar that bears its name in the city of its invention. But the drink that encouraged Huey Long to hold court in the Roosevelt Hotel bar -- to the point where the bar was known as "Huey's Office" and is said to have been the reason for the construction of the Airline Highway from Baton Rouge -- is the Ramos Gin Fizz. Thus our party started with the latter classic.



Sazerac Bar, New Orleans
The bar named The Sazerac traveled around town a bit. "It started out in a roughhouse back alley behind Royal Street in 1853 and stayed in more-or-less the same location for about 100 years before some enterprising businessman recognized the value of an emerging brand, purchased Peychaud’s original recipe, and moved the Bar to the Roosevelt Hotel.  Two more hotel name changes and one location change within the hotel would place the Sazerac bar in its current spot… right off the grand main lobby of what is once again, and finally, called the Roosevelt Hotel." (12bottlebar)

Meanwhile, the Roosevelt Hotel had quite a history of its own. The first part of building opened in 1893 as the Hotel Grunewald, which featured a basement lounge called "The Cave," considered one of the first nightclubs in America. The Cave was elaborately decorated with stalactites, stalagnites, pools, fountains and nymphs, and remained in operation hosting late night carousing, dancing, and Dixieland musics until 1935. In that year the hotel was purchased by a group headed by the aforementioned "enterprising businessman." This was Seymour Weiss, the former owner of a barber shop in the hotel, who would grow into becoming not only the owner and general manager but a valued confidante of Huey P. Long. Weiss converted The Cave to the Blue Room, which would host the likes of Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, and Tommy Dorsey. In 1938 they added the Main Bar, later to become The Sazerac:

Sazerac Bar, New Orleans, LA
'In 1949, Weiss purchased the rights to use the name "Sazerac Bar" from the Sazerac Company. The bar had previously been on Exchange Place before Prohibition and at 300 Carondelet Street afterward. He renovated a store front on Baronne Street which had previously held a wine-and-spirits store and opened the Sazerac Bar on September 26, 1949. As a sign of his marketing genius, Weiss announced through the news media that the new bar would abolish the previous 'men-only' house rule and admit women. Women from around the city flocked to the venue, and the event became known as Storming the Sazerac. The anniversary is celebrated every year at the hotel with vintage costumes and libations.... In 1959, the decision was made to close the Sazerac Bar on Baronne Street and transfer the name to the Main Bar. It is still named the Sazerac Bar today.' (wikipedia)

The bar and the rest of the hotel were shut down for four years after Hurricane Katrina, reopening in 2009 under the ownership of the Waldorf Astoria group. The room is handsomely dark, its bar framed by giant silver trophies and its art deco interior featuring murals by Paul Ninas. While the crowd tends to be sedate and formal, our well made gin fizzes were interrupted by a group of young women who told us they were on a sort of bachelorette party version of a scavenger hunt with their friend required to get a stranger to buy her a shot. If it wasn't a true story, it was good enough to merit a swig of tequila, and we happily obliged.

The Cave, Grunewald Hotel (wikimedia)

The Sazerac definitely belongs on your shortlist of bars to visit in New Orleans.


130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, LA 70112 - (504) 648-1200
Est. 1949 - Building constructed: 1893
Previous bars in this location: The Main Bar
Web site: therooseveltneworleans.com
Reviews: 12bottlebar - eater - youtube - nola.com - nola.com - atlasobscura - edibleneworleansneworleans.comyelp

#2444 - Victorian Lounge, The Columns, New Orleans - 3/16/2014

The Victorian Lounge, The Columns Hotel, New Orleans
When a visitor is ready for a break from the raucous bars of the Quarter and jazz clubs of the Marigny, it is a good time for a visit to what is, in a way, the most classic of New Orleans bars -- the Victorian Lounge in The Columns Hotel. It is best reached by catching the Saint Charles Avenue streetcar, said to be the oldest operating streetcar system in the world, running since 1835 -- just a couple years after the mansion now called The Columns was constructed. It's recommended to buy an all-day pass, jumping on and off to more closely admire some of the city's mansions, or to check out a bar or restaurant. Definitely recommended is a stop in the upper Garden District to visit The Columns.

The current hotel was originally constructed in 1883, designed by the famous architect Thomas Sully as the family home of cigar magnate Simon Hernsheim. This was at a time when 80% of men smoked cigars, New Orleans led the country in cigar production, and Hernsheim's factory was the largest in the world, rolling imported Cuban tobacco into 40 million cigars a year from it's massive five story factory on the corner of Magazine and Julia Streets. (1)  Five years later Hernsheim would commit suicide, consuming "cyanide of potassium” to end his grief "resulting from the death of his wife and other family troubles." (ibid)

After the mansion was severely damaged in a 1915 hurricane it was substantially remodeled, including adding the Colonial Revival style columns that now provide its name. It was run as a posh boarding house until 1953, when it was sold and converted in the hotel that remains today. The third floor includes the "Pretty Baby Suite," a nod to memories of Louis Malle filming a twelve-year-old Brooke Shields here in his 1978 recreation of a Storyville district house of ill repute.

I could not locate a date for the construction of the lounge, in the former dining room of the Hernsheims, but a commenter on this blog post claims to have constructed it himself in 1980. In any case, today it is one of the most elegant bars in the Big Easy, with 12-foot high mahogany doors opening to a stately bar, below 15-foot mahogany ceilings, where a bartender serves New Orleans classics to a small mix of patrons, both formal and casual.

3811 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115 - (504) 899-9308
Bar Est. 1980? - Building constructed: 1883
Web site: thecolumns.com - facebook
Articles ranked: sucktheheads - gardenandgun - neworleansbar.org - nola - triparchitect - yelp - tripadvisor