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May 9, 201309:53 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Four Cocktail Recipes and a Few Thoughts on the Go-Cup

When you stop to consider how New Orleans spends a “night on the town” as opposed to just about any other place you can mention, well, there’s just no comparison. And I say that with a great deal of civic pride, as well as countless nights spent traveling and experiencing other places.


This is not to denigrate anyone else; it’s merely calling ’em like you see ’em. Most of us have had the good fortune to do a bit of traveling, so we have experienced cultural advantages which most communities possess in one form or another. Historic sites, unique in-person happenings, fine dining, even great drinks, but lacking in most places is the singular joy of sense-of-place that New Orleans provides.


Oh, yes, and Go-Cups.


Such a simple concept, and yet unique. Sure, many fine towns offer this important service to mankind, but darn few do it with style. Our compact geography provides ample opportunity to enjoy multiple venues, close together, and with the added advantage that as you move from one place to another, you will never be without liquid fortification.


It gives me great pleasure to be with people from world capitals, like New York or Los Angeles, and have them be amazed with the ease of which the current beverage offering is moved from a fine and proper glass to a plastic cup, followed by the user walking through the door and out onto the sidewalk without the benefit of someone yelling to get back into the licensed establishment.  


Strong accents are usually the “tell” whereby locals in most communities can distinguish a visitor. New Orleans accents, by the way, are not understood by the rest of America, and the authentic New Orleans accent is practically never noted as New Orleanian. Our friends in other places keep expecting us to sound like we just walked away from Tara, when in truth we do sound like we just drove out of Brooklyn.


But besides the accent, traveling New Orleanians are defined by, “Do you have a go-cup?” That’s followed by the bartender correctly identifying where we are from, followed by a “not here, mate, not here.” It’s simply amazing how we take the go-cup for granted, and when we discover that 98 percent of the remaining civilized world does not tolerate such a liberty, we feel completely denied. We all thought travel was supposed to be broadening. But not when it comes to go-cups.


At that moment of denial, as we sit at the bar scoffing down our drink because we want to move along, the joy of being on vacation in (insert place name here) is diminished. It’s not like we have to use go-cups to enjoy ourselves; it’s just that we have become accustomed.


It’s also the case that everything goes into the traveling beverage plastic holder. Not just beer, but everything from Big Ass Beers to daiquiris to fine wines and Cognac to elegantly designed cocktails. Quite a democratic approach to pleasure. Your drink may have cost you 99 cents or $30, but it all ends up in the go-cup.


Not necessarily along those lines, but I bring this up because sometimes we all fall into ruts and keep doing the same ole’ thing, going back to the same ole’ places. Maybe it’s time to change the scenery a bit, discovering or re-discovering places we have not frequented before, if ever.


Over on Fulton Street, that upscale block that looks a bit European in style with outdoor cafes right across from high-end restaurants, the Louisiana-themed restaurant and bar, Grand Isle, has held its own for many years. Fresh seafood, well prepared, is the specialty of the house and lately the comfortable bar area has seen an emphasis on designing and preparing fine cocktails.


Now there are those, not from here, who have never equated a fine cocktail with dining. Those are the kinds of discoveries, like the go-cup, that visitors keep making. What a novel idea, placing a beverage with spirits right next to the dinner plate. The frightening part of it all is that at moments like these, when visitors first are exposed to the concept, suddenly New Orleans seems like the most progressive city on the planet. I will refrain here from making the obvious follow-up remark.


Anyway, here are a couple of interesting offerings from Grand Isle’s bar master Eric Dahm, a new New Orleanian, which are quite tasty:


Agave Swizzle

2 oz sweet reposado tequila

1 oz fresh lime juice

1 oz dark agave nectar

1 oz aloe juice, with pulp

0.5 oz smoky mescal

Hibiscus blossom


Pour tequila, lime, agave, and aloe over ice in a highball glass, and stir to combine. Float mescal. Slap hibiscus between palms, and place as garnish.



1.5 oz dry gin

1.5 oz Lillet Blanc

1 oz fresh lemon juice

1 oz orange curaçao

2-3 dashes orange bitters

Lemon peel

Combine gin, Lillet, lemon juice, curaçao, and bitters in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.


Just a short walk across Poydras, over to the W Hotel and the sexy bar, Whiskey Blue, is another style of seductive cocktails, with more of a “let’s sip on these and gaze into each other’s eyes” feel. Do I need to point out that right above the bar are hundreds of comfortably-appointed hotel rooms?



1.5 oz Don Julio Silver

.5 oz Aperol

.5 oz agave nectar

.5 oz fresh lime

1 oz grapefruit


Add all ingredients into a mixing glass.  Add ice, shake and strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Top with champagne. Garnish with a grapefruit slice. 


Grassy Kroll

2 oz Bison Grass Vodka

5 cubes of lemongrass

5 cubes of ginger

.5 oz simple syrup

Squeeze of lemon


Build in a mixing glass. Muddle the lemongrass, ginger and simple syrup. Add the vodka and ice, shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass and top with a splash of club soda (don’t fill to the top of the glass). Garnish with 6 inch long piece of lemon grass. 


There you are, not just some new cocktails to try but maybe some new, fun places in which to try them.


One of the things I really love about this town is that even for those of us who have been blessed to live here, there is something new to discover every day. New Orleans is not only for our visitors. It satisfies the soul for those who reside here.

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


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; 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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