The 21st Amendment Bar (725 Iberville St., 504-378-7330; www.21stamendmentnola.com) pays tribute to the end of Prohibition — and celebrates hand-crafted cocktails made with house-made syrups, locally grown herbs and infused spirits.
The speakeasy-inspired decor and vintage black-and-white photographs of mobsters and scenes from the 1920s and '30s hint at the building's history. It was the Creole restaurant La Louisiane, which opened in 1881 and later was owned by Gulf Coast Mafia godfather Carlos Marcello and Jimmy Brocato, better known as "Diamond Jim" Moran, a close friend to Huey P. Long as well as a host of mob bosses. The staff believes the bar is haunted — perhaps by some of those mobsters or Moran himself, who died of a heart attack in the restaurant in 1958.
"Ooh, I love this one!" bar manager Angela Gay says, pointing to a photograph of a woman grinning and holding a barrel of liquor with a label that reads, "Repeal the 18th Amendment."
This photo, along with others of congressmen drinking, police raiding speakeasies and protesters holding signs declaring "We want beer," are just a few of the black-and-white pictures on the walls. Playful accents, such as art deco lamps on the copper bar and vintage Tommy guns above cedar liquor cabinets, give the bar a recreated 1920s ambience.
The bar is just off Bourbon Street, but it caters to locals, offering them a 20 percent discount on drinks and — if they live in the French Quarter — a chance to have a cocktail named after them.
Besides its Prohibition-inspired decor, 21st Amendment has something that sets it apart from other bars.
"Most high-end bars with handcrafted cocktails take so long to get a drink," Gay says. "We wanted to avoid that. ... Our drinks are still handcrafted, but you can get a second drink in under a minute."
House-infused liquors include peanut Maker's Mark, jalapeno and roasted bell pepper Jose Cuervo Silver, avocado Tres Agave Anejo tequila and floral syrup. Drink names play on Prohibition themes, such as The Jake Walk, a term that refers to the paralyzation that sometimes resulted from drinking bad moonshine; Canned Heat; and Marcello's Manhattan, named for the Mafia boss.
As Gay's husband begins to list locals who visited La Louisiane in its heyday, he is cut off by a gasp from Gay as she watches the crystal chandelier swing back and forth above her husband's head.
"Look at it!" she says, pointing to the chandelier. "Did you see that? It was rocking when you were saying those names!"
And they weren't even drinking.