Brown liquor, especially whiskey, has often taken center stage in New Orleans. Whether corn or rye, aged in oak barrels or sherry casks, served in a snifter or a to-go cup, these bars offer some of the most interesting whiskey selections in town.
1201 Magazine St., (504) 219-1888; www.barrelproofnola.com
Americana is the name of the game at this whiskey lover's bar, which sits on the edge of the Lower Garden District in the former Bridge Lounge space.
Roughly one-third of the whiskey selection comes from the United States, including a wide swath of bourbons and ryes sourced from distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee. Also prevalent are small-batch producers from other states that have jumped on the whiskey bandwagon in the past decade.
Several bottles from the Waco distillery Balcones make an appearance, including the deeply smoky Brimstone, a corn whiskey smoked with Texas scrub oak, and Baby Blue, a nutty-tasting whiskey made from 100 percent roasted blue corn. Bar manager Thomas Thompson uses the former in bloody marys at home, which he says gives the drink "a campfire-like taste."
Whiskey-centric cocktails round out the menu, including the Lower Garden, a classic rye Manhattan named after the bar's location, and the Scofflaw, a Prohibition-era rye whiskey sour.
On Mondays, the bar sells its house old fashioned for $4 all night and a shot of the house well — Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon — and a can of Schlitz is always $5.
Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar
5535 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 891-8500; www.dosjefes.com
An Uptown spot popular with cigar aficionados, Dos Jefes also peddles the brown sipping liquor favored by the stogie-loving set. Regulars sidle up to the long, wooden bar and take advantage of one of the few places that has been able to skirt the city's smoking ban.
A lengthy list of American whiskies is accompanied by several Canadian and Irish varieties. Extra love is given to Kentucky bourbons — more than 30 are featured — and a handful of domestic blends, including a WhistlePig 10-year from Vermont and a Willet small batch rye from Kentucky.
Walls are decorated with tropical- themed murals and lined with video poker machines. Early evenings draw an older local crowd while late nights see a boisterous younger set hold court, especially in the bar's spacious side patio.
1432 St. Charles Ave., (504) 595-6755; www.theirishhouseneworleans.com
The St. Charles Avenue home to everything Gaelic boasts the largest selection of Irish whiskies in the country. The bar's stellar collection runs the gamut from the familiar (Jameson, Bushmills) to the more obscure (Knappogue Castle, Midleton Very Rare). The extensive list includes detailed descriptions and tasting notes; pours range from roughly $7 to $25.
On constant rotation are several house-infused whiskies including the Galway Hooker, a bacon-laced, sweet sipping version that tastes of maple and smoke.
The bar and restaurant hosts a food and whiskey pairing every third Monday of the month, and guests can try five different whiskies with an assortment of small bites from chef Matt Murphy for $25.
Oxalis and The Branch Bar
3162 Dauphine St., (504) 267-4776; www.oxalisbywater.com
This Bywater restaurant and bar proves high-end food and whiskey can and do live in harmony. The Dauphine Street hotspot features Chef Jonathan Lestingi's New American menu of small and shared plates, which include bar snacks to be enjoyed in the restaurant's cozy main room or candlelit patio.
The comprehensive whiskey selection shows a strong focus on domestic distilleries, but includes a couple of bottles from more eccentric, international producers including Nikka pure malt 12-year from Japan.
The bar's affinity for all things whiskey is apparent in its selection of craft cock-tails such as the Devil's Paintbrush, in which Ancient Age bourbon is coupled with Aperol, orange liqueur and fresh lemon juice.
Boilermakers, the classic shot-and-beer combo, are available in several different incarnations. Order the Wheat on Fire and you'll get a Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. The Plastic Blue Ribbon keeps it old-school: a can of PBR and any one of the bar's "plastic cup" whiskies.
The Rusty Nail
1100 Constance St., (504) 525-5515; www.therustynail.biz
The Warehouse District spot known for its spacious patio and raucous crowds during New Orleans Saints games is equally famed for its impressive selection of Scotch. Owner Ivan Burgess has more than 70 Scotch varieties from around the world, including an array from Asian producers. Burgess is constantly on the prowl for bottles from new and lesser-known distilleries in Taiwan, Thailand and Japan, among other locations.
"It's this very particular attention to detail that makes these whiskies so special," Burgess says. "And they're doing a lot of crazy finishes in crazy barrels. That's just their jam."
Rusty Nail's selection includes the internationally acclaimed Taiwanese Kavalan Vinho Barrique, a single malt.
Not a Scotch fan? The bar offers roughly 40 bourbons, ryes and Irish whiskies, too.
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