Among hardcore cocktail experts, no American city is held in such high regard as New Orleans.
The Crescent City's cocktail culture dates back nearly two hundred years, when the first cocktails were created for medicinal benefits. Local physicians and pharmacists experimented with concoctions of herbs and alcohol, and in the 1830s, the pharmacist Antoine Peychaud developed an infusion of Gentiana flowers and alcohol, called it “Peychaud’s Bitters,” and sold it as a medicine used to combat a variety of ailments.
All the way through Prohibition and into the twenty-first century, New Orleans has led the way forward regarding cocktail culture, and visitors from around the world descend on the city to visit historic bars that double as living museums. Today, a wave of new establishments, helmed by young, forward-thinking mixologists, are pushing the city's cocktail scene into the future.
Image courtesy of Sazerac Bar
You can get a sense of the city's role in cocktail culture – past, present, and future – at Tales of the Cocktail, the world's most esteemed cocktail gathering in July, the fascinating Museum of the American Cocktail and the equally interesting Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
But to truly understand New Orleans's role in cocktail culture, there's no better way than to belly up to one of these standout bars, order a drink, and take a sip of history. Here are six to start you off: