There are few drinking experiences equal to having a round (!) at the Carousel Bar. Slip into one of the gilded chairs and circumnavigate the mirrored column under the carousel’s canopy as your bar stool slowly spins around the room Here, bartenders feverishly mix up Pimm’s Cups and Old Fashioneds to satisfy a thirsty crowd that often spills out into the lobby. Think the bar is packed? It used to be worse. For years, the Carousel’s giant bar was the hotel’s only bar and filled the room just off the lobby. In 2012, the hotel removed the back wall and opened the bar to create a huge lounge dotted with cozy groupings of sofas and chairs. They also added another bar in the back to take the pressure off the carousel.
The ornate, famed Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel What to order as you slowly wind around the room? A classic, of course. You can try the Vieux Carre, a riff on the Sazerac created at the Monteleone as a rival for that classic drink. If you are a fan of Ernest Hemingway, sample either a Death in the Afternoon or a traditional shaken Daiquiri. Both were favorites of the author, a regular guest at the hotel. Or you can just stick with a shot of whiskey, the tipple of choice of Truman Capote, who claimed to have been born here. (His mother lived here while pregnant with the author, but she did manage to get to the hospital in time to have little Truman.)
It takes about fifteen minutes for the bar to complete a circle, so you want to make your drink last for two rounds, ideally three. If you want to assure yourself a spot at the carousel, you have a better shot if you go midweek and midday. On the weekends, the bar brims with locals and visitors, and the room’s ambient noise rises and dips in time with the breaks of the live jazz band that plays most evenings. I’ve had many a good afternoon and evening at the Carousel Bar, and as I write this, I am looking forward to one weekend in particular. I’m getting married in late July, and my guests and I are staying at the Monteleone. I imagine we will be spending more than one evening drinking at the Carousel Bar. I wonder if brides get any leeway in securing a spot at the bar. I’ll have to find out.