I’ve gotten a lot of good advice from my mother about what to drink and how to drink. Drink the good stuff, not too much. When you drink with friends, make sure to buy a round. Tip generously. She also taught me to appreciate a well-made drink in an old hotel bar. Few saloons in New Orleans fill this bill like the Sazerac Bar, which has all my mother’s favorite bells and whistles.
Storied past? Check. Famous drinks like the Sazerac cocktail and Ramos Gin Fizz were invented or rediscovered here. Storied location? Check. It’s in the Roosevelt Hotel, a venerable institution whose gilded lobby has welcomed stars from near and far including bon vivant and governor Huey P. Long. Look for the plaque recounting the story of Long’s black bank box, supposedly stored at the hotel, which disappeared after his assassination. Beautiful decor? Check. The lounge boasts historic W.P.A.-era murals, a sweeping, polished wooden bar, and capacious leather sofas and chairs all waiting for your company.
The Sazerac can fill up in the evenings, so I try to hit it in the late afternoon, when there is plenty of seating. Table service means you don’t have to worry about elbowing your way to the bar to order, but if there is room there, it’s worth taking a seat there to enjoy the show. Bustling bartenders in crisp white jackets measure, shake, and pour. You probably won’t be able to keep yourself from ordering house specialties like the Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz, but it’s worth perusing their menu and trying one of the rotating seasonal options. Give yourself plenty of time to drink here: at least two rounds.
By then you will have settled into your spot and easily forgotten whatever troubles may lie outside the sturdy walls of the hotel. It’s why my mother loves hotel bars: you are guaranteed to be well tended to there. A friend once compared the Sazerac Bar to a nineteenth-century ocean liner. Amid the wooden paneled walls and covered ceilings, it’s easy to imagine you are sailing the Atlantic on the QEII instead of sailing to better times on waves of whiskey.