You refuse to buy a corn syrup-infused drink in a 2-foot tall alien plastic cup on Bourbon Street while visiting New Orleans. Instead, you long to go back in time and enjoy a tried-and-true cocktail that bartenders have been making there for over 100 years.
There’s the Sazerac, the “official cocktail of New Orleans,” but it’s got brandy in it, and that’s not your thing. Or the Vieux Carré, another Quarter invention, but again, it’s got things you don’t care for in it. So you land on the Pimm’s Cup, an appropriately old school drink that for whatever reason has been modified in New Orleans to include muddled fruit. Sounds good.
Setting the Scene
Around the corner from the madness of Bourbon Street are plenty of New Orleans institutions that haven’t changed much since they were first established in the French Quarter in the 19th or 20th centuries. So a mini skirt and Uggs won’t do for the occasion. You opt for a vintage style dress with a bit of swing to it, and don red lipstick to complete the look.
Stop 1: Compere Lapin
You start your Pimm’s Cup adventure at the bar/restaurant in your hotel (the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery), Compère Lapin. Everything is exquisitely designed, down to the thick, handcrafted barware. It’s an Instagrammer’s dream.
Your first Pimm’s Cup of the evening has mulled wine spices, so it’s got a bit of a winter essence to it. You like it, you think, as you clink your artisan-crafted ice cubes around the glass and take photos of the bartender, who allows you to do so begrudgingly.
Your husband, who’s been into drinking rum neat, does just that. You enjoy the mostly empty bar until a flock of employees arrives en masse from a nearby building in the Central Business District. Time to move into the Quarter.
Stop 2: The Carousel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone
You’re digging this hotel bar vibe, so you continue on to a New Orleans landmark: the Carousel Bar & Lounge. Your childlike id is drawn to the carousel-shaped bar, but it’s less carnival-y than it sounds. Yes, it slowly revolves, but every seat is taken, so you disappointedly take a high-backed seat by the window. But this is good too, you think, as your second Pimm’s is delivered, along with a bowl of salty snacks.
This Pimm’s is fruity, with more cucumber taste. You and your spouse watch people walk by and look up at you, envying your position in a nice, warm bar while they are suffering in unseasonably cold weather for New Orleans.
It’s almost time for your dinner reservation, so you hit the beautifully appointed restroom and then head out.
Stop 3: Antoine’s Restaurant
To further experience Old School New Orleans, you have dinner at the oldest restaurant in the United States, Antoine’s Restaurant. You figure if they’ve survived since 1840, they must be doing something right.
Right away, you notice that most of the servers are lifers. Your own server, Sterling (great name for the mood), is around 70 and a bit hard of hearing. You lean in toward his good ear to order your Pimm’s Cup and then a three-course meal.
More cucumber flavor. Pimm’s are remarkably easy to drink. Why aren’t they on every Chili’s menu?
You start dinner with crawfish bisque, which tastes like the bayou in a good way. The husband has an unremarkable salad. Then you try Antoine’s famous pommes de terre soufflées, which are like really fancy and delicious potato chips. A server tells you how they manage to puff the thin potato slices up into heavenly pillows.
Next comes the entree, and for once, you refuse to share with your husband. He has the filet mignon, which is so tender, he can cut it with a butter knife. You have the Pompano Pontchartrain, a flaky white fish topped with tender crabmeat. The perfect crusty bread accompanies.
After another Pimm’s Cup, you insist on getting dessert. You want the Full Monty. So you share a Creme Renversee au Caramel. Despite you pronouncing it in your flawless French, Sterling just repeats, “oh, you want a cream caramel.” Yes, Sterling, I do.
At the end of the meal, you are sated. Your eyes are a little glossy from the magic of the evening (or is it the Pimm’s?) and you casually stroll back to your hotel. Once, you stop and peer into a bar with a good jazz band. A dude (and he is a dude) at the front beckons you in. “$1 shots! Come on in!”
You look at him disdainfully. Do you look like a $1 shot kind of girl?
College kids can have the raucous experience and $1 shots. But you? You’ll take Old School New Orleans any day.