2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

Scenes From a Frantic, Week‑Long Bar Crawl

Scenes From a Frantic, Week‑Long Bar Crawl

This week, illustrator Daisy Dee is sharing dispatches from a week spent drinking in New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail.

Vieux Carrés at the Carousel Bar, 11 am

I’m sitting at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone drinking a cocktail and lazily spinning around the room while seated at the rotating circular bar. It’s crowded, and those who are not lucky enough to have a seat at the spinning bar are awkwardly shuffling along at the speed of the barstools to keep up with the lucky few. Its a fun experience, but disorienting. Not recommended for those who are easily motion sick.

The Hotel Monteleone serves as the epicenter of the week-long spirits industry convention, and people cycle in and out, looking for old friends. The bartender, Neil, is celebrating his birthday, and the entire carousel erupts into a rousing rendition of happy birthday while a woman presents a lit candle stuck into a bowl of their famously addictive bar-nut mix.

Despite the early hour (for me, at least) I’m drinking a Vieux Carré, which translates to Old Square, a moniker for the French Quarter. The Carousel Bar is historically recognized as the birthplace of this classic cocktail. It’s a variant of the Manhattan, with a base of bitters (Peychaud’s and Angostura, usually), rye whiskey, and sweet vermouth. In this version, however, half of the rye is replaced with cognac, the bitters are applied with a heavy hand, and a spoonful of Bénédictine, an herbal French liqueur, is added, giving the drink a smooth, buttery quality. Others must be excited to be in the cocktail’s bar of origin as well, because Neil is making a ton of them.

The bar takes about 15 minutes to make a full revolution. I sit so long I lose count of them, trying to capture the likeness of people constantly shifting seats while also trying to talk with friends that I rarely see.

In the end, hunger for fried chicken wins out and our group departs before I can finish my sketch. But this is Tales, a frantic, week-long bar crawl. Like the Carousel Bar, even when you’re sitting still, you don’t stay in one place for very long.

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