Off the page: ‘New Orleans Cocktails’

This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of inRegister.

New Orleans markets itself as a breeding ground for storytellers, where old friends animate tales over beignets and musicians blare their feelings into brass. Ask any of them, and New Orleans may suddenly become a city of particular culinary innovation, where the pharmacist Antoine Peychaud garnered a reputation for adding his nominal bitters to shots of brandy in coquetiers (a French word for egg cups) until the word, over time, corrupted into the very first “cocktail.”

Although the truth may be less romantic—according to researchers from the Museum of the American Cocktail, the first reference to “cocktails” appeared as early as 1806—that doesn’t mean that New Orleans is without its contributions to that world. Peychaud’s bitters, after all, eventually made another appearance in history as one of the crucial ingredients to the Sazerac, one of the city’s—and the country’s—most famous drinks.

In New Orleans Cocktails: An Elegant Collection of Over 100 Recipes Inspired by the Big Easy, author and restaurant critic Sarah Baird recollects these stories and more, all under the guise of a snazzy green formulary. Inside, beginners can find information not only on the proper tools and additives for the ultimate cocktail, but tips for exploring the Crescent City with glass in hand, the history behind some of its famous bars and landmarks, and of course, dozens of recipes to turn any novice into an absinthe-sipping pro.

Divided into categories like Cult Classics, Baking with Booze, and Bourbon Street Icons, Baird’s book brims with details, including full-color photos and insider interviews with the owners of New Orleans’ must-visit bars. Want to know “What a Aspirin Is?” Ask someone at the Tiki Tolteca. A fan of Tennessee Williams? Try “A Streetcar Named Desire” with lemon verbena syrup from Cocktail & Sons. Even the poor sad saps living outside the Bayou State can look to Baird to find New Orleans-inspired cocktails elsewhere, like the Maison Absinthe Colada at Brooklyn’s award-winning oyster bar Maison Premiere.

Whether a clean-drinking history buff or a connoisseur of all things served in fancy cups, New Orleans Cocktails raises a glass to the best of culture, from the French Quarter to coffee tables citywide.

For more cocktail ideas, check out this story from the August 2020 issue of inRegister, on newsstands now.