NOLA: Distilling the essence

Born on a bayou, emerging out of a swamp, frequently in the eye of a hurricane, situated between the mighty Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, largely lying at or below the natural water table, wondering when the levees will break… (there are quite a few ideas for songs here already!). But, why would anyone visit, let alone live, in a place like New Orleans?

The French came here and lay the foundations for a Quarter. The Spanish came here and added to the architectural diversity. Creoles and Cajuns emerged here bringing their separate and unique influences on the diversity of Louisiana cuisine, amongst many other characteristics. Africans were brought here and contributed so much to a culture of celebration, emanating from Congo Square (now part of Armstrong Park). And, the British came here looking to expand an empire only to be defeated by the combination of a local bureaucrat and a pirate (Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte)!

Jazz music was born here, and exported to the rest of America and beyond as a young Louis Armstrong followed in the footsteps of his early mentors. It continues to thrive through virtuosity in the Preservation Hall, the clubs and bars throughout the city, and street musicians and marches.

The range of cuisine alone, from diners to fine dining, takes up many accompanying posts on this blog. From shrimp & grits to turtle soup, from crawfish etouffee to seafood gumbo, from boudin sausage to beignets… leave your mental recipe book behind because this is a whole new language!

How do you capture the essence of such a complex city of people, history, architecture, food, and music? And I haven’t even started on the quaint old streetcars on St Charles Avenue, Steamboat Nachez on the Mississippi, or the voodoo influences and iconic above-ground cemeteries, that include the tombs of notables such as Marie Laveau (the Witch Queen of New Orleans).

Well, I guess I need to sit down and think about that over a tipple of something special. The French Quarter just happens to be the home of the cocktail, with Sazerac being established in a pharmacy by Antoine Peychaud in 1838 on Royal Street. If I were to distil the essence of New Orleans perhaps that’s it right there in a glass! Just make sure you have an expert like my good friend Tom Seay (follower of this blog) to perform the ritual of creating your drink!

Until we speak again, New Orleans is a melting pot of influences, ideas, atmosphere and experiences, of cultures, a complex range of local cuisines, the birthplace of great musical traditions. Depending on your personal tastes and who you are it’s a friendly and welcoming place. You can take it or leave it, because essentially…

Birth of the Cocktail

Once upon a time in 19th century New Orleans, a local pharmacist, Antoine Peychaud, created the first ever cocktail. I can only assume it was a quiet day for the business when he decided to create a unique strain of bitters, and to mix it with a range of ingredients most notably¬†Sazerac Cognac… and in that moment the Sazerac Cocktail was created.

Within ¬†no time the invention was celebrated in the aptly named Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel, and it was soon to be found in it’s own Sazerac House on Royal Street. Fast forward some 170 years, on 2nd October 2019 the original cocktail celebrates the opening day of its new shrine on the corner of Canal and Magazine Streets

Sazerac House

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The original French Sazerac Cognac has been long since superceded by an American Sazerac Rye, but what exactly are you consuming before you eventually fall over?

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But, this shrine is not just a museum, it is also about to become the newest addition to the overall production line. Yours truly has signed the outside of the first barrel that will emerge from this new home… I only have 6 years to wait to taste it!

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Moving through this spacious well structured and informative museum leaves you with a strong sense of final purpose…

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Until we speak again, remember a few words of wisdom while indulging in this very moreish drop…

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