Raise a glass to today’s crafted mocktails that pair perfectly with some of the city’s best food and holiday gatherings.
Move over, Shirley Temple. The new mocktails have arrived, and they’re causing a stir.
In New Orleans, especially during the holidays, it can be a challenge to manage eating and drinking in a city known for its amazing food and as the birthplace of the cocktail. Yet thanks to the popularity of craft cocktails that use fresh, in-season ingredients, it’s easy to find nonalcoholic mocktails on menus. Plus, no booze in your drink usually means your beverage will cost less.
And if you’re in New Orleans partaking in the Reveillon dinner tradition, having lighter drinks will help you through the multiple courses. The Creole practice of Reveillon started out as big family meals upon returning home from midnight Masses on Christmas Eve. Reveillon is derived from the French word for “awakening,” and nowadays, New Orleans restaurants celebrate this tradition with dinner specials during the Christmas season.
“We never really put into place a set list of mocktails because flavors vary, people’s tastes vary, and types of fresh juices vary with the season,” said Hadi Ktiri, bartender at Arnaud’s French 75 (813 Bienville) in the French Quarter. Ktiri added that most bartenders will ask the guest what kind of flavors they enjoy drinking, such as citrus or creamier flavors, and work from there to create a mocktail that resembles the real deal.
“Even at a self-proclaimed ‘cocktail bar,’ you don’t want to make them (nondrinkers) feel left out,” Ktiri said.
One example of a mocktail at French 75 is a Raspberry Collins, which is a nonalcoholic take on the Tom Collins cocktail. The mocktail is made with lime juice, raspberry syrup made in-house, pineapple juice, and raspberries, and topped off with nonalcoholic ginger beer.
In 2015, French 75 was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program. The restaurant has a AAA Three Diamond rating.
Around the corner and down a few blocks at Brennan’s (417 Royal), the mocktail menu includes a fresh soda of the day with flavors such as homemade ginger ale and a pear sage soda.
“These kinds of drinks are better options for parents and people here for business meetings,” said Holly Brehm, bartender at Brennan’s (AAA Four Diamonds), noting that she also can make a customer a drink with whatever fresh fruit is available in the kitchen.
Mocktails also give customers a chance to offer creative input and let the bartender know if they like bubbly, sparkly, or a flatter flavor.
Patrons of La Petit Theatre can enjoy a drink at Tableau (616 St. Peter St.), which offers a bartender-approved mocktail menu.
“We want to make drinks that we like to drink. It’s a collaboration with our bartenders, but we need to enjoy drinking them, too,” said Barry Himel, Tableau’s beverage director. “There’s also the seasonal aspect and how they work for our menu.”
At this AAA Three Diamond restaurant, try the Redhead, made with peach puree and ginger beer, and the Tableau Lemonade, made with fresh lemon juice, rosemary-infused simple syrup, and ginger beer. Both are well received with adults as well as children, Himel said.
“People are eating more small plates and sharing them,” he said. “They can’t sit and drink five cocktails. Having them (mocktails) mixed in is a great alternative.”
Jackie Hutcherson Parker is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo
November/December 2016 Issue
When you’re sampling the cocktails and mocktails in the Big Easy, here are three events to put in your holiday stocking:
• See the lobby at The Roosevelt Hotel. Sparkling white lights and silver and red decorations on white-flocked Christmas trees make a stroll through the lobby of The Roosevelt Hotel (AAA Four Diamonds) positively breathtaking. Located on an entire city block in the Central Business District, the lobby has a canopy of arched birch branches covered in lights, creating an indoor winter wonderland to walk through on your way to one of the many bars and restaurants in this Waldorf Astoria property.
• Walk through Celebration in the Oaks. Billed as “The Most Spectacular Holiday Lights Festival in the Country,” Celebration in the Oaks at City Park includes holiday light displays throughout the 25 acres of the park. Visitors can take the walking tour through the Botanical Garden, Storyland, and Carousel Gardens, or take a two-mile train ride to see the lights. This is a tradition in New Orleans, with hundreds of thousands of people turning out in the mild weather to visit Santa and Mister Bingle, a snowman assistant to Santa and the mascot of the old Maison Blanche department stores. And don’t miss the Cajun Night Before Christmas display. The display opens Nov. 25 and continues through Jan. 1, 2017.
• Tour a historical home. The holiday home and courtyard tour of the Williams Residence on Royal Street will be offered in December. General L. Kemper and Leila Williams, founders of The Historic New Orleans Collection, owned the two-story brick townhouse, built in 1889 and restored in the 1940s. It is filled with antiques and art collected by the couple in their wide travels. They kept meticulous records on everything they ever bought, so it is an amazing archival treasure. During the hour-long tour, visitors will learn about the couple’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
After you’ve taken the tour, check out the gift shop that carries original merchandise from local and regional independent artists.
– Jackie Hutcherson Parker
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