Drink Spirits Walks into a Bar: Carousel Bar at The Monteleone, New Orleans

The Carousel Bar at The Monteleone Hotel In New Orleans
Carousel Bar at The Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans

New Orleans is a city filled with historic bars and is the birth place of many legendary cocktails including the Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz, Vieux Carré, and Hurricane. The ironic thing is that it’s actually quite difficult to get a good cocktail in New Orleans.  The best example of this is Pat O’Briens, birthplace of the Hurricane, a bar where now the drink is served from a mix and is nearly unpalatable. Although the cocktails can often be rustic at best, many New Orleans bars have an ambiance and vibe that is truly special. One of the great New Orleans bars is the Carousel Bar at The Monteleone Hotel. The bar used to be quite small, mostly consisting of a round rotating bar and a few tables. Early this year, the Monteleone renovated and expanded the bar to include a second bar and stage area for music.

The bar has transformed from being one of the great charming bars in New Orleans to a major stop on the French Quarter bar crawl and key nightlife destination. The second bar and Prohibition-era jazz bands are a nice addition to the Carousel Bar but it’s still the spinning bar that’s the real show. Sitting at a table in the Carousel Bar is like sitting in the top deck of a baseball stadium – sure, you’re at the game, but how much are you really experiencing of it?

The Carousel Bar and attached bar stools slowly rotate around a fixed center where bartenders busily make drinks for their moving customers (they actually have to climb up and over the bar if they need to get out). A drink at the bar can last you a couple of rotations if you savor it, which you will want to as it’s one of the most fun bar seats in the world.  The bar seats can fill up quickly, but if you know someone at the bar, it’s easy to get in on the action by standing on the moving platform right next to the seats. It’s a sung fit so you’ll want to stand by someone you know.

In addition to the spinning bar, the Carousel Bar is known as being the birthplace of the Vieux Carré (a cocktail with cognac, rye, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters) which is a delicious cocktail when prepared well. Unfortunately, the bartenders at the Carousel Bar don’t really stir cocktails, they build drinks like the Vieux Carré in the glass and serve them to you with a stir stick. It’s is essential that you stir the drinks you get there, otherwise your first sip will be pure spirit (or bitters) depending on how it was mixed. The same goes for their Old Fashioned, which is made with a post-Prohibition recipe with fruit and soda water (not our favorite), as well as the Sazerac. It’s hard to complain about the cocktails at a place like the Carousel Bar when the experience of drinking is so exceptional.

Although not invented there, the Carousel Bar is also well known for its Bloody Mary which is nice and spicy, but also often needs a good stir (or the first sip through the straw is all spicy tomato and the last is all vodka).

There are a lot of bars in New Orleans, and most of them will serve your drink in a fishbowl and send you off onto the street, but few are as nice and as fun as taking a ride on the Carousel Bar. The bar has become quite a hot spot and serves as an oasis from the insanity that is one block up on Bourbon Street, but if you go, you MUST try to sit at the bar. As beautiful as the expansion to this bar is, the reason to go is to ride the bar.

Carousel Bar is located at the Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA