Wednesday, February 29, 2012

French 75 Bar: Is It Worth It?

The biggest lie told by New Orleanians goes like this. "The French Quarter? I/we never go down there. That is for tourists." Look, I've said. You have too. But ask yourself this question, when was the last time you went to the Quarter and didn't run into another local you know? I'd venture to say that the period from mid-November through Mardi Gras sees more locals in the Quarter than any other time. Someone get Rigamer on line one to run a study.

The Quarter is full of gems. Hide outs from the t-shirt shops and Big Ass Hangovers. One of my favorite hangouts, located a mere thirty steps from Bourbon Street, is the French 75 Bar at Arnaud's. An elegant haunt with green and white tiles on the floor and accents of monkeys throughout, the French 75 Bar is one of the city's best cocktail dens.

Chris Hannah is the lead barmen there, a chap on who much has been written. He has a well-trained staff outfitted in white jackets and a polished demeanor. As an example of that well-rounded professionalism of the staff, on a recent cold Saturday afternoon visit, I ordered a Tom and Jerry from a kid who looked barely old enough to drive. Without missing a beat, he responded with, "Certainly. But it will just take a few moments for us to heat up the water."

When I was his age, I would have thought Tom and Jerry was a cartoonish shot. In reality, a Tom and Jerry may be the single best warm cocktail. It is a dichotomy in the glass. The top layer is a cool, creamy nutmeg spiced float of calm. You may think it is cream, but it is actually a "batter" not dissimilar from eggnog. Underneath the cold float is a rolling thunder of rum and bourbon heated with warm water. This is a delicious, addictive drink. Be glad there are only four days a year when the weather calls for drinking it (recipe below).

Of course, there is the drink named for French artillery of World War I. Gin (occasionally Cognac), champagne, lemon, and sugar is a powerful combination. And while I like all of those things, individually, this drink just doesn't do it for me. But don't let that deter you from continuing to lie about never going to the Quarter.

Tom and Jerry
recipe courtesy of Chris Hannah, French 75 Bar

1/4 oz of Myers Dark Rum
1 oz Wild Turkey
4 oz Hot Water
3 tbsp of Tom and Jerry Batter*

Combine the rum, bourbon, and hot water in a coffee mug. Spoon the batter over the drink, and grate fresh nutmeg over the top.

French 75 Bar, worth it? Hell Yes.
813 Rue Bienville

*While Arnaud's was more than willing to share their recipe for the Tom and Jerry cocktail, they would not reveal their recipe for the batter. You can find a recipe here, it should be fairly similar. Or you could  bribe someone in the know. Your call.


fmcgmccllc said...

I remember one visit there where the room seemed to be filled with quite a few very expensively dressed women hanging on really old guys conversations about the war. I loved it. Wonderful room and made some friends there, and the cigars are good according to hubs.

Pontchartrain Pete said...

Feel free to call me a wimp, but it's never been a question of, "Is the French 75 worth it?" It's been a question of, "Can I stand it?"

Marvelous cocktails by the best in business were overshadowed by the cigar smoke, which chased me out after one cocktail the three times I've been there. Granted, it was always later in the evening and the place was packed with the cigar aficionado crowd.

I'd love to go back and spend some time enjoying classic concoctions like the Tom and Jerry, hell, maybe even a Blue Blazer on a chilly day. I'll just have to go when they're less busy next time.