Named one of the best bars in the country and winner of The James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program in 2017, French 75 bar flourishes within century-old Arnaud’s Restaurant in the French Quarter. With all of the idiosyncratic energy of New Orleans, French 75 is the perfect place for the Cyties traveler that’s looking for an upscale-casual cocktail experience away from the madness of Bourbon Street.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Dakota Nate Contributing writer
Imagine yourself in New Orleans in the second decade of the 20th century. It’s 1918, prohibition hasn’t quite yet begun, the serial killer known as The Axeman of New Orleans is extremely active and will soon influence a jazz takeover (we know, strange correlation), but most importantly, Count Arnaud Cazenave has just opened the doors of Arnaud’s Restaurant in the heart of the famous French Quarter. Where New Orleans was quickly becoming the eccentric playground that it would soon blossom into, the Count himself certainly had a hand in not only its dining culture, but in the decadence of an era where New Orleans would enter its prime.
Come parched and leave your ouija boards at home
With only two families in ownership of Arnaud’s including that of the founder himself over its 100-year run, the rich essence of the Count’s influence is still practically hung up on the walls. Stories of Count’s Arnaud’s life are about as eccentric as it gets, but his meals became the definition of what French-Creole cuisine should entail for decades. His goal was to ultimately cater to every palate as well as many different types of restaurant goers—which meant that you could eat a casual lunch or an upscale seafood dinner under the same tin ceiling. After Count Arnaud’s passing in 1948, his daughter Germaine Cazenave, who later became Germaine Wells, enthusiastically took over her father’s business and continued his legacy for another 30 years until selling the restaurant to Archie Casbarian, who’s children and wife run Arnaud’s to this day.
What used to be a gentlemen-only dining room within Arnaud’s became The Grill Bar upon its restoration in 1979, and in 2003 was reopened as a refined French Safari-themed drinkery by the name of Arnaud’s French 75. Much like the restaurant itself, French 75 has the century-old traditions of New Orleans and the Count himself practically flowing through its proverbial veins. The history-filled walls of Arnaud’s French 75 bar and it’s quintessential classic New Orleans style are what lure you in, and what you decide to sip on is what keeps you planted in your seat. On the subject of sipping, the cocktail list is not to be missed. Riding on a line of new-age flavors and genuine tradition, the list is heavy with derivatives of the classics, and with Chris Hannah behind the bar for over a decade, French 75 has truly become a one-of-a-kind destination for bar-goers. Although Hannah will be moving on shortly to continue his professional legacy in the French Quarter with his own restaurant, his skills have set a standard at Arnaud’s for years to come.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty — the French 75 itself. Where the recipe typically calls for gin as its base spirit, Arnaud’s French 75 features cognac, Courvoisier VS, to be exact, while the spirit happened to be a true love of the Count himself. Although Arnaud’s is not where the French 75 was born, upon enjoying their famous take on the classic, you will be sure that there has never been another quite like it. This may attribute to the expertise of their renowned bar staff, or perhaps the use of ingredients. Either way, it’s an absolute must while dining in the French Quarter, even if you’re just looking for something to rev up your appetite.
The perfect tourist destination during your travels, Arnaud’s also features a Mardi Gras Museum with items collected by Germaine Cazenave Wells herself. There’s also apparently quite the ghost population pervading the premises, but what else would you expect from a hundred years of goings on? Come parched and leave your ouija boards at home, Cyties traveler, and we’ll save you a seat at French 75.
This is classic NOLA, from the strong pours to the white coats
Part cigar bar, this intimate and buzzing bar is the perfect place to wind the evening down (before it winds back up)
Elegance collides with meticulously made classic cocktails, 75 is a an all time favorite of ours in The Big Easy
Appetite? Wander into Arnaud’s for a full Creole dining that has ruled the ranks since 1918