When summer comes around in New Orleans, everyone's on a mission to find the most fun way to cool down. Some say that a sno-ball at Hansen's Sno-Bliz will do the trick, but for those looking for a boozier treat, fear not. NOLA's craft cocktail scene is top tier all-year round, but summertime brings a fresh batch of summer cocktails to enjoy. Here are our picks of the most refreshing, chilled summer beverages and the best places to sip ‘em.
Nothing says summertime quite like a frozen drink, and Willa Jean’s frozen rosé – a combination of rosé, ice, and simple syrup – takes the gold medal for most refreshing cocktail to cool down with. Once the weather starts heating up in May and June, expect the restaurant and surrounding South Market District neighborhood to be filled with go cups of this pink slushie drink. Enjoy Willa Jean’s frosé with breakfast or brunch, weekend or weekday (we won’t tell). Or, when the sun goes down, head to Bayou Saint John in Mid-City to enjoy a frosé along with the lively outdoor atmosphere at Wrong Iron.
A mint julep is a staple to any summer day in NOLA. This beverage is a mix of Kentucky Whiskey, simple syrup, mint leaves, and crushed ice. Many prefer to drink a mint julep during a day at the Fairgrounds, watching horse races. But if you’re just looking for the cocktail, we recommend a mint julep from the iconic Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, where you can sit at the bar and (slowly) spin on an ornate moving carousel. Another great place for a mint julep is Cure in the Uptown neighborhood.
Cuban cocktail bar and restaurant Manolito offers refreshing daiquiris with an upscale twist. Order one made the old-fashioned way – shaken over crushed ice – or frozen. Find this small, yet inviting spot tucked away in the French Quarter and be sure to order bartender and co-owner Nick Detrich’s personal favorite, the Floradita. If you’re uptown and craving a frozen daiq, Bourrée at Boucherie is a great pick as the daiquiris are crafted with all fresh ingredients: think strawberry daiqs with strawberries straight from Pontchatoula, Louisiana.
This British cocktail made its way to New Orleans in the 1800s and instantly became a core component of the menu at Napoleon House in the French Quarter. To this day, any local will tell a visitor that this venue makes the best Pimm’s Cup in the city (although there’s certainly worthy competition). The recipe includes Pimm’s #1, lemonade, 7-up, cucumber garnish, and of course, lots of ice for a chill. Sip this cocktail on a summer evening before dinner at Napoleon House.
Two French Quarter haunts are worth stopping by on a summer morning (or afternoon, or whenever) for their frozen Irish coffees. Molly’s at the Market and Erin Rose both serve this cocktail that’s more like a boozy dessert than a drink. We’d advise taking one to-go and grabbing a beignet for breakfast to start your summer day in New Orleans off on the sweetest note.
You can find a margarita at many establishments across the city, but there are a handful of places that have a great menu dedicated to different types of margaritas. Try the seasonal frozen at Johnny Sanchez. Casa Borrega and Espiritu have a creative selection as well.
Enjoy the classic, refreshing French 75 cocktail from Arnaud's on a hot summer day. Crafted with Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon juice and Moët & Chandon, the cocktail is a staple of the award-winning Arnaud's bar of the same name. While you're there, enjoy one of the other refreshing cocktails on the menu such as the Li Hing Mui Thai or the Matcha Colada—both tiki-style drinks.
This classic Cuban highball is the perfect combination of citrus tang and minty sweetness, bringing a bit of that island flavor to the Caribbean’s northernmost city. Magazine Street is the prime location for a great mojito. Take a break from browsing the local boutique scene with drinks and tapas at Baru or bring one of St. Joe’s famous blueberry mojitos along with you as you walk. Further Uptown, pair your classic New Orleans oyster bar experience with a frozen pomegranate mojito at Superior Seafood, or cap off a day of exploring the Arts/Warehouse District with Colombian fare and classic (or fruit-infused) mojitos at Maïs Arepas.
There’s perhaps no cocktail more refreshing than an Aperol spritz. The aperitif is a great choice for keeping it light and breezy. DIY your own custom spritz at Sofía: a base (lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit) and a flavor (mint, rosemary, basil). Enjoy Aperol spritzes at Effervescence, a bubbles and bites lounge in the French Quarter.
A martini may not be the first drink that comes to mind when contemplating refreshing summer cocktails, but the hibiscus martini at Monday Restaurant + Bar is an exception. Made simply with gin, lemon juice, and hibiscus, you’ll taste light notes of the roselle flower. Sake Café has a range of “tinis” including a Peachtini, Mangotini, Lycheetini, and the classic French Martini.
Summer Cocktail Festivals
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
NOWFE, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, is the first great cocktail festival of the summer from June 7-11, 2023. There’s a grand tasting, wine dinners, a tournament of the rosés, more cocktail-focused events.
Tales of the Cocktail
Tales of the Cocktail is the world’s premier cocktail event for industry professionals and enthusiasts alike. What better place to study and taste cocktails than in the city where so many were created? The Tales schedule features seminars, tastings, dinners, competitions, networking events, and more from July 23-28, 2023.
All throughout the month of August experience dining deals at dozens of New Orleans area restaurants. There’s often the option to add on a wine pairing with your prix-fixe menu, so be on the lookout for great food and drink specials later this summer.