New Orleans is a fun place to eat and drink. In early May James Beard Awards were given to stellar chefs Rebecca Wilcomb (Herbsaint) and Zachary Engel (Shaya), and there was a long overdue nod to the city’s cocktail culture with a win for Arnaud’s French 75, helmed by star barman Chris Hannah. Continue to debate whether the cocktail was born here, but do so over a drink, please. The summer sipping scene is packed full of fizzy options, with and without booze.
On the soda side there’s Big Easy Bucha, a local business that bottles fermented tea in various flavors. You’ll find it tucked into drink cases at The Bulldog, Poke Loa, St. Roch Market, Green Fork and more. From the Vietnamese drinks canon comes “Soda Chanh,” a sparkly limeade made by mixing muddled fresh lime juice and sugar with a small bottle of club soda. Try one at Pho Cam Ly, Lily's Café or Magasin.
Restaurants are keen on creating their own sodas, which can be “corrected” with spirits, or not. Kebab has a sweet-tart beet-citrus soda to drink plain over ice or with a shot of vodka or gin. At Shaya there are seasonal sodas to drink as is, or order the “Birth of Athena,” a fizzy blend of sloe gin, cider beer and rosé.
Spritizers are back in a big way, with bars/restaurants taking effervescent drinks to the next level using locally distilled spirits, housemade shrubs, syrups and sodas. At Lula Restaurant Distillery they use their own vodka. Try the “Basil Smash” (lemon, basil, cane sugar and bubbles) or a “Cucumber Collins” (cucumber, lemon, cane sugar and soda).
Cocktail goddess Laura Bellucci’s “Iridescent Gods” at SoBou is a smoky-fruity composition that gets a smidge of heat from ginger and fizz from elderflower kombucha. Or go with a “Roffignac” (cognac, homemade raspberry shrub and soda) at Bakery Bar.
At Arnaud’s French 75, order the “Candelabra” (Singani 63, Sancerre, pomegranate syrup, lime and club soda). At Café Henri its all about the tart and intriguing “Venetian Spritz,” made with Cappelletti Aperitivo, soda, Champagne, olive, black pepper and lemon, while Cure quenches summertime thirsts with “The Love Below,” which features Louisiana strawberry shrub, thyme and sparkling wine.