The Sazerac, the Hurricane, and the absinthe glass of Herbsaint are among the many well-known creations native to New Orleans’s longstanding drinking culture. But more than vehicles for alcohol, the cocktails and spirits that complement the city’s culinary prowess are each a token of its history. In every bar-side toast or street-corner daiquiri you can find evidence of the people, politics, and convergence of ethnicities that drive the story of the Crescent City.
In Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans, Elizabeth M. Williams, founder and director of the Southern Food and Beverage Institute, and world-renowned bartender Chris McMillian illuminate the city’s open embrace of alcohol, both in religious and secular life, while delving into the myths, traditions, and personalities that have made New Orleans a destination for imbibing tourists and a mecca for mixologists.
With over 40 cocktail recipes interspersed among nearly three hundred years of history, a sampling of premier cocktail bars in New Orleans, and a glossary of terms to aid drink making and mixing, Lift Your Spirits honors the art of a good drink in the city of good times.
The Old Absinthe Bar, reputed to be the first saloon in New Orleans
The Old Absinthe House
Henry Charles “Carl” Ramos and his staff
Ramos Gin Fizz ad, 1935
Two views of Basin Street, one of Storyville’s boundaries
The Grunewald Hotel, home of the Cave
Two views of the Bavarian-themed Cave
The Roosevelt Hotel, site of the legendary Blue Room
The Blue Room, a popular nightclub after Prohibition
Cocktail napkin advertising the Ramos Gin Fizz
Menu from the Bali Ha’i at Pontchartrain Beach
Drinks offered on the Bali Ha’i menu
Pete Fountain's club, the French Quarter Inn
Cocktail napkin advertising the Sazerac
The Commercial Hotel, later renamed the Hotel Monteleone
Monteleone drink menu
Elizabeth M. Williams is founder and president of the Southern Food and Beverage Institute, a member of the Louisiana Folklife Commission, and coauthor of The Encyclopedia of Law and Food and author of New Orleans: A Food Biography.
Chris McMillian, a Louisiana native and descendant of four generations of bartenders, was named one of the 25 Most Influential Cocktail Personalities of the Past Century by Imbibe magazine and Best Bartender by New Orleans magazine. His passion for bartending has been covered in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bon Appétit, Food and Wine, and GQ, among many other publications.
Winner of the James Beard Award for Wine & Spirits, an inductee of the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of American Food & Beverage, and author of The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail, mixologist Dale DeGroff’s enormous influence in the bar world has spanned three decades. He is also a partner in the award-winning bar training program, Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) and founding president of The Museum of the American Cocktail.