If you are looking for some libations with a little spirit, here are some of our favorite venues, in no particular order.
The Columns Hotel:
At 3811 St. Charles Avenue, this hotel bar is in the Uptown section of town, easily accessible by bus or taxi or by streetcar. The Victorian Lounge was named one of the "Top Ten Sexiest Places On Earth" by Details Magazine, and locals have voted it as having the best Bloody Mary in town. There is musical entertainment on the weekends.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop:
Lafitte's hasn't decided to go with that new fangled electricity, and is lit only by candles and firelight. This may dim your prospects of seeing celebrities who like to go under the radar, but it also adds to the romance. Built in 1772, it stands proudly at 941 Bourbon Street, out of the way of the skin clubs. It's reputedly haunted, so if the atmosphere spooks you, there's a beer garden and a garden bar outside.
Polo Club Lounge at Windsor Court:
The Windsor Court is at 300 Gravier Street in the Warehouse District. 21st century elegance is the keyword here. This is a great martini, wine, and cigar bar, where piano music is often also on the menu, along with a jazz trio on the weekends.
Maple Leaf Bar:
At the other end of the spectrum, as well as the other end of town, is the Maple Leaf. It's small and no frills, at 8316 Oak Street near the University Section. It was the first music venue to re-open, without electricity, but it did have the famous Walter "Wolfman" Washington then. It is back to its former self now, and the music, as always, is the draw here.
500 Chartres Street. The Napoleon House is on everyone's list of great bars. The music here is classical (or sometimes jazz), the atmosphere quiet and dark. Famous for its Pimm's Cup (try one), it serves sandwiches, local favorites such as jambalaya, and desserts.
Pat O'Brien's is famous for its (ouch) Hurricanes, but its piano bar is one of the greatest anywhere. There's also a wonderful outdoor courtyard bar with a flaming fountain, a Main bar, and a Bourbon Bar near the Bourbon Street entrance. It seems that everyone is always having a good time here, at 718 St. Peter Street in the Quarter.
Tujague's is the second oldest restaurant in the French Quarter, and has a saloon full of local characters. The bar itself is made of cypress, is stand up, and has withstood all manner of things since the 1850's, including Prohibition. Sazeracs and Absinthe frappes’ are often the local drink of choice. You can segue into the restaurant afterwards for a six course, table d'hote menu.
Old Absinthe House:
This is where the Absinthe Frappe was invented. Now made with Herbsaint, the drink is still served there as well as an Absinthe Suissesse, a Ramos Gin Fizz, or more conventional cocktails. In its 200 years, it has hosted such luminaries as Mark Twain and Frank Sinatra. In addition, there are a lot of ghost stories (mostly involving Jean Lafitte, the pirate.)
The Bombay Club:
Located at 830 Conti Street in the Quarter, The Bombay Club is another upscale bar with a British living room atmosphere. It serves over 100 types of martinis such as The Breathless with Godiva liqueur or the strawberry inspired Metropolitan. It also has a wonderful wine selection.