If there’s a bar I might consider going to often in New Orleans, it would be French 75 at Arnaud’s.
The French 75 was originally a “gentlemen only area.” When the Casbarians renovated and Arnaud’s reopened in March 1979, the space debuted as The Grill Bar. In 2003, it was reincarnated as the French 75 Bar with emphasis on premium spirits, classic cocktails and fine cigars. The bar was custom-built in the late 1800s, both it and the bar-back are vintage. The ornate former cigar bar isn’t smoky anymore, but the sophistication remains, with uniformed servers and a refined atmosphere of pre-dinner drinks (it’s part of Arnaud’s Restaurant).
The bartenders are in smart uniforms and you can tell they are serious about their drinks. When I took a sip of my friend’s mocktail made with ginger beer, clove and I think it was passion fruit juice was astoundingly good! So much more complexity than a typical fresh fruit juice base, sparkling water, and lemon. Their take on the French 75 is a lot better by substituting the gin that’s in the original recipe with Courvoisier VS Cognac. The cognac’s darker, slightly sweet flavors enhances the Moët & Chandon Champagne used in this drink. I would drink more of these if I didn’t have dinner soon.
We had the souffle potatoes with hollandaise sauce and shrimp remoulade to snack with our drinks and both were delectable. The potatoes were like soft potato pockets (it’s hollow inside) that needed the buttery hollandaise to enrich the eating experience. The shrimp remoulade was so good. The crisp, cold shrimp coated in a mildly spiced remoulade sauce was easy to eat.
For something unique to the restaurant is the Germaine Wells Mardi Gras Museum that’s upstairs. It is named for successor and daughter of Count Arnaud, opened in the French Quarter restaurant on September 15, 1983. Wells reportedly reigned as queen of over twenty-two Mardi Gras balls from 1937 to 1968, more than any other women in the history of Carnival.
The museum brings together more than two dozen lavish Mardi Gras costumes, including thirteen of Mrs. Wells’ queen costumes, one of her mother’s and one of her daughter’s, as well as four king’s costumes worn by Count Arnaud, (whose title was entirely local and honorary) and six children’s costumes.
French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s
813 Bienville Street
New Orleans, LA 70112
Phone: (504) 523-5433