I don’t often bandy about terms like “favorite bar” when it comes to New Orleans. After all, it’s easy to have a dozen favorite bars in a city rife with as many classic as the USA’s only European city .
But if you pinned me down, under threat of a late night visit from the Shropshire Slasher, I could very well be coerced into saying that Bar Tonique is my favorite bar in the city.
It definitely mixes my favorite drink, the Frenchmen’s Dark and Stormy, a witches brew of potent rum and ginger elixers that redefined the word cocktail for me a few years ago when I stumbled into the former King Bolden room.
The old King Bolden was wild and wooly. A classic old school bar where the strippers and dealers would congregate til the wee hours doing crime or chatting animatedly about crimes they’d done in the past.
I was a mite sad when it closed but I had no way of knowing that it’s closure would provide an opening for a new bar that would help to blaze a trail for New Orleans insurgent cocktail movement.
Bar Tonique knows the merits of the hard shake.
Want to take the night to the next level?
How about a Widow’s Kiss featuring the timeless thrill of Applejack?
Under the weather? How about a Corpse Reviver #2 to cure what ails you?
I particularly like the Whisky Smash as an evening starter, a boozy prelude to the nights’ festivities.
These drinks are just part of their extensive repertoire of classic cocktails.
That’s all well and good but like most favored bars it’s the ineffable qualities that make Bar Tonique what it is.
Music: They got you covered. I spent a good 7 or 8 hours there one night/morning with a bartender listening to underground hall of fame blues. This girl knew the new blues and gospel according to Furry Lewis, Skip James, Gary Davis and a million other old school guys that many blues fans barely have passing familiarity with.
Food: While it’s true that there is no kitchen here don’t be surprised if Ed the owner shows up with a crockpot of some of the best gumbo you’re ever likely to eat. While it’s no longer a weekly tradition one can always hope that he’ll whomp up a batch and bring it in.
Excitement: Yes, the bartender that fired off a gun into the wall is no longer there but the bullet hole is. Mulling over the exigencies of life takes on a whole new tenor when hot lead starts to fly.
Clientele: Trannies from nearby crossdressers’ paradise Starlight…tourists who’ve done their cocktail revival research…locals who like a well calculated take on a specific drink…old timers who’ve seen a few bars come and go in this ancient room.
Bar Tonique is beyond diverse in patrons.
It’s exciting to see a fresh vitality brought into an old room with so much character. Bar Tonique is leading the renaissance of carefully rendered craft cocktails in New Orleans.
820 North Rampart St
New Orleans, LA 70116
RL Reeves Jr.