Bartenders of New Orleans

Bartenders of New Orleans Intro Photo

In 1838, Antoine Amadee Peychaud played around with brandy, bitters and an egg cup (called a coquetier in French, some maintain this is the origin of the word cocktail), and the American cocktail was likely born…in New Orleans. Almost 170 years later, the Big Easy still serves this concoction known as the Sazerac. The drink itself has seen a few changes, but one thing remains the same: New Orleans is ground zero for the cocktail.  Much has been written about this liquid history, and many are familiar with the establishments that offer one libation or another with names like the Hurricane, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Mint Julep. But not a lot of attention has been paid to the folks who combine all of the proper the ingredients and pass them across the bar. The men and women of New Orleans who carry on these traditions and serve the thirsty masses are the keepers of this history. Whether it’s the tableside performance of the Café Brulot or simply popping the cap off of an Abita, these folks are good at what they do, and they have been doing it for a long time. Cocktail recipes are recorded in books, but the history of drinking in New Orleans is standing just on the other side of the bar.

Interviews

Arnaud's Restaurant - Bobby Oakes - Bartenders of New Orleans

Bobby Oakes

Bobby has immersed himself in cocktail history, tradition and service. These days he only works one night a week, but he takes that night very seriously. Bobby enjoys honoring the traditions of certain cocktails like the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz, but he is also a connoisseur of good scotch and vintage ports. You’ll find them there on Saturday nights, passionate about the drinks and serious about service.

The Court of Two Sisters - Floria Woodard - Bartenders of New Orleans

Floria Woodard

She’s so good that every year Flo has entered the French Quarter Fest’s bartending contest, she’s won. Whether it was for her handmade Hurricane or her special Golden Coconut, Miss Flo claims that measuring the ingredients is her secret to success. She thinks that people won’t enjoy a drink if it’s mixed too strong. Whatever the secret, people certainly feel strongly about her.

Mayfair Lounge - Gertrude Mayfield - Bartenders of New Orleans

Gertrude Mayfield

Miss Gertie, as she’s known to regulars, was a customer at the Mayfair Lounge for years before she and her husband bought the place in 1978. Five years later, Mr. Mayfield passed away, and Miss Gertie wasted no time putting herself behind the bar, mixing drinks and greeting customers. Once a neighborhood hangout for businessmen, Miss Gertie began catering to the younger college crowd to drum up more business. And cater to them she did. Some days you might find the seventy-five year-old Miss Gertie dancing with a student from Tulane, making speeches from behind the bar for someone’s birthday, or even enjoying a little taste of Jagermeister.

Gilberto Eyzaguirre

Gilberto is from the era of Galatoire’s service when waiters chopped ice from blocks, prepared Café Brulot tableside and became notorious for their generously mixed cocktails served to their devoted customers. And what customer wouldn’t be devoted to a waiter who could write their name in flames on the tablecloth in front of them as he prepared a Café Brulot? At Galatoire’s, beloved waiters not only gave excellent service, they poured excellent drinks.

The Napolean House - Greg Cowman - Bartenders of New Orleans

Greg Cowman

Greg Cowman fell into bartending while he was living in New York City. In 1989, his uncle, chef Tom Cowman, talked him into heading to New Orleans, and for the next sixteen years Greg plied his trade in the French Quarter. He’s kept a few shifts at the Napoleon House for the past fourteen years, but Greg also spends his time doing web design and getting some acting gigs in local commercials. But it’s tending bar at the Napoleon House that he’s dedicated to continuing.

Antoine's Restaurant - John Strickland - Bartenders of New Orleans

John Strickland

He’s a self-proclaimed perfectionist who loves a challenge, so it was the time-consuming layered drinks that he enjoyed creating the most. Today, though, he’s perfecting the inventory of Antoine’s famous wine cellar and managing the bartenders that have taken his place in the tiny room next to the kitchen. Still, it’s all about giving his customers what they want.

Martin Sawyer

With the nickname “Professor,” Martin studied up on cocktails and quickly became a fixture on the French Quarter bar scene. He had his picture taken with Louis Armstrong and served champagne to General De Gaul. With all that time tending bar, it is easy to believe that he would have had a few brushes with celebrity. What’s hard to believe, though, is the number of cocktails this man has mixed over the years. With time, care and a painstaking attention to detail, he has made mixing drinks a high art. All of these years later, Martin is still at it, making his famous Mint Julep with all the care and attention he did when he first mixed the drink almost five decades ago.

Touché Bar - Michael Santucci - Bartenders of New Orleans

Michael Santucci

A native of New Orleans, Michael Santucci has been tending bar for thirty-two years. He learned his trade by accident he says, working at his father’s old place in the French Quarter, Mike’s Bar. Since then he’s held shifts at more than a few joints and mixed his fair share of cocktails. It’s not the cocktails that keep him in the business, though. Michael’s quick to confess that he’s in it to make a living. Today you can find him at the Touché Bar or the Rib Room (both part of the Royal Orleans Hotel), where he’s plied his trade for going on fourteen years, doting on locals and welcoming tourists.

The Column Hotel - Michael Smith - Bartenders of New Orleans

Michael Smith

Behind the bar, Mike is an entertainer. Whether it’s singing a song, doing a little dance, or just making you feel like you’ve been a regular when it’s your first visit, pleasing people is the name of the game. So if you come to The Columns thirsty, he’ll make anything you like. But Mike says that anyone can make a drink; his talent is dealing with people. One visit, and you’ll be convinced.

Saturn Bar - O'Neil Broyard - Bartenders of New Orleans

O’Neil Broyard

East of the French Quarter, the Bywater neighborhood is home to the Saturn Bar. Here, owner and barkeep O’Neil Broyard has been holding court amongst his collection of baseball caps and garage sale paintings for over forty years. The many cocktails that New Orleans is famous for aren’t served here, but O’Neil will be happy to shake up a Whiskey Sour or stir a Martini for you, if that’s what you have a taste for. As he puts it, he likes to keep things simple. If you want a fancy drink, you can go to the Quarter; if you head to the Saturn bar, you can get what you like.

Napolean House and Tujague's - Paul Gustings - Bartenders of New Orleans

Paul Gustings

Paul’s prickly personality eventually found the right fit at two bars in the French Quarter: Tujague’s and the Napoleon House. While he appreciates a good cocktail, he also appreciates the cocktail connoisseur and hasn’t much patience for less. He’ll take the time to make traditional cocktails the right way and will appreciate you for knowing enough about cocktails to order them. So belly up to the bar, serve Paul a smile, and he’ll serve you a well-made drink.

Bartenders of New Orleans Intro Photo

XTRA: On the Radio

Just 2 weeks after Hurricane Katrina, this project was featured on the Bob Edwards Show.