One of the happy perks of the craft cocktail movement is the ready availability of exotic liquors.
Pisco, a brandy from Chile and Peru, is one of these new darlings of the spirit world, and it is the star of the bar in the Catahoula Hotel. Catahoula features this brandy in a myriad of applications. The eponymous Pisco Sour mixes the spirit with lime, sugar, and an egg white, all of which are shaken to a frothy foam and garnished with a few drops of Angostura bitters. It’s a lovely, light drink, and like many classics, it can easily go wrong if the bartender is not careful to balance the ingredients. My friend Hillary, who spent time in Chile, gave it her stamp of approval, and I concurred. But Pisco Sours are not the only pisco drinks on the menu. There’s a delicious punch on offer, and fans of Negronis and other bitter drinks will enjoy the unusual pisco and tonic. This drink is “garnished” with a slowly melting Campari- flavored ice cube that infuses the drink with its bitter and tart notes.
Ice, supervised by “Ice Chef” Hope Clarke, is as much of a star at this bar as the drinks themselves. She oversees the creation of dozens of cubes and spheres, some of which are hand-chopped specifically for a particular drink. Ice Chef seems a precious idea until you start to think of it as an ingredient water quality and surface area play a huge role in the taste, temperature and dilution of your drink. But Clarke doesn’t merely oversee the clear ice used in the cocktails. She also fashions the many liquor popsicles, cotton candy, and gummies featured in the bar’s over-the-top booze feast: the Drunk Tank. This platter of liquor feels like a nod to the celebratory, over-the-top spirit of tiki, not surprising since bar manager Nathan Dalton left. Tiki Tolteca to open this spot.
You really feel the playfulness of both bartenders in the roofop bar, which serves boozy, icy, slushy drinks inspired by New Orleans’s love affair with frozen daiquiris but prepared with more attention to craft and taste. Though the roof has no pool, it offers a lovely view of downtown and is a quieter, more chill spot than the rooftop at the Ace just down the street. If you’ve never tried pisco, you can’t go wrong with the classic sour. But for me, the Drunk Tank is the way to go. Go big or go home. Or, in this case, go big, then go home.