SoBou, which stands for “South of Bourbon” is a direct nod to New York’s Soho, NoLita and TriBeCa. This trend of compressing real estate markets into new words based on cardinal directions has travelled to other cities such as San Francisco and Austin. That trend didn’t stick in New Orleans, mainly because north and south are hard to identify. When your city is between two bodies of water (Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River), it’s just easier to give directions in those terms. Though the name has lost its intended meaning, you should still go have a drink here.
SoBou is in the W, a hotel for the cool kids. The exposed beams and glass give it a sleek air. In lieu of candles or the Edison bulbs you see everywhere else, there is a softly lit glass square on one end of the granite bar, bathing drinkers in its warm light. It’s a hip, modern bar in a hip, modern hotel, but thankfully the service offers nothing but old school New Orleans charm and hospitality.
Amiable Laura Bellucci oversees the cocktail program, which is not only delicious but maintains a bit of cheeky humor. In addition to pouring thoughtfully crafted beverages, the bar also serves one drink in an oversized flask like the kind you can buy on Bourbon Street. A large ice block is there for regular chiseling, and bartenders carve cubes to chill the several dozen rums, bourbons and scotches available for sampling. Since this is a hotel bar, you can count on a bartender who will just as happily make that Crown and Coke as she will your fifteen-ingredient craft libation, without an ounce of pretension. South of Bourbon, North of the River, drinking at SoBou is a lot of fun, no matter what direction you are headed.
The modern look of SoBou’s curving bar