photos: on the left is the cover of the cocktail menu; on the right is one of the most famous photographs of E.J. Bellocq.
Bellocq is the new creation of the mixologists behind Cure. The bar takes its name from E.J. Bellocq, the famous photographer who secretly documented the prostitutes of the Storyville district — arguably the most famous Red Light District ever. Walking through the front door of Bellocq takes you back in time. The space feels like a Victorian-era bordello or Prohibition-style speakeasy. The walls are a deep red, the wing-backed chairs are plush velvet, oriental rugs blanket the floor, beautiful furniture is scattered about, lamps perch over sofas, a vintage piano sits in the corner. The bar is sprinkled with glass jars containing fresh fruit, mint, and house-made extracts. The booze selection is simpler than at Cure, but it’s packed with goodies. Cobblers are the house specialty; and no, we’re not talking about the fruit-packed dessert your grandmother always bakes when you’re in town.
left: a Batavia Arrack cobbler; right: the bar’s bordello style interior
What is a cobbler? A mixed drink that consists of a base spirit (traditionally sherry), sugar, fresh fruit, and ice — a lot of ice. Cobblers are lower in alcohol than contemporary proof-heavy cocktails, but they’ve been around since before most of the “classic cocktails.” Our bartender Ryan explained that cobblers came about back in the 1830s when ice and straws were becoming popular. They are meant to be refreshing, smooth, and cold. Maybe that doesn’t sound so special to you, but that’s because you don’t live in the swamp; down here in the bayou, with scorching sun and sky-high humidity, we need a refreshing beverage to soothe our over-heated bodies. It just so happened that our mile long walk to Bellocq was a hot one, and we were delighted to sit down in an air-conditioned space that specialized in pouring cocktails with fresh fruit and exotic spirits.
Seasonal cobblers served with crushed ice, citrus, and berries include: Yellow Chartreuse [Jalepeño, Citrus, Hellfire Bitters]. Rum [El Dorado 5 Year Rum from Guyana, Black Tea Syrup, Orange Bitters, Citrus]. Whiskey [Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Orange, Lemon, Vanilla Tincture].
Other 19th century drinks: Star Cocktail 1900 [Boulard Calvados, Dubonnet Rouge, Bitters]. Chocolate Cocktail [Red Port, Yellow Chartreuse, Whole Egg]
For the first round we ordered a Batavia Arrack Cobbler [Lemon, Assam Tea, Cardamom] and a Bols Genever Cobbler [Citrus, Maraschino Liqueur, Luxardo Cherry]. The Batavia Arrack Cobbler was on the menu, but the Bols Genever Cobbler was a personal order. One of the fun things about their menu is that you can request a cobbler to be made from any of the spirits they have in stock, so you can have a cobbler custom built to your personal taste. As if I didn’t love y’all already.
The Batavia Arrack Cobbler tasted like a fine iced tea meant to be enjoyed on the veranda of some immaculate plantation on a sticky, summer day. It was the perfect remedy for how I was feeling — overheated with a pulsing headache. I would recommend sipping this cocktail when the sun is still shining or when you’re starting a long evening of imbibing. Garnished with fresh citrus and two straws (one plastic and one wheat stock) for sipping.
The Bols Genever Cobbler was stronger in alcohol and tasted of juniper and citrus. A rejuvenating cocktail harmoniously built with tart, piney flavors, and garnished with a Luxardo cherry. Again, a great cocktail to order for your first round on a warm day.
Bellocq’s octopus punch bowl. Daily punch creations are served from this intriguing piece.
By the time our glasses were empty, we weren’t sweating or aching anymore. Cool air, refreshing beverages, and interesting conversation healed our bodies and left us craving more libations.
It was happy hour so we ordered a 19th Century Martini [equal parts Gin and Dolin Dry Vermouth, Lemon Peel] and a Vesper (not a happy hour special). The drinks were similar in style, but the Vesper [Tanquerey Gin, Sobieski Vodka, Cocchi Americano, Lemon Peel] was definitely more gin heavy (which we loved). When I ordered the Vesper I requested Cocchi Americano instead of Lillet, and Ryan, our fantastic bartender, explained he wouldn’t have made it with anything else. Cheers to you Ryan! Both martinis were fantastic and balanced perfectly so the nuances of the different components really came through instead of being overwhelmed by each other.
The photos of E.J. Bellocq; the pictured women were prostitutes of the most famous red light district in the U.S. — Storyville.
I have to say, something that really enhanced our experience at Bellocq was the fantastic service. Recent transplant Ryan Gannon (former bar manager and mixologist at Spotted Pig in NYC) was extremely friendly and mixed the best Vesper I’ve had the pleasure of sipping in New Orleans. He was approachable, knowledgeable, and really engaging. A bartender with a great personality and the skills to pour delicious cocktails. Ain’t that what New Orleans is supposed to be all about?
We also discussed tinctures and homemade extracts with James Ives, a Bellocq bartender with tremendous experience infusing spirits and creating extracts from herbs, coffee, and more. His recent creation of note is the Wicklow Wedding Cobbler [Vodka, Green Chartreuse, Mint Leaves, Cucumber Agua Fresca]. Also, if you’re a patron at Cure, you’ll see his name listed by a lot of the cocktails on the menu.
We love Cure and Bellocq because of their staff; the ambitious mixologists behind the bar continue to mix innovative, interesting cocktails that challenge trends and offer new experiences to adventurous patrons. They’re a group of knowledgeable folks who love their craft and are excited to create new cocktails and raise mixology to a true art form.
New Orleans wouldn’t be the same for us if Cure and Bellocq weren’t around. When we need to take a break from staring at the computer (and from Medicinal Mixology) you can find us sitting at one of these establishments.
Drink at Bellocq and drink to good health!