Drinking at the Catahoula Hotel
Louisiana: Edible New Orleans
Upon entering the smart little Catahoula Hotel, it isn’t entirely clear whether you’ve walked into a hotel with a bar–or a bar with a hotel. Part of this is because there are actually two bars in the 35-room boutique hotel. But it is also due to the seriousness of the bar program here: The lobby bar is centered around pisco and Peruvian bites, while the rooftop bar nods to unpretentious, just-plan-fun frozen drinks. The layout of the space encourages guests to roam and to find a little nook, something uncommon in most hotels with their special elevator keys, forbidding doors and long hallways.
The inviting personality of the hotel extends to every aspect of service as well. Not sure what pisco is? The bartender on one recent visit cheerily poured little tastes for a couple guests (and himself ) as he explained the ins and outs of this potent brandy produced in the winemaking regions of Peru.
The tight focus of the bar program is apparent not just in the presence of pisco in so many of the cocktails, but also the Peruvian ingredients that are used in them. The creamy Algarrobina cocktail is named for the Peruvian carob, an ingredient that tastes a lot like molasses. Another cocktail, the Pisco and Tonic, comes with a little side of Peruvian history or legend. Nathan Dalton, the food and beverage director, says that he thinks pisco and tonic could have been one of the first tonics. According to Dalton, quinine comes from the chinchona tree, which grows in Peru. The legend goes that the viceroy’s wife, the Second Countess of Chinchón, contracted malaria in the 1700s. Dalton says that the countess’s husband looked to the Quechua people for a remedy. Using the bark of this tree, she was cured of malaria after a few days. The tree, a fixture on the Peruvian flag, is named for her. “I really like pisco. I think that in five years, it will be everywhere. It is nice to be on the front end,” says Dalton.
The frozen drinks at the rooftop bar serve as a delicious reminder that, above all, drinking is about having fun. It’s an unpretentious and carefully curated take on the craft cocktail movement that serves as a cheerful and powerful reminder that this cocktail drinking thing should be as fun as it is delicious–and that hospitality is the key.
Add to that heavy doses of cool, laid-back style and you’ve got yourself the hotel/bar (which is it?!) version of that intelligent and irresistibly likeable friend who looks effortlessly awesome all the time.
The Catahoula Hotel
914 Union St. in the central business district of New Orleans
This article is reprinted with permission, originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Edible New Orleans.
If you go:
New Orleans is a culinary travel destination with classic and contemporary choices. The best resource in town is edibleneworleans.com with “Where to Eat” and “Where to Drink” guides. Of special interest, the “Eat Local Breakfast & Brunch Spots in New Orleans” section.
Additional hot spots:
Root 200 Julia St., New Orleans, LA
La Boca 870 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA
Treo 3835 Tulane Ave., New Orleans, LA
The Rose 811 Conti St., New Orleans, LA