Essentially, this book (Countryman Press, $18.95) by Elizabeth Pearce is a guidebook, with profiles and plenty of history about New Orleans, its bars and drinking culture (and occasionally, the drinks). The guide stretches far beyond the French Quarter. And there are no recipes.
The voice: Pearce’s descriptions are warm and insider-ly. Readers will feel like they can trust her to provide a good sense of what these places are actually like and the people that can be found there. Among the many hats she wears, Pearce actually leads tours of New Orleans, and that knowledgeable let-me-show-you voice clearly comes through.
The lowdown: In theory, this book could be used to build a little DIY walking tour. A map of each neighborhood would have been a nice touch for a self-guided walkabout. An appendix also helpfully lists NOLA’s bars by category—i.e. romantic, courtyards, rooftop views, great wine lists, great whiskey lists and my personal favorite, “cheap dive bars where you can forget your name.” The book also provides very short lists of NOLA breweries and wine stores with bars.
By Sarah Baird, this is, first and foremost, a cocktail recipe book (Cider Mill Press Book Publishers, $19.95), with a mix of classic and contemporary drinks. The book also spotlights notable bars and offers Q&As with local cocktail personalities.
The voice: Baird comes across as young and hip. Readers will get the sense that she knows all the coolest bartenders and newest watering holes. Her drink instructions are clear and easy to follow.
The lowdown: The enticing cocktail recipes are really the meat of this book. Some will find the organization of the book disorienting. For example, one chapter zooms in on the drinks served at a specific bar (i.e.,“Redefining the Neighborhood Bar at Cure”), then suddenly zooms back out to a more general approach (i.e., drinks that showcase NOLA’s local produce). The book is at its strongest when showcasing joyful moments that are keenly specific to New Orleans. Two chapters in particular, What to Drink During Carnival Season and What to Drink During a Sunday Second Line, were absolutely delightful.
The conclusion: Get both books. These are two very different, and potentially complementary, books, and both are recommended. Drink Datis the knowledgeable guide you’ll want to read before you head to the Crescent City and potentially the book you’ll want to keep on hand as you wander around. And New Orleans Cocktails is the colorful book you’ll want to bring back as a souvenir, so you can make drinks and remember the amazing time you had in New Orleans—even if you can’t really remember all that much.