New Orleans is, without question, a drinking town. Even when you get away from the insanity of Bourbon Street, plenty of watering holes abound. Hell, it’s the town that gave us the Hurricane and Sazerac! We hit up Martha Wiggins, the executive chef at French Quarter gastropub Sylvain, to see where she drinks when she finishes her shift.
What are some local spots you like to hit for drinks when you’re off work?
I’m right across from Doris Metropolitan. I’ll have wine there—they have a great wine program. Later at night, I’ll sometimes go to Boondock Saint—that’s been a Sylvain staff dive bar. It’s around the corner on St. Peter, and we’re friends with the bartenders there. Or another is Molly’s at the Market—mostly. It’s laid-back and mostly locals and mostly drama free. People get loud and crazy, but there are never fights. You can get an awesome Bloody Mary, beer or frozen coffee, and I can get fernet. That’s the only thing I shoot.
What do you like to drink?
I am a beer-and-a-shot girl or am having wine with food. I’m mostly a white wine drinker, but I do like red, although I think I’m a little allergic to bold and tannic reds. I love dry riesling, vinho verde—I like something with slight effervescence. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who know wine and can steer me to something I may not have tried otherwise.
What do you drink when you’re traveling? Do you stick to your favorite or mix it up?
I never travel because I’m always at work. If I do, to be honest, I drink on the plane, because I’m nervous and I hate flying. I’ll drink Bloody Marys nonstop. I’m a terrible flyer.
When you’re having a dinner party, what do you like to start people off with?
I’ll usually have wine or beer. I don’t keep too much hard alcohol in the house. Rosé is always a crowd pleaser. But the last time I had a dinner party was about five years ago. [Laughs] Shots of whiskey are always great, especially down here.
What’s an essential New Orleans cocktail for you?
Everybody down here drinks Sazeracs. Sylvain makes a great one. The only drink that I’ll drink is a dirty martini with Ketel One or Tito’s, most of the time, and that’s not New Orleans specific. Or a Bloody—I’m more savory. Every now and again, I’ll have an Old Fashioned with rye. That would be my after-dinner cocktail, with whatever the bartender suggests.
Do you have a guilty-pleasure drink?
Fernet and a glass of wine. When I’m done with my shift, our bartender just puts it right down in front of me at the bar.