BAR TONIQUE NEW ORLEANS

820 N. Rampart St. (504) 324 6045 www.bartonique.com HOURS noon-3 a.m. 7 days a week HAPPY HOUR noon-5 p.m.

Ten years ago, North Rampart was where you headed if you wanted to score some cheap drugs or a hooker. Or both. But North Rampart, like much of New Orleans, has been changing. And Bar Tonique was one of the trailblazing establishments that helped turn a seedy strip into a thoroughfare with a little more traffic and a little less, ahem, traffic, one cocktail at a time. If you open a craft cocktail joint in what some still called the hood, you better make it either worth the trek for cocktail fans or affordable to folks used to getting a Crown and Coke. And coke. Tonique did both.

Bar Tonique runs drink specials every day of the week, from Pimm’s Cups to Caipirinhas. If you’re more of a wine buff and less into the booze, you’re in luck: Wine selections are impressive. Though the bartenders are more laid back here than at some of the more formal (stuffy) establishments in town, they all shake an equally mean drink. When it’s 2 a.m. and I’m not yet ready to switch to beer, I know I can come here for a well-made standard. I wish that the area behind the bar wasn’t tiny. Even when they are slammed, only two bartenders can fit behind that magic square of booze. This means that when the bar fills up on the weekends, the wait for a drink can get ridiculous. Better to visit during the afternoons or do as many service industry folks do and hit it in the later part of the evening, when you can take a seat at the bar with bartenders from across town. It’s a great place to start or finish your night.

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