The Old Absinthe House has been serving New Orleanians booze since 1806. Then, it was a grocery where you could buy wine and liquor. It later became Alex’s Coffee House at a time when coffeehouses were a cross between saloons and places of business. Men would come to discuss the day’s affairs and sip on coffee spiked with shots of brandy or whiskey. Privateer Jean Lafitte was supposed to have met here with General Andrew Jackson before the Battle of New Orleans, and the bar houses Jean Lafitte’s Bistro in his honor. The coffeehouse later became The Absinthe Room, and aficionados of the Green Fairy would sit by bar’s marble fountains, slowly dripping water over sugar cubes into their glasses of absinthe. The absinthe frappe, a popular nineteenth-century drink mixing absinthe and crushed ice, was allegedly invented and popularized here.
As for decor, the ceilings are covered with football helmets donated over the years by the very athletes that wore them on the field. The walls are covered with hundreds (thousands? millions?) of calling cards left by patrons over the years, and they have become as much a part of the bar’s history as Jean Lafitte and the absinthe. As the bartender put it, Taking even one down seems sacrilegious.
Depending on the time of day, the crowd at Old Absinthe House changes significantly. Its location on Bourbon Street means that it is often full of tourists late into the night. Mornings are slower, which means you have plenty of opportunity to chat with bartenders about the bar’s history or have an eye opener if you were one of the aforementioned tourists. If you’ve never been to the Old Absinthe House, day-drinking here is a perfect introduction to its charms. As their slogan says, Everyone you have known or ever will know eventually ends up at the Old Absinthe House. And don’t forget to leave your card!