The slogan at Pat O’Brien’s is Have fun! It’s an imperative most visitors don’t need to hear. But if you are a local, it’s nice to be reminded that this place where your parents and grandparents drank, where you came after prom, where you have ended up on so many nights, whether you wanted to or not, has always been here for you, to do just that.
If you come to New Orleans, you need to drink here. At least once and not ironically. Pat O’Brien’s is an institution and for good reason. You will have a good time. Sober or inebriated (though the booze helps), alone or with company, Pat O’Brien’s will sweep you along in a tide of revelry and celebration. They’ve been doing it since 1933 and they are professionals.
To start: Don’t get a hurricane. You will want to. You are in the place where it was invented. You will feel an obligation. OK, buy one if you must, but one only, to be split among your group. The drink is not good here. Perhaps it was, once, long ago in the 1940s, when wide-eyed GIs flooded the streets and everyone was singing Rum and Coca Cola. Today it is a Kool-Aid-based concoction that tastes, if I may quote myself from another publication, like chemical and disappointment. If you want a rum drink, order the rum punch, which is perfectly fine. Better yet, stick with a gin and tonic or a beer.
Singing along to the tunes at Pat O’Brien’s famed piano bar
Next: Stake out territory on the patio. There’s plenty of room and lots of turnover. Enjoy the changing colors of the fountain of fire. As you drink, the fountain will become even more impressive. After a round or two, you may tire of the raucous patio. That’s OK. Pat O’Brien’s offers plenty of spots to visit. You can pop into the side bar, adorned with hundreds of beer steins, which is usually fairly quiet. Stay there for a round if you like, then end your night in the piano bar. You will need to buy a round in here from one of the many waiters working the tables, but it is oh, so worth it.
Patrons sway to Bobby McGee and Piano Man. You will know almost all the words to almost all the songs, and whether you are a singer or not, you will eventually find yourself raising your voice and your glass, joining in with the strangers who are now, for a moment, your comrades, joined together, having fun.