Preservation Nation continues its tour of historic bars as we sashay our way into America’s historic cocktail lounges, the upscale gin joints where high society has sipped sophistication for decades. First round (literally): The Carousel Bar & Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Founded in 1886 by a Sicilian-nobleman-and-shoe-factory-operator-turned-immigrant-hotelier (you can’t make this stuff up) named Antonio Monteleone, the spot on the corner of Iberville and Royal streets has seen five generations of family ownership. It began with 64 rooms in 1886, then expanded to 94 in 1903, 394 rooms in 1908, and finally 594 rooms in 1928 before they tore the original building down and started over on new guest facilities, swimming pools, and dining areas.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge got its start in the 1940s, but found its true identity when they installed the rotating carousel bar in 1949. (You knew the name came from somewhere.) That’s right, it’s actually a 25-seat rotating bar that makes one rotation every 15 minutes -- just about the right amount of time to polish off a strong cocktail.
How does it work? There’s a one-quarter horsepower engine that powers a chain around 2,000 steel rollers beneath the bar. If you’re thinking that it sounds slightly bootleg, just remember they built it in ’49.
But that’s not the Carousel’s only claim to fame: The Goody and the Vieux Carre cocktails were Carousel originals. Beyond that, the bar has starred in films from the 1992 drama “Double Jeopardy” with Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd, to a 2008 PBS documentary about NOLA music legend Fats Domino.
More recently, the Carousel Bar & Lounge has seen a bit of updating. Starting in 2011, the lounge was expanded and received a new color scheme, lighting, coffered ceilings, and custom crown molding, along with a new stationary bar to increase seating and serving capacity. Fear not, though. The carousel itself has kept its historic character.
Location: 214 Royal St., New Orleans, LA 70130-2201
Hours: 11 a.m. until ?, 7 days a week.
You’re Having: A Vieux Carre = Hennessey cognac, Benedictine, rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters.
Best Yelp Review: "I [am] not trying to be SAPPY but this bar really makes me feel like a kid again!! Weeeeee!"
Best Unexpected Feature: Being able to people-watch the entire bar without ever turning your head.
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