Thanks to Beachcomber Editor Chris Manson for letting me extend my reach a little further. In past Liquor Talking articles I have researched, tasted and reviewed spirits and wine, following my own interests while trying to keep an eye on what’s happening in the world of adult beverages. All that pro imbibing has left me with a lot of bottles, while drawing me into the subject of…the bar.
I don’t know how many bars there are in Beachcomberland. It’s safe to say “lotsa.” And not just standalone brick-and-mortar bars. There’s also restaurant bars, resort bars, wine bars, and beach bars.
I have my own taste in bars, refined by years of learning on the job. My taste is for quiet bars, but not too quiet. I like bars with a wide selection of spirits, though a list of 50 or more whiskeys can dent my resolve—to paraphrase Churchill, “so much whiskey, so little time.” I don’t go to bars to dance, play games or watch TV, though that’s all good fun. I go to drink good drinks—cocktails, wine, or beer.
What I hope to accomplish in these articles is to give Beachcomber readers an idea of what’s out there, and maybe uncover a few unknown gems.
My first stop was Café NOLA’s Bourbon Street Lounge. Café NOLA is the restaurant that serves the historic Hotel DeFuniak, located at 400 East Nelson Avenue in DeFuniak Springs. Bourbon Street Lounge is accessed by entering the restaurant, then making a right at the sign that says, “Bar.”
The hotel, like the city, is ideally positioned to partake of the renaissance underway in DeFuniak Springs. Led by such organizations as Main Street DeFuniak Springs and citizens’ historical and cultural groups, the town has become a beehive of activity—renovation, business openings, and events like Downtown Arts Night and LakeFest. If you haven’t been to DeFuniak recently, come, and stop by Bourbon Street Lounge.
The lounge is a long room. There’s a wood and copper-topped bar with stools, and a seating area with sofa, comfy armchairs and side tables. A large window offers a view of the shops and dance studio across the street (where my daughter Grace is rehearsing for a recital). I went around 6 PM on a recent weeknight and took a seat in one of the armchairs. The sun was too hot, so I retreated to the cool of a barstool.
There were four others at the bar, one of whom had just finished a po’ boy (you can get food from the restaurant served in the bar). I got his seat and asked the bartender (Jo, a friendly young woman with a fine British accent—not the young lady pictured here) for a Sazerac, one of the house specialties.
Bartenders have a lot of duties and responsibilities beyond just making drinks, especially in a restaurant. They clean, count bottles, restock and keep inventory. They chat with customers and make sure the servers are getting their drinks for diners. I learned from talking to Jo that she was in her second week at Café NOLA, having previously bartended at another area restaurant, along with years of previous experience as a server, dating back to her youth in Britain.
My Sazerac was made with rye and the traditional Herbsaint (New Orleans’ version of the once-illegal absinthe), powdered sugar (instead of simple syrup), served on the rocks with a lemon twist. I usually drink Sazeracs up, but ice allows more time to sip.
Next to me was a woman who had just finished a dozen raw oysters and a beer. She and Jo were talking about a couple that had just left before I arrived. Apparently they’d broken up and even worked out a division of property right there at the bar. Glad I missed that, though it’s classic New Orleans—conducting personal affairs in a bar.
Servers came and went from the restaurant, getting beers and glasses of wine. Jo said she was reorganizing the bottles for her own convenience (every bartender has her system), and slicing lemon garnishes. She had a brief conversation with another couple about strip clubs (Jo said they’re not a British thing), then the bar emptied and it was just you and me, so set ‘em up, Jo.
I ordered a Campari and soda, something lighter. Dusk was coming, and my wife was on her way to pick up our daughter at the studio (and me—one does not drive after a Sazerac).
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