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Drinking Family Style In The Crescent City


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Bobina Truitt



Welcome to the lively and vibrant city of New Orleans, where a unique drinking culture thrives. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of family style drinking in the Crescent City. From its historical roots to the rituals and traditions that accompany it, we will explore what makes New Orleans a haven for food and travel enthusiasts.


New Orleans is renowned for its rich culinary heritage and dynamic music scene, but it is also celebrated for its distinctive approach to socializing and enjoying a good drink. Family style drinking is a cherished tradition that brings people together to share a collective experience of revelry and camaraderie. It is a way of embracing the spirit of the city and immersing oneself in its vibrant culture.


At the heart of family style drinking is the concept of communal sharing. Instead of ordering individual drinks, friends and strangers alike gather around a table and partake in large-format concoctions that are designed to be shared among the group. This fosters a sense of unity and connection as everyone engages in the same experience.


Family style drinking is deeply rooted in the history of New Orleans. The city’s cocktail culture has been shaped by a blend of influences from French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean traditions, resulting in a diverse and exciting array of libations. From classic cocktails like the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz to iconic concoctions like the Hurricane and the Hand Grenade, New Orleans has elevated mixing drinks to an art form.


Throughout the years, family style drinking has become a staple in many of New Orleans’ famous bars and establishments, embodying the spirit of conviviality that defines the city. Whether it’s sipping on a potent punch bowl or sharing a pitcher of refreshing cocktails, family style drinking invites you to take part in the lively energy that permeates the streets of New Orleans.


The History of Family Style Drinking in New Orleans

The origins of family style drinking in New Orleans can be traced back to the city’s early days as a bustling port and melting pot of cultures. As immigrants and travelers flocked to the city, they brought with them their own traditions and drinking customs, which gradually intermingled to create a unique drinking culture in New Orleans.


One of the key influences on family style drinking was the French tradition of “apéritif,” where friends and family would gather before a meal to enjoy a pre-dinner drink. This concept evolved in New Orleans into a more communal style of drinking, where instead of a solitary drink, people would come together to share large-format cocktails.


Another significant factor in the development of family style drinking was the rise of social clubs and fraternal organizations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These clubs, such as the Krewe of Comus and the Mistick Krewe of Comus, held elaborate masked balls and parades during Mardi Gras season, where they would serve extravagant punches and cocktails to their members and guests.


The popularity of these gatherings and the communal aspect of sharing drinks led to the establishment of bars and lounges that specialized in family style drinking. These venues offered unique concoctions served in punch bowls, pitchers, or in a communal vessel passed around the table. This style of drinking became synonymous with the celebratory spirit and hospitality of New Orleans.


Tragically, family style drinking saw a decline during Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, when the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages were banned in the United States. However, the spirit of family style drinking persevered and experienced a resurgence during the post-Prohibition era, thanks in part to the city’s vibrant cocktail scene. Today, family style drinking continues to be an integral part of the New Orleans experience, offering locals and visitors a unique opportunity to connect with the city’s history and culture.


The Significance of Family Style Drinking in the Crescent City

Family style drinking holds tremendous significance in the Crescent City, beyond its role as an enjoyable social activity. It is deeply intertwined with the cultural fabric of New Orleans and serves as a symbol of hospitality, community, and the city’s renowned joie de vivre.


One of the key aspects of family style drinking is its emphasis on inclusivity and connection. When people gather around a shared drink, barriers are broken down, and friendships are forged. It creates a sense of unity among a diverse group of individuals, fostering a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere that is characteristic of New Orleans.


In a city known for its warm hospitality, family style drinking showcases the generosity and conviviality that residents of New Orleans are renowned for. It is not uncommon for strangers to join in and partake in a communal drink, further amplifying the sense of camaraderie and shared experience.


Furthermore, family style drinking is an opportunity to explore the unique flavors and mixology that New Orleans has to offer. Many of the city’s famous bars and lounges have perfected their own signature punches and communal cocktails, each with its own blend of spirits, fruits, and secret ingredients. Trying these concoctions allows visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant cocktail culture of the Crescent City and experience the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into each drink.


Beyond the social and sensory aspects, family style drinking also plays a significant role in preserving and celebrating New Orleans’ rich cultural heritage. It is a continuation of the traditions brought by the city’s early settlers and an homage to the multicultural influences that have shaped its culinary and beverage traditions over the centuries.


Moreover, family style drinking serves as a bridge between the past and the present, honoring the history and legacy of New Orleans while remaining a vibrant part of contemporary culture. It is a testament to the resilience and enduring spirit of the city, even in the face of challenges and societal changes.


In essence, family style drinking is more than just a way to enjoy a good drink. It is a celebration of community, a showcase of New Orleans’ hospitality, and a connection to the diverse traditions that have shaped this vibrant city. So, next time you find yourself in the Crescent City, raise a glass and join in the family style drinking experience, embracing the spirit of New Orleans and the joy that comes with sharing good drinks with good company.


Famous Family Style Bars in New Orleans

New Orleans is home to a multitude of iconic bars and lounges that have become synonymous with family style drinking. These establishments have honed their craft, offering unique and delicious cocktails designed to be shared among friends and strangers alike. Let’s explore some of the most famous family style bars in the Crescent City.

1. Pat O’Brien’s

No discussion of family style drinking in New Orleans would be complete without mentioning Pat O’Brien’s. This legendary bar in the French Quarter has been a staple of the city’s social scene since 1933. Pat O’Brien’s is famous for its signature drink, the Hurricane, which is traditionally served in a large glass and meant to be shared. This sweet and potent concoction of rum, passion fruit syrup, and citrus juices is a must-try for anyone looking to experience family style drinking in the Crescent City.

2. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

Housed in one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is not only a historic landmark but also a haven for family style drinking. This dark and cozy bar is known for its signature cocktail, the Vieux Carré, which is made with rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Order it by the pitcher and gather around one of the tavern-style tables for an unforgettable communal drinking experience.

3. The Carousel Bar

Located in the Hotel Monteleone, the Carousel Bar is a unique and enchanting spot that offers both a visual and culinary treat. True to its name, the bar features a slowly rotating carousel that allows patrons to enjoy their drinks as they take a spin. The Carousel Bar offers a selection of family-style cocktails, including the famous Pimm’s Cup, which can be ordered in a pitcher for the whole group to enjoy.

4. The Sazerac Bar

The Sazerac Bar, located in the historic Roosevelt Hotel, is a New Orleans institution known for its classic cocktails and elegant ambiance. As the birthplace of the Sazerac, New Orleans’ official cocktail, this bar takes family style drinking to a whole new level. Guests can indulge in the Sazerac, a concoction of rye whiskey, sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, and absinthe, which is traditionally served in a communal glass known as the “Sazerac glass.”

5. The Napoleon House

Nestled in the French Quarter, the Napoleon House is a landmark bar and restaurant that exudes old-world charm and ambiance. Famous for its Pimm’s Cup, a refreshing cocktail made with Pimm’s No.1, lemonade, and garnished with cucumber and other fresh fruits, the Napoleon House offers a delightful family-style experience. Grab a pitcher of Pimm’s Cup, find a spot in the courtyard or the cozy interior, and enjoy the conviviality of this historic establishment.


These are just a few examples of the many incredible family style bars that make New Orleans a haven for food and travel enthusiasts. Each venue offers its own unique twist on communal drinking, showcasing the city’s passion for both mixology and hospitality. So, raise a glass, share a drink, and experience the vibrant and convivial atmosphere that these famous family style bars have to offer.


Traditional Drinks Served in Family Style

New Orleans is renowned for its eclectic mix of cocktails and libations, many of which are traditionally served in family style, allowing groups to share in the experience. These drinks showcase the city’s vibrant mixology scene and pay homage to its rich culinary heritage. Let’s explore some of the traditional drinks served in family style that you must try when visiting the Crescent City.

1. Hurricane

The Hurricane is perhaps the most iconic family-style drink in New Orleans. This sweet and fruity cocktail is made with rum, passion fruit syrup, and lime juice, and it is typically garnished with an orange slice and cherry. Traditionally served in a large glass or pitcher, the Hurricane invites friends to gather around and enjoy the tropical flavors while embracing the festive ambience of the city.

2. Hand Grenade

The Hand Grenade is another beloved New Orleans cocktail commonly served in family style. This neon-green concoction packs a punch with a mix of vodka, rum, melon liqueur, and citrus flavors. Served in a long plastic cup resembling a hand grenade, this drink is often enjoyed as a shared experience among friends exploring the lively streets of the French Quarter.

3. Pimm’s Cup

A refreshing and quintessentially British cocktail, the Pimm’s Cup has found a home in New Orleans’ family-style drinking tradition. This light and citrusy drink is made with Pimm’s No.1, a gin-based liqueur, mixed with lemonade and garnished with cucumber, strawberry, and mint. It is often served in a pitcher with plenty of ice, making it an ideal choice for sharing on a warm day in the Big Easy.

4. Ramos Gin Fizz

The Ramos Gin Fizz is a New Orleans classic that embodies the spirit of family-style drinking. This creamy and frothy cocktail is a blend of gin, lemon and lime juice, sugar, cream, egg white, orange flower water, and soda water. The drink is vigorously shaken to create its signature velvety texture and then poured into multiple glasses to be shared amongst a group of enthusiasts.

5. Fish House Punch

While not native to New Orleans, Fish House Punch has made its mark on the city’s family-style drinking scene. This potent punch originated in Philadelphia but found its way into the hearts of New Orleanians. Made with rum, cognac, peach brandy, lemon juice, and black tea, Fish House Punch is typically served in a communal bowl or pitcher and offers a delightful balance of fruity and boozy flavors.

These traditional drinks are just a glimpse into the vibrant and diverse family-style drinking culture of New Orleans. Each libation tells a story, celebrates the city’s unique heritage, and brings people together in the spirit of conviviality. Whether you’re sipping a Hurricane, toasting with a Hand Grenade, or enjoying a shared Ramos Gin Fizz, these traditional drinks are the perfect embodiment of the vibrant and lively nature of New Orleans.


Drinking Rituals and Etiquette in New Orleans

Drinking in New Orleans is more than just an activity; it is a cultural experience filled with traditions, rituals, and a unique set of etiquettes. Understanding and embracing these customs will not only enhance your enjoyment of the city’s vibrant drinking scene but also help you connect with the local culture. Let’s explore some of the drinking rituals and etiquettes that are cherished in the Crescent City.

1. Toasting

Toasting is an integral part of drinking culture in New Orleans. Whether it’s a formal dinner or a casual gathering at a bar, raising your glass and making a toast is a common practice. When toasting, it’s customary to make eye contact with each person in the group and, as a sign of respect, touch your glass gently with each person’s glass before taking a sip. This gesture is a way of acknowledging the presence and camaraderie of each individual in the circle.

2. Sipping, Not Gulping

In New Orleans, drinking is not about rushing or getting drunk quickly. It’s about savoring the moment and enjoying the flavors of the libations. When drinking family-style, take small sips and savor the taste of each sip. The idea is to prolong the experience and appreciate the craftsmanship of the drink.

3. Sharing is Caring

Family-style drinking is all about sharing and inclusivity. When in a group, it’s customary to share the drinks among the participants. Pass the pitcher, punch bowl, or communal glass around the table so that everyone has a chance to pour themselves a drink. This practice fosters a sense of community and ensures that everyone feels included in the experience.

4. Pace Yourself

In New Orleans, drinking is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to pace yourself and enjoy the libations throughout the night. The idea is to savor the flavors and the experience, rather than rushing to finish your drink. Embrace the relaxed and leisurely pace of the city and allow yourself to fully immerse in the socializing and merriment.

5. Respect the Bartenders and Staff

When visiting bars and lounges in New Orleans, it’s crucial to show respect and gratitude to the bartenders and staff. Many of these individuals have expertise in mixology and take great pride in their craft. Be patient, polite, and tip generously to show appreciation for their hard work and dedication.

By observing these drinking rituals and etiquettes, you not only pay homage to the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans but also immerse yourself in the vibrant social scene of the city. So, raise your glass, make a toast, and join in the spirited celebration that is drinking in the Crescent City.


The Role of Music in Family Style Drinking

When it comes to family-style drinking in New Orleans, it is impossible to overlook the significant role that music plays in enhancing the overall experience. Music is deeply ingrained in the city’s culture and is intricately intertwined with its food and drink traditions. From jazz to brass bands, the lively melodies and rhythms create a vibrant atmosphere that complements the conviviality and enjoyment of family-style drinking.


Jazz, with its roots in New Orleans, is the heart and soul of the city’s music scene. It is a genre characterized by improvisation, syncopation, and infectious energy. Many bars and lounges in New Orleans feature live jazz performances, allowing patrons to immerse themselves in the rich sounds while enjoying a communal drink. The lively and dynamic nature of jazz music sets the stage for spirited conversations, laughter, and shared enjoyment among friends and strangers alike.


Brass bands also play a significant role in the family-style drinking tradition of New Orleans. These ensembles, often seen parading through the streets during festivals and celebrations, bring a dose of exuberance and revelry to the atmosphere. They infuse the air with infectious energy, encouraging people to clap, dance, and raise their glasses to the music. The joyous and infectious melodies create a sense of unity and camaraderie, drawing people together in the spirit of celebration.


The combination of music and family-style drinking in New Orleans is more than just a background soundtrack. It creates an immersive experience where the sounds, flavors, and conviviality merge to heighten the overall enjoyment. The lively tunes and spirited performances inspire patrons to let loose and embrace the moment, creating an atmosphere of spontaneous joy and shared passion.


Moreover, the role of music extends beyond the entertainment factor. It serves as a cultural thread that weaves throughout the history and traditions of the city. Music, like family-style drinking, brings people together across generations, fostering a sense of community and togetherness. It provides a soundtrack to the memorable experiences shared over glasses of punch or pitchers of cocktails.


In New Orleans, the combination of family-style drinking and music creates a unique and enchanting atmosphere. It’s a sensory experience that engages not only the taste buds but also the ears and soul. So, the next time you participate in family-style drinking in the Crescent City, let the music be your guide as you raise a glass, sway to the rhythm, and immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural tapestry that is New Orleans.



New Orleans is a city that delights and captivates visitors with its vibrant food, music, and drinking culture. Family-style drinking, with its traditions, rituals, and unique experiences, is an integral part of the Crescent City’s charm. From enjoying a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s to sharing a pitcher of Pimm’s Cup at the Napoleon House, family-style drinking invites you to connect with the city’s history, culture, and the locals who embrace the joie de vivre that defines New Orleans.


The history of family-style drinking in New Orleans is a testament to the city’s multicultural heritage and the resilience of community bonds. It has evolved from early French apéritifs to extravagant punches served at social club balls, and it continues to thrive today in iconic establishments like Pat O’Brien’s, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, and the Carousel Bar.


The significance of family-style drinking goes beyond the enjoyment of a good drink. It symbolizes the warm hospitality and inclusivity for which New Orleans is renowned. It is a way to share experiences, stories, and laughter with friends and strangers alike. Family-style drinking is a testament to the unity and sense of community that is celebrated in the Crescent City.


Throughout the family-style drinking experience, the customs and etiquette of New Orleans guide the way. Toasting, sipping rather than gulping, and sharing the libations with others all contribute to the convivial atmosphere. Respect for bartenders and staff, and pacing oneself to fully appreciate each drink, demonstrate a genuine appreciation for the craft and the traditions of the city.


And let’s not forget the role of music in family-style drinking. Jazz and brass bands infuse the atmosphere with lively melodies and infectious energy, creating an immersive experience that magnifies the joy and camaraderie of the moment. Music, like family-style drinking, is a cultural cornerstone of New Orleans that heightens the overall experience.


In conclusion, family-style drinking in New Orleans is an invitation to immerse yourself in the city’s rich history, cultural heritage, and vibrant social scene. It is an opportunity to connect with the locals, enjoy unique libations, and create lasting memories. So, raise a glass, savor the flavors, toast to friendship, and revel in the spirit of family-style drinking in the Crescent City.