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First Sip: At Battistella's bar
Abita Amber is on tap and at the ready behind the small but welcoming Battistella's bar. It's a regular ingredient in the kitchen's recipes. Add to that two more taps, 20 or so bottled beers—including Dixie's Blackened Voodoo, Rogue Chipotle Ale and Mother Earth Weeping Willow Wit—and a small but sensible wine list and there's plenty to complement the deftly seasoned flavors of Creole cuisine.
But if we're going for verisimilitude here, who in New Orleans other than a well-moussed bachelorette really starts off the night with a Gewurztraminer? Sazerac. Pimm's Cup. Ramos Gin Fizz. The cocktails ($7–$9) are where it's at, doll.
Yes, Battistella's has a Hurricane, which I tasted because it's my job. This Hurricane does not recall my 20th birthday at Pat O'Brien's (nor do I). Garnished with fruit in the traditional curvaceous glass, the taste itself is enjoyably bright, clean and not too sweet, thanks to Bar Manager Jenna M. Cyr's careful tinkering.
"The way I construct our Hurricane is with Kraken black spiced rum and Bacardi. It has a lot of alcohol content to it, so balancing that off with fresh-squeezed lime juice and passion fruit juice gives a tropical, vacation kind of flavor to it. We use organic grenadine which doesn't have that high-fructose corn syrup that makes you feel like you're chewing on a piece of candy," explains Cyr.
Those unwilling to embrace the iconic (ironic) cruise-ship profile of the Hurricane may delight in the graceful flute of the French 75, a tart but light melody of gin, lemon and Prosecco; or the squat lowball of the Sazerac, a burly growl of absinthe, rye, Peychaud's and lemon. The Perfect Storm was our table's favorite on a blustery night, its Gosling's black rum, Murray's cider and Gosling's ginger beer marrying spice and bite. Similarly, brandy milk punch is a must for Sunday brunch, or really any winter afternoon. Nutmeg!
Though it is Cyr's first time curating her own beverage menu, she's found a willing audience in this revitalized corner of City Market. It's not the Vieux Carre, but Cyr finds that displaced New Orleanians and anyone else who's ever loved or found love in the Crescent City are content to play along.
"People from New Orleans that I've gotten to meet here at the bar really like to extend their [evening's] pleasure: They start out with a cocktail or two, then [I] pour them a couple of little tastes of wine and they're right there with the wine pairings," laughs Cyr.
"They're here to have a good time. They dine."
Correction (Nov. 10, 2011): Jenna M. Cyr is Battistella's Bar Manager (not Beverage Manager).