Unlike, say, New York or Los Angeles, New Orleans isn’t a city that’s closely associated with rooftop cocktail bars; it may be home to some of the finest cocktails on Earth, but most of them are slung at ground level. But at the legendary Pontchartrain Hotel, located on St. Charles Avenue, there are several fantastic places to eat and drink, including a rooftop cocktail bar called Hot Tin that’s an absolute must-visit.
The Pontchartrain is one of New Orleans’ grand old hotels, constructed as a luxury apartment tower in 1927 and converted into a hotel in 1940. It hosted guests including Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth in its heyday, and its restaurant, The Caribbean Room, was one of the city’s top spots to see and be seen. In 2016, the hotel was completely renovated and updated, modernizing its 106 rooms and adding a handful of new food and beverage offerings: a revitalization of The Caribbean Room (which earlier this year closed and reopened shortly thereafter as Jack Rose), a reinvention of the ground-floor coffee shop The Silver Whistle Café, a restoration of the legendary Bayou Bar, and the introduction of a stunning rooftop bar, Hot Tin.
Jack Rose is spread out across multiple creatively furnished and decorated rooms, and the “living room” serves retro-inspired small plates like cracklins, pimento cheese, deviled ham salad, and cocktail meatballs; in the main dining room you’ll find dishes like steak tartare, popcorn sweetbreads, crawfish bread, crawfish bisque, panéed veal, and pompano en papillote (for dessert, The Caribbean Room’s famed Mile High Pie is still available). Silver Whistle is a bright and comfortable daytime spot that serves Cajun-influenced breakfast dishes, a burger topped with bacon, egg, Cheddar, and hickory sauce, and pastries including a blueberry muffin that was a favorite in its earlier incarnation.
The Bayou Bar, which we had the opportunity to visit before heading up to Hot Tin, is a classic tavern with plenty of dark woods, a relaxed vibe, and an old-school atmosphere that makes it easy to picture Sinatra and Truman Capote stopping in for a cocktail (they did) or the New Orleans Saints franchise being founded here in 1966 (it was). There’s a small but creative menu of bar-friendly fare like wings that are smoked, fried, and doused in white barbecue sauce (addictive and delicious); fries topped with pulled pork, cheese curds, and pickled chiles; shrimp and okra gumbo; oysters on the half shell with peppercorn mignonette and wasabi; and a burger topped with bone marrow, hickory sauce, and cheese curds. The Mile High Pie (layered with vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and peppermint ice cream and topped with meringue) is also available here, as is bread pudding made with Silver Whistle’s blueberry muffins. To drink, there’s a nice selection of local beers as well as creative cocktails including the Ruby Slipper (grapefruit vodka, Angostura, lemon-grapefruit shrub, and sparkling water); Duck Fat Sazerac (house-infused duck fat Sazerac rye, sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, and Herbsaint); Brulot Flip (brandy, Amaro Ramazzotti, whole egg, Angostura, and coffee syrup), and a high-end hurricane.
If you plan on visiting the Pontchartrain, whether it’s for drinks, dinner, or an overnight stay, we strongly suggest you don’t leave without paying a visit to Hot Tin. Located (obviously) on the roof, if affords some absolutely spectacular 270-degree views of the city due to the fact that the hotel is the tallest building around for blocks. The space itself is bright and breezy, with a large section of it open to the elements and the rest of it covered by a pressed tin ceiling (naturally); there’s an L-shaped bar, tables along windows on the opposite end, and several comfortable couches in the middle. There are plenty of ‘40s knickknacks like old letters and other ephemera to discover tucked into the corners, lending the proceedings an old-fashioned but still modern air. The memorabilia reads not as tacky but rather as an appropriate nod to the hotel’s vibrant history; did we mention that Tennessee Williams lived in the hotel while writing A Streetcar Named Desire?
The cocktails up here are different than what you find downstairs; these have a more appropriate warm-weather vibe. There’s the Skyliner (Cathead honeysuckle vodka, grapefruit, lime, Campari, and habanero bitters); the Sand Dolla Daiq (rum, lime, almond, and apricot); Seersucker (cognac, watermelon, rhubarb, anise, and lemon); A Spritzer Named Desire (génépy, lime, bitters, and La Croix Pamplemouse), and a handful of other libations perfect for a warm day (or night).
If you decide to check out Hot Tin, we suggest you get there early; it’s one of the most popular bars in the city. But thankfully, thanks to amazing views, lively and smart décor, and expertly crafted cocktails, Hot Tin lives up to the hype.
The hotel visit that was the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the writer.