Heading into New Orleans on I-55, just before you cross the fourth-longest bridge in the world (and the second-longest in south Louisiana), you'll pass a couple remote restaurants/bars that for reasons I can't explain fit perfectly in the alluvial landscape. The exterior of NOLA-themed newcomer Jackson's Watering Hole (1205 Richmond, 713-528-2988) is reminiscent of that kind of place, if you consider just the property itself and ignore the substantial geographical differences.
It's got a large gravel parking lot flanked by trees, a patio with a bunch of picnic tables and a spartan building that looks like it could house a trucking company office. Jackson's character shows strongest inside, where a horseshoe bar is the centerpiece of the refitted, wood-walled space. The Crescent City theme is prominent but not overdone. No disrespect to former occupant Decades, but this new incarnation is much nicer than the old great aunt of a gay dive was. (It's worth noting that Jackson's is not a gay bar, though it does feel like the kind of neighborhood place where everybody's welcome.)
Owner Buck has stocked up on ingredients for New Orleans cocktails like the Pimm's Cup (favorite at the Napoleon House in New Orleans) and the Sazerac (original recipe predates the Civil War). He made me the latter -- I would say lovingly made it -- and I enjoyed it outside while someone dialed up the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" on the analog jukebox. Whether or not that combination makes sense on paper, it worked well for me.
- 1½ ounces Sazerac rye
- ¼ ounce Absente absinthe
- 3 or 4 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 2 Imperial sugar cubes
- Lemon wedge
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Drop sugar cubes into a rocks glass and shake Peychaud's over them. Muddle until sugar dissolves. Pour Sazerac over that and stir. In another rocks glass -- this one chilled -- pour absinthe. Roll that glass between your hands until absinthe coats the glass; discard the excess liquor. Take the Sazerac/bitters/sugar and pour into a shaker over ice; swirl it briefly. Strain that into the absinthe glass. The traditional recipe calls for a lemon twist, but Buck prefers squeezing the lemon directly into the cocktail.