The cocktail may not have been invented in New Orleans, but it was perfected here—the city, in keeping with its abundant joie de vivre, has given rise to some of the nation’s most spectacular and beloved libations. The same inventiveness and flair for theatricality that drive the city’s big-flavored Creole cuisine (see New Orleans) shine through in its drinks: intense, layered, gorgeous concoctions that often resemble sorcery more than bartending. Drinks and dining go hand in hand in New Orleans, whether it’s a preprandial Sazerac (a bracing blend of rye, bitters, and a kiss of absinthe, invented here in the 1850s) or the Cafe Brulot Diabolique (born at Antoine’s Restaurant in the 1890s and pictured, right), an after-dinner drink made, tableside, by cascading flaming brandy down a long twist of clove-studded orange rind into a pool of spiced coffee. As Ti Adelaide Martin, co-owner of Commander’s Palace, puts it, “A great meal begins and ends with a great cocktail.” We’ll drink to that.

See more New Orleans cocktails in our gallery »