August 7, 2014

Carousel Bar & Lounge in New Orleans

Carousel Bar & Lounge carousel

photo by: Dan Silvers, Flickr

The Carousel Bar in all its glory.

The history of the Carousel is inextricably linked to the hotel in which it sits: the Hotel Monteleone, a Historic Hotels of America member in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Founded in 1886 by a Sicilian-nobleman-and-shoe-factory-operator-turned-immigrant-hotelier (you can’t make this stuff up) named Antonio Monteleone, the spot on the corner of Iberville and Royal streets has seen five generations of family ownership. It began with 64 rooms in 1886, then expanded to 94 in 1903, 394 rooms in 1908, and finally 594 rooms in 1928 before they tore the original building down and started over on new guest facilities, swimming pools, and dining areas.

Carousel Bar & Lounge customer blur

photo by: Katherine Kenny, Flickr

The Carousel after a few rotations ... and you after a few drinks.

The Carousel Bar & Lounge got its start in the 1940s, but found its true identity when they installed the rotating carousel bar in 1949. (You knew the name came from somewhere.) That’s right, it’s actually a 25-seat rotating bar that makes one rotation every 15 minutes -- just about the right amount of time to polish off a strong cocktail.

How does it work? There’s a one-quarter horsepower engine that powers a chain around 2,000 steel rollers beneath the bar. If you’re thinking that it sounds slightly bootleg, just remember they built it in ’49.

But that’s not the Carousel’s only claim to fame: The Goody and the Vieux Carre cocktails were Carousel originals. Beyond that, the bar has starred in films from the 1992 drama “Double Jeopardy” with Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd, to a 2008 PBS documentary about NOLA music legend Fats Domino.

Carousel Bar & Lounge cherub detail

photo by: dutchbaby, Flickr

Nothing like a court jester to get your buzz going.

More recently, the Carousel Bar & Lounge has seen a bit of updating. Starting in 2011, the lounge was expanded and received a new color scheme, lighting, coffered ceilings, and custom crown molding, along with a new stationary bar to increase seating and serving capacity. Fear not, though. The carousel itself has kept its historic character.

Location: 214 Royal St., New Orleans, LA 70130-2201

Hours: 11 a.m. until ?, 7 days a week.

You’re Having: A Vieux Carre = Hennessey cognac, Benedictine, rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters.

Best Yelp Review: "I [am] not trying to be SAPPY but this bar really makes me feel like a kid again!! Weeeeee!"

Best Unexpected Feature: Being able to people-watch the entire bar without ever turning your head.

David Weible is the content specialist at the National Trust, previously with Preservation and Outside magazines. His interest in historic preservation was inspired by the ‘20s-era architecture, streetcar neighborhoods, and bars of his hometown of Cleveland.

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