Empire Bar

By Todd A. Price, NOLA.com | Times-Picayune
Photo by David Lee Simmons, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

A national magazine once called Paul Gustings, who spent years at Tujague's, the crankiest bartender in America. These days, he's atBroussard's new Empire Bar, where you'll often see a smile on his face.

Why wouldn't he be happy?

When the restaurant, founded in 1920, underwent a million-dollar renovation, the owners built a proper bar in the middle. The elegant space opens onto a patio shaded by a century-old wisteria vine.

And behind the wide marble bar, dressed in a vest and sporting a long, narrow grey beard, Gustings holds court.

He looks like a man from another era. And he mixes drinks like a bartender whose craft was never upended by the Noble Experiment.

His original drinks, like the Egyptian Campaign, are built with layers of rich, pungent spirits like Smith & Cross Jamaican rum and Batavia Arrack. For his Pimm's Cup, he infuses Pimm's No. 1 with berries, cucumber and the pulp of limes, lemons and oranges. And for Gustings, the "classics" are concoctions like milk punch or Nuremberg punch that pre-date the age of the cocktail.

Tip: A happy hour menu offers a half dozen different mussel preparations for $5-$8.

Location: 819 Conti St., New Orleans, 504.581.3866

Open: Daily. Parking: Street.

Prices: Beer, $4-$5.50; wine, $7-$25; cocktails, $8-$10.

Crowd: Quarter residents and well-dressed refugees from Bourbon Street.

Live music: No. Smoking: No.

Outdoor seating: Yes.