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Artist Spotlight: Bartender Chris Hannah, the man behind the cocktails

Written by  IntheNOLA.com
(Photo by: Brent Herrig Photography) (Photo by: Brent Herrig Photography)
There are some things you just can’t deny about New Orleanians. We like seafood on Fridays, crawfish and snowballs on Sundays, and red beans on Mondays. We like to know what high school you went to and how ya mama an’em. We like to sit on the porch after work, wave and speak to everybody passing by whether you know them or not.
 
And there’s one thing for damn sure, we love our drinks…daiquiris and hurricanes, Sazeracs and mint juleps.
Chris Hannah not only loves cocktails, he knows them. Like a mother knows her baby, Chris Hannah knows his cocktails and we are some excited to introduce him as a Local Artist Spotlight because of his love for New Orleans and of course, cocktails!
 Artist Spotlight: Bartender Chris Hannah, the man behind the cocktails | IntheNOLA.com
(Photo by: Will Blunt)
 
Chris owes his love affair of creating cocktails to New Orleans (she has a way of just infiltrating, doesn’t she?). “When I moved to New Orleans, there were all these drinks that I had never heard of…Sazerac, Milk Punch, Pimm’s Cup,” said Chris. “New Orleans has always kept making these drinks. The love affair started when I realized they all have fun stories. For example, the French 75 was a cannon used in World War I that was really special because it had a recoiling system. So instead of having to keep reloading, it could just keep firing. It was a big help in winning the war for the Allied forces. Well, there were these Allied fighter pilots that would go out on raids and when they came back, they would celebrate with champagne and cognac mixed together and toast to the French 75. So now, that’s cognac and champagne.”
 
As you can see, Chris is kind of a walking Wikipedia site for cocktails. New Orleans, this man definitely knows what the hell he’s doing! And having worked in the culinary arts for several years before turning his attention to spirits certainly gave him an upper hand in the cocktail game. “I started in the kitchen for eight years and then spent the next fifteen bartending,” he explained. “My time in the kitchen really helped me because we make a lot of our ingredients at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, where I currently bartend. We make all these old drinks at Arnaud’s with a lot of ingredients that aren’t available, so we have to make our own ingredients in order to make them.”
Artist Spotlight: Bartender Chris Hannah, the man behind the cocktails | IntheNOLA.com
(Photo by: Nikki Mayeux)
 
Chris continued, “I specialize in recreating classic cocktails and creating liquors that enable me to make certain drinks that are not available. I enjoy making those classic cocktails that haven’t been made in almost 100 years and the technique in making sure that their ingredients are correct, served, and enjoyed. The Aviation, which has crème de violet and wasn’t available after the 1940s, is one of the classics I recreate often, as well as the Brooklyn, and The Last Word. My favorite cocktail is the Martinez, the father of the martini. It’s equal parts vermouth and gin, maraschino, and orange bitters. It’s an old drink we’ve been reviving for the last five years.”
 
As an expert bartender and mixologist, Chris has been able to show off his talents in some great locales. “I’ve created cocktails in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Johannesburg, New York, and all the other big American cities. Going to New York, I work a New Orleans night with my French 75 uniform and a lot of New Yorkers get to come down and have a New Orleans bartender. It’s really similar to Huey Long when he flew his bartender to New York so he could show New Yorkers how to make a Ramos gin fizz. And no matter where I go, I definitely represent New Orleans when I get there.”
Artist Spotlight: Bartender Chris Hannah, the man behind the cocktails | IntheNOLA.com
(Photo by: Nikki Mayeux)
 
For a newcomer to New Orleans, Chris suggests that you definitely try a Pimm’s Cup at the Napoleon House and a Sazerac at The Sazerac Bar, as well as most certainly visiting him at his own bar, French 75, Cure, and the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone.
 
For his future plans, Chris just might become the next best-selling author. “I wouldn’t mind writing a book, but I drink too much and wake up too late,” he mused. “Somebody needs to write a New Orleans cocktail book, mentioning the quintessential bars along with new and awesome bars opening up. But, I really think that I want to run a guesthouse that has a heavy cocktail influence.”
 
Chris concluded, “You have to be a little bit interesting, have something to show people, and do something worth mentioning.”
 
Be sure to stop by and have Chris make you a cocktail at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar!  And tell him that IntheNOLA sent you.
Last modified on Thursday, 07 March 2013
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