It’s not easy to find Maison Premiere. Though the restaurant is all over the internet – and is ranked as one of the world’s 50 best bars – it’s the kind of place you can walk past twice without realizing where you are.
Then you walk inside, where the slow ceiling fans and the low, golden lighting bring you right into the French Quarter… and that’s before you realize there’s a working replica of the 150-year-old absinthe drip from New Orleans’s famed Old Absinthe House behind the bar.
Maison Premiere will have you believe that it’s more than an absinthe bar – and judging from the magisterial towers of seafood coming from the raw bar, they’re right – but I was there for one thing and one thing only. The restaurant has 26 absinthe options for the absinthe drip, mostly from France, Switzerland and America, served with a sugar cube and chilled water. That’s not my thing, though: my one absinthe drip experience was not a pleasant one.
What is my thing is a well-crafted cocktail, especially one that pushes my palate out of its comfort zone – so I went with the Maison Absinthe Colada, made with Mansinthe, Rhum JR, Creme de Menthe, pineapple and coconut. The absinthe cut the sweetness of a traditional pina colada, and added a new depth of flavor… but I’m not totally sure I love the anise flavor of absinthe in any circumstance. If the temperature weren’t in the high 90s, I definitely would have ordered a Maison Sazerac, prepared tableside (though not the $96 Saint Bernard, made with Maison Surrenne Grande Champagne 1946, Esprit Edouard and Barrel-Aged Peychaud’s Bitters).