Friday, July 17, 2009
A Visit to Napoleon House
I am never long in New Orleans before a pay a call on Napoleon House and order a Pimm's Cup. I love an old bar with history. And I dearly love an old bar with history that is also known for one particular drink.
At the Napoleon House, it's the Pimm's Cup. A peculiar drink for such a manly bar to be famous for, but there you have it. The bartenders here doll them out by the dozens. I would wager that hundreds are sold every day and that the bar has the biggest Pimm's account in the U.S.
However, the past couple years I have grown dissatisfied with the Napoleon House's Pimm's Cups. I remember being wowed the first time I sipped from this superbly refreshing mixture of Pimm's No. 1, lemonade and cucumber slice. But last year, the drink fell flat on my taste buds.
This may be because fresh-made lemonade is a bit of labor to make, so I tend to make my Pimm's Cups with ginger ale. This is a perfectly acceptable variation on the drink, and I have come to love it. Now, when I get a Pimm's made with lemonade, I'm always a bit let down. Ginger ale add more zip to the drink to my mind, whereas lemonade just sits there.
I have other problems with the Napoleon House Pimm's Cup. Their "house-made lemonade" sits in giant jugs until it's needed for the drink. So it's lost a bit of freshness before it's poured in the glass. The same goes for the cucumber slices, which I imagine are all cut up in the morning, and look a bit sad by mid-afternoon. It's not too much to ask for a fresh slice of cucumber to be cut with each drink.
Then there's the execution. A Napoleon House bartender will typically get an order for three or four Pimm's Cups at a time. He'll set the glasses up, one by one next to each other, then grip the Pimm's bottle in one fist and the lemonade jug in the other and star pouring away, filling up one glass, then the next, then the next. It's a very imprecise pour, so there's a fair amount of inconsistency to their Pimm's Cups.
Recently, I bellied up to the Napoleon bar and asks for a Pimm's Cup and specified ginger ale. The bartender said "OK," but them promptly forgot and made my with lemonade. It was passable at best.