Obituary Cocktail: The Great Saloons of New Orleans

Obituary Cocktail: The Great Saloons of New Orleans

by Kerri McCaffety

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A tour of some of the most historic saloons in America. There is no doubt that New Orleans has more drinking establishments per capita than any other city in the United States. Lavishly illustrated with more than 200 photographs, this elegant pictorial history provides a glimpse into the architectural and cultural treasures still operating today. From urban legends


A tour of some of the most historic saloons in America. There is no doubt that New Orleans has more drinking establishments per capita than any other city in the United States. Lavishly illustrated with more than 200 photographs, this elegant pictorial history provides a glimpse into the architectural and cultural treasures still operating today. From urban legends to classic recipes, all is revealed in this collection of fascinating true stories.

Editorial Reviews

D. Eric Bookhardt
MaCaffety's prints are startling, but for reasons having to do with the dusky formal reductions we usually associate with the early photo-romantics Steicben, Gentbe or Imogen Cunningham....A stationary ballet of elegantly undulating luminosity.
—(Gambit Magazine)
Christina Masciere
A collection of sumptuous, atmospheric images of the city's most famous taverns, Obituary Cocktail relates the history of the city itself through drink, an essential ingredient of New Orleans culture....Informative and lovely, Obituary Cocktail is a treat for those who appreciate the fine art of drinking a smart cocktail in distinguished surrounding.
—(New Orleans Magazine)
Angus Lind
It's the kind of assignments any columnist like me like me fantasizes about:
Meet the attractive female author of a photographic book about the subject near and dear to me heart, the great bars of New Orleans.
Meet this photojournalist ("You can't miss me--I've got long red hair") in a famous old French Quarter tavern at happy hour, have a few cocktails with her and discover she has the same passions for the saloons of New Orleans that you do, for the stories that have been told in them, the lives that have passed through them, the loose tongues that have wagged in them, their beauty, their crustiness and their timelessness.
Delightful, engaging and very Irish Kerri McCaffety, a 31-year -old Texas native who came to Tulane University to study premed, graduated in anthropology and becomes an accomplished photographer of home interiors, has told the history of new Orleans through bars in her exquisite "Obituary Cocktail; The Great Saloons of New Orleans"(Pontalba Press).
Sitting at a table in the bar of Tujague's (est. 1856) on Decatur Street one recent afternoon, she recounted how she was quickly seduced by the city's charms. "I had been to New Orleans before Tulane. I always loved the look of New Orleans, but the feel of it, it was so relaxed. It's so colonial. It feel like I'm in a Graham Green novel. I just fell in love with the city." And its bars.
"Cocktails and bars seems to be a strange metaphor for the city. The timelessness of bars seems to bring out the friendliness of people. Even people who don't drink have their inhibitions lowered when they come to New Orleans," she said.
Before barhopping from the Napoleon House and jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop to Bud Rip's and Parasol's, McCaffety begins her photojournalistic escapade with a quote from Clarence Darrow that sets the tone:
"Take out of this world the men who have drunk, down through the past, and you would take away all the poetry and literature and practically all the works of genius that the world has produced. What kind of a poem do you supposed you would get out of a glass of ice-water?"
Well, you won't find it in this book, thats for sure.
In her research, McCaffety unlocked long-lost secrets of many of these establishments. The title of the book, " is an invention of Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop around the turn of the century, when America discovered the martini. The shop's version consisted of four jiggers of dry gin, a half jigger of dry vermouth and an added splash of the mysterious and enchanting beverage known as absinthe.
The popular absinthe produced by the Period family in France contained wormwood MaCaffety found. Wormwood not only has insecticide properties, but it contains a chemical similar to one found in marijuana. the profound reactions some had to the intoxicating psychoactive combination was blamed for all kinds of misbehaviors, not excluding murder. by 1912 absinthe was banned in the United States, but its aperitif cousins, Period and Herbsaint live on, without the wormwood.
Hence the name, Obituary cocktail. "Death and drinking, that's what New Orleans is all about, " she said, Especially when you consider our famous centuries.
Three years and many drinks in the making the book went through many stages, but there's no doubt it began with the Napoleon House, McCaffety's favorite bar. It was there where her anthropological subconscious may have factored into the direction she eventually headed.
"I was sitting in there drooling over the way the paint was peeling off the wall. It was a very organic color that looks like 17th century painting. I was getting tired of shooting houses that were clean and perfect." the Napoleon House is a place that not only has stayed the same way for generations and disdained change, but epitomizes the stylish decadence of new Orleans. It was a perfect start for her photography and research about why New Orleans is so crazy about Napoleon. She sold the story to a magazine, then moved on to the next bar and decided that to study what a culture surrounds itself with would be "very anthropological."
And that would be bars and more bars.
Over the bar at the blacksmith Shop she found an inscription in French scrawled by Portuguese sailors in about 1820: " Love makes time fly; time makes love fly."
In bars, besides alcohol, there is wisdom.
We learn that during Prohibition, rum runners from Belize then British Honduras, tossed sacks filled with rum and whiskey overboard into shallow marshes along the river's edge as their ships approached port in the Gulf. when they got into port customs officers would search and find nothing. the smugglers would go back and retrieve their liquor later. One roguish smuggler went so far as to name his vessel "Look Me over," practically taunting the customs officers. For more than 12 years, this is one way the illegal bars of the city were supplied.
During this same era, when the Volstead Act reigned, McCaffety came up with this story: "In the dry days of the 1920's Federal Agent Isagore Einstein (apparently no relation to the genius) traveled around America testing how easily he could acquired liquor in different cities. As Einstein ranked cities according to the time it took to get a drink, New Orleans came in firs. Einstein stepped off the train in the big Easy and bought an illegal alcoholic beverage in 37 seconds."
McCaffety was stunned by how photogenic so many of the bars were, which spurred her on to more research and work and is all reflected in her efforts. But there was another motive that kept her going. It seems some year back there was this crazy rumor, she said, that Disney was thinking about buying the French Quarter.
"OhmyGod! Simulated faux New Orleans! Now i wanted to document this for me, if no one else."
In Obituary Cocktail,you'll find recipes for drinks not made in a century and recipes for drinks served that same way for 200 years. McCaffety got a bunch of friends together and tried them all to make sure all the recipes worked.
"I can't drink that much liquor," She said. "it was quite a challenge. but look at it this way: Its anthropology."
—(The Times-Picayume)

Product Details

Pelican Publishing Company, Incorporated
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
12.20(w) x 12.20(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are saying about this

Michael Sartisky
Kerri McCaffety possesses an extraordinary eye and sensibility for the character of place. Her photographic studies of the napoleon House resonate with an intimacy, as if they were taken from inside the object looking out rather than outside looking in. she has mastery over not only the technique of the photographic art but its soul as well.
—(Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities)
Tom Piazza
Her academic training in anthropology has lent to her lifetime training in the craft of photography, and to her natural and profound sense of beauty, a quick and true apprehension of the social, historical, and even mythological context of everything she sees.
Andrei Codrescu
Kerri McCaffety's camera plunges to the depths of these time-machines, uncovering their soul. Kerri's pictures are filled with the presences that their interiors conceal. She has the knack of capturing the auras of mirrors, bottles, glasses, and bartops. she sees the Kirlovian reflections with impeccable instinct for the beauty of form.
There is quicksilver and grace in her vision. She also knows the milieu of drinking and drinkers like bees know flowers.

Meet the Author

Kerri McCaffety counts among her accolades a Gold Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers and an Author of the Year award from the New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association. Her books with Pelican include Obituary Cocktail: The Great Saloons of New Orleans; The Majesty of St. Charles Avenue; Etouffée, Mon Amour: The Great Restaurants of New Orleans; Napoleon House; St. Joseph Altars; The Majesty of the French Quarter; Visions of the Vieux Carré; The Majesty of St. Francisville; and Let’s Walk the French Quarter.

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