Nestled into the ribs of the newest Atelier Ace hotel, Maison de la Luz, is Bar Marilou, one of New Orleans’s first aperitif bars. It is a place flush with luxury. Red velvet curtains billow against red walls and brimming red bookshelves. Here, with its low, golden light glistening off marcona almonds and anchovies, is the last place one would expect to be able to afford a cocktail.
“New Orleans is the mecca of the cocktail…so we have a lot of respect for that,” said Carina Soto, one third of Quixotic Projects, the famed Parisian cocktail group that Atelier Ace tapped to create Bar Marilou.
While Soto was referring to the bar’s spin on New Orleans classics, that’s not why Bar Marilou is noteworthy; its most interesting divergence is the bar’s earnest attempt to balance trendiness with authenticity and accessibility.
A previous law library, Soto and her partners modeled the interior after what the library of a Parisian woman artist might look like, with all the colorful, messiness that entails.
“We wanted the bar to be accessible to everybody,” Soto said. “I don’t want to be a hotel bar with $20 cocktails. We try to be a community bar, not specific to demographic.”
The European concept of aperitifs pairs perfectly with this push for inclusivity. Aperitifs are drinks with a lower alcohol content meant to be enjoyed before dinner. They are often wine-based, using sherry, vermouth, Campari, Dubonnet or Lillet, and are accompanied by light snacks. While Bar Marilou is not the first to sell them, it is one of the first to build a bar around them.
The reduced alcohol content of aperitifs means they can be sold at a lower price, something Bar Marilou takes conscious advantage of. Unlike many bars, their prices don’t skyrocket after 6 p.m. when happy hour, or, in this case, aperitif hour, has passed. Bar Marilou offers a selection of its artful cocktails in three sizes, small, medium and large. The smallest size never sells for more than six dollars.
In their first state-side bar, Quixotic Projects brought all the same cocktail creativity that won them international acclaim. A stand-out is “What We Do In The Shadows.” Though it looks nearly black in the glass, the cocktail is a lighter, more playful take on an Old Fashioned.
Bar Marilou has only been open since May and whether or not it succeeds in mixing a trendy bar with a neighborhood one remains to be seen. The type of person that congregates there thus far varies by age and demographic, but are all generally people who can pull off chunky glasses and high-waisted pants with enviable grace.
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