Dig Baton Rouge

Mix Me Something, Mister: What’s Baton Rouge drinking nowadays? We asked an expert.

Tradition is certainly coming back in style, with classic cocktails like the old fashioned, Manhattan and Moscow Mule making a comeback in the Baton Rouge bar scene.

Todd Key, a bartender at Hayride Scandal and Duvic’s Martini Bar, said Baton Rouge has grown significantly in the past decade, and people’s tastes are changing. He said people are going back to the classics, and from there they’re game to try new drinks.

The cocktail resurgence has been huge this year, as it appears the days of the Red Bull and vodka may be coming to an end. The old fashioned and the Moscow Mule are easily the favorite drinks of the year. The classics, he said, still reign supreme.

“[They’re] the king and queen of Baton Rouge right now,” he said.

The trend seems to be away from juice and mixers, with more focus on the spirit. Area bars are even bringing in new liquors, including some rising on the New Orleans scene like Fernet-Branca, an aromatic Italian spirit.
Aromatic style cocktails are in, like the old fashioned, La Louisiane, and the Manhattan. Sour drinks like Margaritas and Last Words are also rising on the list. Key said the new love of cocktails gives bartenders a chance to show off for customers and helps to legitimize the business.

Key suspects the public’s expectations may be rising along with the standard of libations. Media, he said, is driving the interest in upscale drinks, as people are learning more about cocktails. He said this is leading many to branch out and try something different, even asking the bartender for recommendations.

“It’s the adventure of trying something new and putting yourself out there, I think, that Baton Rouge is coming to terms with,” he said.

One cocktail is quickly becoming a favorite in the local bar scene – the Aviation, a prohibition-style, gin-based cocktail. The lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and crème de violet combine to create a lavender-colored concoction with a floral scent.

Key said the herbal flavor of the liqueur blends well with the earthy tones of the gin. It’s semi-tart, a little sweet, and has an herbal sensation. He said the Aviation is already a popular choice at Hayride Scandal, Radio Bar and other bars with a cocktail scene.

“They all have their own version of it, and it’s something that I think is going to be the next Moscow Mule,” he said.

Rum is outpacing Tequila in popularity, as it makes for better cocktails. The Dark and Stormy has been a top choice for rum drinkers this year.

In the wine world, Key said rosé is the hot wine these days. The dry, sweet flavor has made rosé a top choice for wine lovers, and everyone wants a glass. Merlot, however, is not as popular. The heavy, drier style hasn’t won over the local scene.

Even as tastes evolve, sometimes nothing beats a good beer and a shot. Sometimes it’s all about what kind of mood you’re in, Key said. While craft beers are certainly in right now, Key said standard brews like a Budweiser will always be a favorite among patrons at any watering hole.

When it comes to shooters, Key said a shot is a shot. Fancy, mixed shots can’t compete with the tried-and-true Jager bomb or Jameson. Tequila and Rumple Minze are also top sellers.

No matter what your drink of choice is, Key said it’s all about having a good time. Drink trends may come and go, but it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.

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