New Orleans is home to countless legendary bars. One of the most celebrated and enduring watering holes in the Big Easy is without a doubt Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House. The Old Absinthe House is located in an ornate white building on Bourbon Street, which was once a bustling neighborhood grocery store. In the early 1800s, the ground floor of the building was converted into a boozy European-style coffeehouse—and the rest is history.
In the late 1800s, bartender Cayetano Ferrer invented a wildly popular absinthe cocktail called The Absinthe House Frappe. Absinthe was all the rage in late nineteenth century because it was believed to have hallucinogenic properties. Famous bohemians such as occultist Aleister Crowley flocked to the Absinthe House to spend hours dreaming up new creative projects while sipping on the infamous bright green spirit.
In the early 20th century, an alarmist report by a puritanical medical doctor that said absinthe was as dangerous as opium, and an increasingly virulent temperance movement seemingly spelled the end for Absinthe House. Once the Prohibition went into effect in 1920, Absinthe House was converted into a speakeasy that served bootleg liquor to savvy guests until the sale of alcohol was legalized again in 1933.
The Old Absinthe House is rumored to be the spot where future President of the United States Andrew Jackson met with French pirate Jean Laffite to work out a strategy to subdue British forces in what would be known as the Battle of New Orleans. Patrons have reported seeing the spectral figure of a pirate floating near the Old Absinthe House bar late at night, Several apparitions craving an Absinthe House Frappe have been spotted gliding about, leaving cold spots in their wake, and laughing ghostly laughs in close proximity to the bar throughout the decades.
At the height of its popularity, the Old Absinthe House attracted luminaries such as Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman, and Frank Sinatra. Bourbon Street’s classy, iconic bar still offers a full menu of absinthe for curious drinkers. If guzzling a sugary Hurricane or a frozen daquiri loaded with mystery ingredients isn’t your idea of a good time, consider stopping into one of Bourbon Street’s most iconic bars for a fresh yet potent absinthe cocktail. The bar’s dimly lit interior which is plastered with vintage cocktail signs and business cards that span many decades is the ideal place to spot the restless, thirsty ghost of Jean Lafitte.