Whereas many acclaimed bartenders might assume a place on the national stage, Chris Hannah of New Orleans’ historic Arnaud’s French 75 Bar might be best known within the industry for his reserve—and for his quiet, albeit meticulous attention to detail.
Hannah got his start at the eponymous cocktail bar (named for the Champagne-topped drink of the same name) in 2004 under the tutelage of Arnaud’s longtime bartender, Bobby Oakes, who taught Hannah not only about classic cocktails, but about their place within the city’s long-established drinks culture. But he was also largely self-taught; Hannah credits books like Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails for teaching him much about obscure classics, and has been rumored to volunteer at the city’s Museum of the American Cocktail when he’s not behind the stick.
Fourteen years in, his efforts have paid off: Under Hannah’s leadership, the French 75 Bar has become one of the country’s top spots for cocktails. And, having been nominated for the past three years for Outstanding Bar Program by the James Beard Foundation, the bar finally picked up the award in 2017, one year shy of the its 100th anniversary.
So what does Hannah do when he’s not drinking or drink-making? Here, he tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share his favorite bar, his go-to drink in a dive and the one thing he wishes he’d known five years ago. —Lizzie Munro
What do want to be when you grow up?
Best thing you ever drank:
Cracked Pepper Daiquiri from Naren Young in Moscow. Pink peppercorn-infused Havana Club 3 Year—delicious and refreshing.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Hot mezcal. Helping someone move apartments in late July, I return home, full of sweat and dehydration, and grab a half-full bottle of Fuji water and down it. Only it was tobala (from Del Maguey) and words can’t describe the pain. After five minutes of deliberating which sadistic douche would do such a thing, I remembered hanging out with Joaquín Simó the week prior where he shared with me his cheeky “Fuji-Beau.” Nicely done, chump.
First time you ever got drunk:
Senior week, Outerbanks, North Carolina. Woke up outside and just never understood why.
If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
James Brown, Say It Live and Loud: Live in Dallas.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I’m old, so I collected Yellow Pages from every city I ever visited as a young adult. At one point, the ceiling-high bookshelf full of Yellow Pages from pretty much every city in America looked pretty damn cool.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That even though I wasn’t the one paying for all those bartending trips abroad, indeed I could have collected the frequent flyer miles.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I still have a four-year-old bottled Ramos Gin Fizz in the cooler at my restaurant in case anyone wants to pop it open and volunteer…
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Driving to Mississippi to see more blues history, or walking outside my house on a Sunday to watch a second line.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Was given a Twinkie once and asked to shake it in an egg-white Whiskey Sour.
Your favorite bar:
Nickle City (Austin) and Pal’s (NOLA). I know what kind of bartender I ended up becoming, but can’t forget the kind of bar that made me feel neighborhood cool for the first time. Those bars do it for me.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
Café Marigny, pre-fixe menu, New Year’s 2002.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Bourbon, rocks and Miller Light.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Coffee, bike ride to Stein’s Deli for breakfast bagel and then a long walk.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Nothing really, but seeing the words “pre Prohibition” kinda gets lamer each year.
The last text message you sent:
“I’m putting all the babies back in my locker for next year. Mardi Gras is over.”