Chris McMillian is a living legend for bartenders visiting New Orleans. Following some kind of family tradition with his parents, grandparents and great-grand-parents all working in one trade or another of the spirits and hospitality industry, he’s been bartending for…well… let’s say forever. He’s also one of the founders of The Museum of the American Cocktail.
After working in several of New Orleans’ best bars, he’s opened his very first own venue with his wife in February of this year: Revel. This is where my new friends from Tales of the Cocktail and I were headed for the first stop of our bar crawl on our last night in New Orleans .
Revel is located on a large avenue about 10-15 min away from the French quarter in a rather inconspicuous house. If you were to drive by, you’d never guess there is a bar there.
As we exited the taxi, we were welcomed by Chris’ wife. One of my friends knew her so they exchanged a few words together. We then entered the bar which is built on two levels. On street level there are a few tables. Walk up the small staircase and you have the bar. As luck had it, some space had just vacated there, right across Chris’ station! We couldn’t have asked for better seats. We were in prime position to observe the master at work. The music playing in the background was low enough that we could fairly easily talk together. With its off-the-tourist-path address, the bar wasn’t crowded and seemed to be frequented either by locals or by cocktail amateurs who’d come to the neighbourhood specifically for Revel.
The menu comprises 39 cocktails. They’re classified under different headers: Specialaltie de la Nouvelle Orleans. (There are a few typos there if you ever read this post, Chris. If your intention was to write in French, the header should be Spécialités de la Nouvelle-Orléans) with New Orleans classics such as the Sazerac, the Vieux Carré or the French 75; Sui Generis with just one drink, the Mint Julep; Renaissance with the Bramble, the French Pearl, the Sloegroni; Vintage with the Blood and Sand, the Boulevardier, Corpse Reviver n°2 or The Last Word; and, finally, La Maison with Jean Deaux, Sheilavsit, New Orleans is drowning, Fernet Alexander…
In choosing our drinks we all chose different cocktails in order to sample as many as possible. Drink strategy 101, people! While the guys went for an Absinthe Suissesse (Swiss Absinthe!), a Fernet Alexander and a Mint Julep, I hesitated between a Vieux Carré, my favourite cocktail which was created in New Orleans, and a Ramos Gin Fizz, a cocktail I had never had and was most curious about. I finally decided on the latter. When I told the guys I had never tasted a Ramos in my life, their reaction was unanimous: I couldn’t have trusted anyone better than Chris for my first try. They started laughing that actually we should all order a Ramos Gin Fizz. Why laughing? For those of you who don’t know that drink: it’s a cocktail that has to be shaken vigorously for several minutes. Yes, minutes! You can thus imagine how strenuous that can be! Chris certainly knows it: hence the clever mention “Limit one per round” under the cocktail’s description on the menu.
When we took our first sips, well, it was a moment of pure bliss. The drinks were savoury, perfectly balanced, absolute perfection. The orange flower water gave a very subtle taste to my drink which reminisced me of a milkshake with only the aromas of the gin but not the ethanol taste. The Absinthe Suissesse was another milky wonder. I usually don’t like absinthe. It’s too herbal for me, I guess, and I truly dislike the taste of aniseed. I could however see myself drinking Absinthe Suissesse every now and then! The Fernet Alexander reminded me of the After Eight chocolates and the Mint Julep was super refreshing in NOLA’s heat.
As I hadn’t had much for dinner and knew we’d have a few more drinks that night, I was careful to drink water regularly. I burst into laughters when I noticed the size of my glass of water compared to the size of my cocktail glass. The picture in the gallery above speaks for itself.
For our second order, I went for a Brandy Milk Punch. A surprising choice for me according to one of my drinking companions who had noticed the day before I usually went for rather dry and strong drinks. I wanted to experiment something new and I had liked the milky drinks so far so I thought “why not?” It was good but not my favourite drink to be honest. Having two creamy cocktails in a row probably wasn’t the best idea, I have to admit. I don’t remember what drinks the guys had second. They were extremely good though, I can assure you! One was the third variation – the “over the edge” variation as Chris called it – of a classic cocktail, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what it was.
What I loved about Revel, besides the amazing drinks obviously, was the convivial atmosphere. Chris and his wife have created a really warm and welcoming bar. It’s a “come as you are and simply enjoy yourself” kind of place, ideal for a low-key date night or a night out with your friends. Also Chris was a great host, very attentive and full of interesting stories. If you visit New Orleans, make sure you visit him and his bar!