I have always been fascinated by “tiki” and the mystique and romance that accompanies the word. Imagine, then, my delight when I first visited Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 in New Orleans.
Wait – New Orleans? Land of strong, sweet drinks in clever containers on Bourbon Street? Stroll over a couple of blocks to 321 N. Peters and experience Latitude 29.
The bar and restaurant opened in 2014 and is the creation of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who is a leading tiki expert and author of six books about tiki. Berry has spent much of his adult life researching and publishing drinks whose recipes were once lost. He hired one of the world’s foremost tiki designers to finish out the space and a crack team of bartenders and chef.
But we’re interested mostly in the drinks. The best way to find Latitude 29 is to enter the Bienville House Hotel and proceed to the back where you can enter the mysteriously dark establishment. There is a large bar made of dark wood, many tall tiki statues and reminders of Hawaii and Polynesia everywhere.
The drink menu is wonderful to read: so many old tiki favorites are available plus many rum-based drinks from which to choose.
Latitude 29 features Trader Vic’s classic Mai Tai from the 1944 recipe and the Nui Nui, which is a rum punch created in 1937 by Don the Beachcomber. You can try the Navy Grog, which was Frank Sinatra’s favorite drink or order a Zombie. The Zombie isn’t on the menu, but the recipe is very potent and from 1934.
There are also three “communal” drinks to share for 2, 4 or 8 people. Best of all, Happy Hour is from 3:00 – 6:00 pm every day.
There is also a restaurant area and food is available starting at 5:00 pm daily. They call it “PolynAsian,” and describe the dishes as a mix of Cantonese and Polynesian inspired. Latitude 29 was listed as one of the Best Bars in America in 2015 by Esquire Magazine.
And Jeff Berry’s take on the whole project? He says “I’ve been drinking tiki drinks since 1980. I’ve been trying to make them since the early 1990s. I should, by all rights, be sick of tiki drinks. But I like rum, sugar and lime.” And we’re glad he does!
Try Latitude 29 the next time you’re in New Orleans.