Imbibing History at the Old Absinthe House
Posted on May 24, 2012
One hundred twenty-eight years after General Andrew Jackson plotted against the British with the pirate Jean Lafitte, setting up the Battle of New Orleans, in 1943 Owen Brennan (patriarch of the famed family of New Orleans restaurateurs) bought the Old Absinthe House, where these meetings are said to have occurred. The Old Absinthe House, located at 240 Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, began as the corner grocery for a Spanish importer in 1806 before being converted to a saloon. Only much later in the 19th century did it take its present name, which derives from a potent liquor it began serving.
Its connections to a pirate and an illicit beverage made it irresistible to Brennan, who would later buy the Vieux Carré Restaurant up the street and convert it into Brennan’s. Bourbon Street was at that time flush with servicemen and war workers, many of them new to town, and it was emerging as the bawdy strip of beer and burlesque that would define it in tourists’ minds. Brennan set up a tableau of the clandestine meeting between Jackson and Lafitte with mannequins and concocted a special drink – The Pirate’s Dream – to commemorate the purported meeting, cementing it as a favorite spot.
Today the Old Absinthe House (later bought and still owned by Tony Moran, son of another famed Quarter restaurateur, “Diamond Jim” Moran) remains a fixture in the New Orleans tourist itinerary.