Chris Hannah is something of a celebrity in the New Orleans hospitality world. He’s bartended in the French Quarter for more than 18 years, perhaps most well-known for running the famed French 75 bar at Arnaud’s restaurant for 14 years, during which time he led the team to win the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Bar Program” in 2017.
Hannah’s newest project is Jewel of the South, a modern New Orleans tavern that he co-founded in 2019. The restaurant is located in an 1830s Creole cottage on the edge of the French Quarter that was once home to a bar and restaurant called Jewel of the South, owned by bartender Joseph Santini. It’s believed to be the first spot in the city to serve gumbo and was also where Santini invented the Brandy Crusta cocktail. “I’m an old soul and I love some of the history that might be forgotten in New Orleans, so when we bought this cottage, it was obvious to us that Jewel of the South had to be brought back and readily available to both locals and visitors,” Hannah says. “Our ambition was to replicate the original tavern and pay homage to its previous proprietor, Joseph Santini, who was the most famous bartender in New Orleans and the South at the time. With that in mind, our food and beverage program is classic New Orleans—exactly how it was promoted by Santini 160 years ago.”
The team’s ambition and dedication to their concept have clearly paid off: At the 2022 Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail, Jewel of the South was awarded “Best U.S. Restaurant Bar” and Hannah earned “U.S. Bartender of the Year.” On Hannah’s cocktail menu (most drinks are $13-$17, while top shelf selections called “Diamonds in the Rough” are $25-$58), you’ll find classics like the Brandy Crusta ($16), naturally, featuring Courvoisier VSOP Cognac, Pierre Ferrand Dry curaçao, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters, as well as a rotating selection of seasonal cocktails, such as Hannah’s Winter Waltz ($14), comprising Rittenhouse rye, Averna amaro, St. Elizabeth Allspice dram, and Dale Degroff’s Pimento Aromatic bitters, and his Crusta Alcala ($14), blending Teremana Blanco Tequila, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse liqueur, Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao liqueur, and lime juice.
“Our overall focus is to make sure the menu speaks to everyone, from the timid to the adventurous guests,” Hannah notes. “We’re well steeped in classics, but always aim to be the first to change them to current tastes, so we have classics, our own classics, and new styled-out cocktails that make guests feel their trip to Jewel of the South was worth it.”