Why It's Hot: Gaspar Brasserie is alluring in red, black, polished brass and dark wood under low ceilings. Upstairs there's the seductive, low-ceiling cognac bar. Downstairs is a gorgeous lounge meant for cocktails, champagne and French bites. Drinks from bar manager extraordinaire Kevin Diedrich shine with French spirits (cognac, Armagnac, absinthe, Calvados) and plenty of light alcohol/low-proof apéritifs.
Must-Drink: Thrilled we are to see an absinthe frappé on the menu — particularly one made with one of the great French absinthes, Vieux Pontarlier. You find this classic drink everywhere in New Orleans, and it goes down easy on a hot day. Diedrich tones down the anise notes that steer some drinkers away from absinthe, putting it all in balance with lime, mint, soda and a bit of botanical-melon flavors from locally made Chareau Aloe Liqueur. This is the one you want as a refresher, as a starter before dinner, or as an afternoon sipper. Try it instead of a Southside or mojito. You just might be hooked.
Insider Tip: Request the off-menu, classic New Orleans presentation of Café Brûlot, a coffee and cognac drink flamed tableside on a cart.
185 Sutter St.; 415-576-8800