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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Cypress Bar: One of the Best Lounges to Channel Your Inner Southern Charm with a Dose of Nostalgia and Amazing Libations

At a time when it feels like we really need it, enjoying a new drinking establishment is a welcome experience. But what makes a bar really special? We've always said: "When it's a place that you love so much you can’t wait to experience it all over again." In 2020, that seems less cliche than ever!

This was an exciting trip for LTD! Not only were we able to visit a one of our favorite cities, but we could immerse ourselves in the unique heritage of the Bayou State. This was our third venture away following the COVID-19 pandemic that caused a worldwide shutdown of most travel and our experience was all we hoped for! Our trip started at the Southern Hotel in Covington, Louisiana on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain and it was a treat to enjoy the dining, natural beauty, music, libations and most of all people that you will find in and around NOLA in one surprising hidden gem: The Southern Hotel.

Our first night, before heading to dinner, we started at Cypress Bar for a cocktail. We were drawn in  by the decor and wall murals, but soon discovered that we didn't want to leave because of the quality of the drinks and staff that made us feel we have known them for a lifetime. Now when we say drinks, that is merely vocabulary. In reality, these are not drinks or cocktails, but culinary and artistic experiences just like the Southern Hotel is peppered with at every turn.  

We sat down with the Southern Hotel's beverage director, Shannon Stansbury, to talk with him in detail about the Cypress Bar. A Covington native, who has also lived all over the USA, Shannon has great insight into the community where he has decided to raise a family. According to Shannon, while the Southern Hotel is already located in the Deep South, guests say all the time that "time slows down," and that alone tells you that you are in for an experience. 


The menu is extensive, but allow us to take you through a few notables some of which are house favorites! To drink at Cypress Bar is to witness a personal journey into Shannon's Louisiana heritage. One cocktail explores a well-known dessert from the place where Shannon got his start, Brennan's in New Orleans. He calls it Bananas Foster. This infused rum drink, in many ways, tastes better than the actual flambĂ© dessert, probably because a lot of care goes into its creation.  Most of the work takes place "backstage" with caramelizing bananas, and infusing the rum for example, so the staff have time to engage with you when you are at Cypress Bar.  

We asked Shannon what is the most popular cocktail at the Cypress Bar. "Historically, we have a cocktail called the 'Sage Advice' that is a modern take on the old 'Greyhound'" he said.  Made from vodka, grapefruit, elderflower liqueur, garnished with fresh sage and finished with a splash of champagne, it gives the customer a dryer, crisper taste than the traditional greyhound. Occasionally items on the seasonal menu, during fall or winter, will surpass Sage Advice as the number one cocktail. 

As you can imagine when the whether turns cold, some patrons are looking for something to warm their insides, like the Earl K. Long. This cocktail goes through several seasonal iterations, but its name plays homage to a former controversial Governor of Louisiana, Earl K. Long. In 1959, the Governor made the Hotel his headquarters for several hours following his lunacy hearing at the old Covington High School gymnasium.  While he was there, Covington temporarily became the Capitol of Louisiana. During our stay at the hotel, the Earl K. Long was a hot buttered rum which we have never tried. Let's just say it is a treat for a cold night! 

"The Cypress Bar has a pretty strong local following," we learned from Shannon. This becomes readily obvious on Wednesday nights, when the Cypress Bar hosts a happy hour serving up one of the bar favorites: Classic Old Fashioned with Luxardo cherries. What WE love about this happy hour is that profits are donated to local charity like the Covington Public Art Fund.  Funds donated helped pay for the bronze statue of Walker Percy found at nearby Bogue Falaya park. Percy is known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans. The Moviegoer was winner of the 1962 National Book Award and one of Time magazine’s 100 Best English-Language Novels. His debut is an American masterpiece and a classic of Southern literature. Insightful, romantic, and humorous, it is the story of a young man’s search for meaning amid a shallow consumerist landscape. He died in Covington in 1990.

Interested in Walker Percy?  Check out his novel at Amazon by clicking the photo below.  We make a small commission from links like this, but you won't pay anything extra and we give the proceeds to charity! 

While Shannon is the driving force behind the success of Cypress Bar, he never fails to give kudos to his staff! He says, "I wanted to ensure that my staff and my team have a creative environment." So he teaches but encourages them to use their imaginations. What is the worst that can happen?  You learn from your mistakes and use that knowledge to your advantage the next time. As a customer, we were told immediately when contemplating the long menu, "If you don't like it, you won't pay for it".  Hearing that is reassuring, shows confidence but allows you, the consumer, to explore outside your comfort zone. 


Maybe during COVID you don't want to venture out to a bar and that is understandable. Shannon and his team felt a big disconnect during this time, as if they were letting their community down. As he puts it, they have "the mentality of the 'innkeeper' or 'keeper of the community'...the one who held everyone together." This made them search for some way to stay engaged and they decided to start connecting with their community online. What's a solution when you have a large bar that is empty due to local and state restrictions? Start a Facebook Live show! And it has been such a success (random people stop him to say they really enjoy his show) that he has continued after the bar reopened. There are many, but here are just a few reasons why you should consider joining Shannon and his staff live at the Southern Hotel Facebook page weekly at 6PM Eastern Time:
  • Engage live with them to ask your questions. We watched this in action and you won't regret an opportunity like this.
  • Learn how to make the featured drinks first hand with easy and humorous instruction. Examples include: Old Fashioned, Bananas Foster Rum, Skinny Cocktails, Hot Buttered Rum and more.  Shannon posts the recipes too in the comments so that if you don't watch live, you can find out later on you own, at their Facebook page.
  • Learn about the best ingredients in a cocktail such as types of bitters, cherries, garnishes etc. 


When you go to a lounge there is no way to know that there is a good menu to enjoy with anything you are drinking. Let's just say that the Southern Hotel has this covered! Inside the hotel is a restaurant that we heard about everywhere in town: "You need to eat at Oxlot 9!"  Enjoy Oxlot 9 food from either the bar menu or in the restaurant. The beauty of the Cypress Bar is that if you can't get a reservation at Oxlot 9, or don't have a time for a full meal, order from the bar menu to compliment your cocktail. Remember, time slows down when you visit the Southern Hotel, so take the time to savor both together.  The choice is yours and we bet you will be happy with either option.  

Courtesy of Oxlot 9/Facebook

Interested in staying at the Southern Hotel?  First check out our live interview with one of the hotel managers, Rebekah Stansbury. 

Bottom Line:

According to Shannon, while the Southern Hotel is already located in the Deep South, guests say all the time that "time slows down," and that alone tells you that you are in for an experience. Interestingly when the Southern hotel first opened in 1907 it was a retreat from New Orleans, now it's come full circle where many New Orleanians make the drive across the Causeway to escape the buzz of the city.  He has certainly achieved what he set out to do: create an identity for Cypress Bar. Imagine sitting in Cypress Bar with Frank Sinatra playing overhead, sipping on an Old Fashioned, surrounded by nostalgic murals, and having that strong feeling of days gone by. 

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