With craft cocktails appearing at almost every corner bar, Cafe Adelaide sought a way to differentiate itself from the milieu. Enter its Cocktail Club, a way to remind cocktail enthusiasts about the bar’s offerings and give frequent guests a sort of insider access, says Darla Fisackerly, who created the Cocktail Club program.
Club members, who sign up in-restaurant, receive weekly emails with a “secret password” they can utter at the bar to get their first cocktail for $5. They’re also invited to special cocktail-themed events and drink pairing-focused brunches, says Fisackerly, head of marketing for Commander’s Palace.
One hundred and ninety-seat Cafe Adelaide, which serves as sister restaurant to New Orleans staple Commander’s Palace and was opened by the city’s storied Brennan family, finished a bar refresh one year ago that followed a full restaurant renovation, giving it a more “modern but playful” feel.
“[Cafe Adelaide has] always been kind of unique and at the cutting edge of the cocktail renaissance here in New Orleans,” says Commander’s Palace “Wine Guy” Dan Davis, who estimated that beverages comprise 30% to 40% of its total sales.
Contrary to its location in the Loews New Orleans Hotel, Cafe Adelaide aims for the repeat business of a neighborhood gem, underscored by a weekly night offering deals to local residents. To encourage trial of new items on the menu, the bar will sometimes send guests its version of a cocktail sampler, dubbed a “trouble tree,” Davis says. It also offers a $5 cocktail of the week, a new bartender creation that may show up on the permanent menu depending on how well it’s received.
The concept’s busiest time is weekend brunch, when it hosts “Brunch with Hat-itude,” giving free house cocktails to customers donning a favorite hat (baseball caps not included).
During those packed periods, strategic staffing helps ensure that drinks are refilled in a timely manner and that throttling doesn’t become an issue behind the bar. Davis looks at hour projections for neighboring hotels to keep stock of factors that may influence traffic, and batch cocktails play a part in keeping operations on point, allowing for some prep ahead of service time.
As the entire space serves as homage to the Brennan family’s Aunt Adelaide, it also has a strong draw for female customers. “It really celebrates strong, powerful women,” Fisackerly says, noting that the fun of the concept isn’t lost on men, either.