New Book From the Owner of Twelve Mile Limit Is a Progressive Mix of Cocktails and Accountability

Photo Credit: Edie Burns

On Wednesday May 12th, beloved neighborhood cocktail bar, Twelve Mile Limit, opened their doors for indoor seating at 70% capacity. With 28 seats inside and additional seating on the outside patio, the bar is finally beginning to get back to normal, after an unpredictable year.

“We wanted to wait to open indoor seating until our last staff member was fully vaccinated,” Twelve Mile Limit owner, T. Cole Newton explained. 

Since November, the bar has been serving customers who wanted drinks or food to-go or wanted to enjoy their food or cocktails on the bar’s patio.

The reopening came at a perfect time. Newton has published a book, that he had been working on for the better part of 10 years, and that is the first cocktail-bar book to come out of New Orleans. Cocktail Dive Bar: Real Drinks, Fake History, and Questionable Advice from New Orleans’s Twelve Mile Limit (Running Press) is one-part cocktail recipe book and one-part tall tale in which Newton takes the reader on adventure to learn a bit about cocktails with both non-fictional and fictional stories. The book also includes essays on how to be a responsible bar owner and person, while navigating the industry, and contains fun illustrations by Bazil Zerinsky and Laura Sanders.

“Most of the cocktail recipes are original,” Newton said. “I got some from working at Twelve Mile and from bartenders who have worked at Twelve Mile. It also includes recipes from Root Squared and Coquette.”

Photo Courtesy of 12 Mile Limit

As for the stories included with the recipes, Newton wanted to change it up from the same stories that people already know.

He explained, “I wanted to say something about the cocktails, with some invention. People have heard that same stories about some of these cocktails over and over- I wanted to mix it up.”

A few of my favorite cocktails in the book are McHatton, named for Newton’s great-grandfather, Thomas McHatton; The Drake, which includes a sketch of none other than Canada’s favorite rapper, himself (but is really named for Sir Francis Drake); and Nightshade, which Newton said he first mixed while working at Commander’s Palace.

Photo Courtesy of 12 Mile Limit

As for the “questionable advice” mentioned in the title, Newton wanted to take his years of experience in owning a bar and use his voice for something impactful. Not content to just sit on the sidelines, Newton’s book is the beginning of important conversations that should be had about bar culture and business.

“I think I’ve learned some basics about service and making people feel safe,” he said. “People write about the technical operation of a bar and others know more about bar logistics than I do; I wanted to carve out another niche.”

Newton’s essays focus partly on how bar owners can be allies. Topics that are part of the ethical landscape such as gentrification, sexual violence, over-indulging and other social issues are discussed.  

In one essay entitled, “How Bars and Bartenders Can Help Fight Sexual Harassment and Assault”, Newton outlines exactly what a bartender can do to prevent sexual assault on his or her watch. Newton acknowledges that one way a bartender can be an advocate is by not sending a drink to someone, if they didn’t ask for it; I think every woman has been in that awkward situation where a stranger sends over a cocktail in an effort to initiate a conversation. He also noted that if an incident happens at the bar, the entire staff should be made aware of it, so that they can deescalate the situation. Knowing that a bartender is aware of things like this makes for a more comfortable experience and, personally, knowing that the bartender is on my “side” makes me more likely to feel safe enough to return to that establishment in the future.

Photo Courtesy of 12 Mile Limit

In Cocktail Dive Bar, Newton also has a necessary conversation about gentrification. In his essay entitled, “On the Possibility of Anti-Racist Bar Ownership”, he concedes that he is a young, white man living and working in what was once a predominantly Black neighborhood. He states that, “being white gives you unearned power and that power should be used for good”. Newton outlines an interesting conversation he had with Jenga Mwendo and Maxwell Ciardullo. Mwendo is the founder of the Backyard Gardeners Network, whose mission is to sustain and strengthen the historically self-sufficient and deeply rooted community of the Lower 9th Ward, and Ciardullo is the Director of Policy and Communications for the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. The conversation is important and educational and is one of the highlights of the book.

Not all of the book’s advice is heavy subject matter, however. There’s an essay about how a bartender can best give “the bum’s rush” to a patron who might have over imbibed, which gives the reader a playful wink, while offering good advice.

“I think that it’s important to talk about these things, in order to educate others,” he said. “And I think that there’s room for both- the book is both serious and funny.”

Photo Courtesy of 12 Mile Limit

Cocktail Dive Bar is going to become a “must own” for any lover of New Orleans cocktails, bars, bar people and fun (and partly fictional) history.

Cocktail Dive Bar: Real Drinks, Fake History, and Questionable Advice from New Orleans’s Twelve Mile Limit is available nationwide wherever books are sold, and is available at locally-owned book stores Octavia Books, Garden District Book Shop, and Blue Cypress Books, as well as Twelve Mile Limit.

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