Keeping the Spirit Alive: The 67th Annual Stormin' of the Sazerac

Women at a bar in an old photo.
In 1949, New Orleans women flooded the Sazerac Bar, demanding equal treatment. Now, these women are celebrated with an annual Stormin' of the Sazerac.

67 Years ago, a group of New Orleans women stood outside of the infamous Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt Hotel. When the bar opened, the female crowd flooded in, taking up too much space for any man to be served before they were handed a cocktail. At this time, in 1949, women weren’t allowed in the bar, except on the day of Mardi Gras, and these brave women had endured enough of the blatant discrimination.

In an act that became known as the “Stormin’ of the Sazerac,” these women secured their right to drink in the Sazerac Bar forevermore.

This Friday, to commemorate the courage and tenacity of these women, The Roosevelt Hotel and the Sazerac Bar host an annual Stormin’ of the Sazerac, in which women are invited to dress up in 1940’s attire and overrun the bar as their predecessors did. “The Stormin’ of the Sazerac event began as a toast to the New Orleans women of 1949 who stormed the Sazerac Bar 67 years ago demanding their cocktails,” says Russ Bergeron, wine, spirits and beverage manager for The Roosevelt New Orleans.

Women running into a bar. Modern day New Orleans women storm the Sazerac, commemorating the spirit of those women who paved the way.

As the event has grown, now more than 100 women gather to participate each year with discounted Sazeracs, an elegant meal and festive thematic attire. But this year, The Roosevelt has added a new element in the name of uplifting women of New Orleans. For the first time, the hotel and bar will present the Reigning Spirit of the Sazerac Award.

“We were looking for a woman embodying strength, determination and courageousness,” says Bergeron. “Similar to her fellow women in 1949, she carries a strong spirit for making a difference in the community. The Roosevelt Hotel asked all to consider admired family members, friends and acquaintances with the right criteria to be named the first ‘Reigning Spirit of the Sazerac.’”

This year’s award will go to Kira Orange Jones, a former teacher who has led the Teach for America Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta region for the past nine years. “Kira Orange Jones works to expand educational opportunities for children. In her current role, Senior Vice President and Regional Field Executive, Orange Jones manages and supports Teach For America regional executive directors across the South and Midwest,” Bergeron says. Jones also sits on the national executive board of Education Leaders of Color and belongs to the New Orleans advisory board of Education Pioneers. This lauded lady’s other accolades include making Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list, as well as being dubbed Louisiana Life Magazine’s Louisianan of the Year.

As the Reigning Spirit of the Sazerac, Jones will sit at a VIP table at this year’s event, receive public recognition, serve as a judge for the Stormin’ of the Sazerac fashion show and head up the commemorative second-line which concludes the event.

The Stormin’ of the Sazerac serves to unite New Orleans women and to celebrate their strength. In the words of New Orleans local Colleen Switzer, “Reliving that exciting moment each year brings the women of our community together, and it reminds us that together we can accomplish anything.”

Blue Room luncheon tickets are $49 each, excluding tax and gratuity. Reservations can be made by calling 504-335-3129.

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