All That Jazz: The Bayou Brings the Magic of Louisiana Right to the Heart of Lisbon

Written By Becky Gillespie

In January 2019, Raegan Rivers had a choice to make. Burned out from from living in New York City, she decided to move to Europe and had settled on either Lisbon or Amsterdam, both of which she’d never seen before. Taking a friend’s advice, Raegan ultimately landed in Lisbon with eight suitcases, two dogs, and a determination to make her new life in Europe work.

During Raegan’s first year in Lisbon, she fell deeper in love with wine, specifically smaller wine producers here in Portugal and started running pop-up wine events in Lisbon. During the pandemic, she began delivering wines in Lisbon in under 30 minutes and started bottling wines in the Bairrada region of Portugal. Her continuing love affair with wine ultimately inspired Raegan to obtain several wine certifications.

Photo by Jane Oberheim

As dreams of her own wine bar began to take shape, Raegan found herself returning to the idea of home. Lisbon felt like home, but her true hometown, before the bright lights of New York City, was Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Lisbon had a lot of bars but none based on her home state and its magical mystique. It was at this moment that The Bayou was born, named after the swamps that dot the Louisiana delta.

The Bayou opened on Mardi Gras, February 13, 2024. Located at the edge of São Bento and just above Santos (R. Poiais de São Bento 27, 1200-348 Lisboa, Portugal), The Bayou doesn’t have a sign, but its door is always open from 6:00 pm to 2:00 am every Wednesday-Saturday. Heavy red velvet curtains drape the front window, which is how you know you’ve arrived during the day. Like moonlight over the water, the light shining on the sidewalk just in front of the entrance guides you to the Bayou at night.

Photo by Jane Oberheim

Time seems to slow down as you step inside the bar, with the cool blues and greens evoking a feeling of languor and ease, inviting you to stay a while and make a new friend. Golden alligators lie in wait on the bartop, aiming to take a sip of your drink if you leave it for too long. Mardi Gras beads hang from the plethora of plants filling every corner. A beautiful archway leads to a mezzanine with a velvet sofa and gold-framed mirrors.

Once you explore The Bayou, you may find yourself asking why Louisiana as a bar concept isn’t already more of a thing. Louisiana’s mix of French, Spanish, and Creole heritage combined with its jazz and distinct gastronomy easily transports visitors to a distinct culture whether you’re in Lisbon or Istanbul. New Orleans is actually home to the world’s oldest cocktail known as the Sazerac, an enticing mixture of rye whiskey, absinthe, and creole bitters created in 1838. The Bayou proudly serves it along with nine other cocktails including the Hurricane, a blend of white or dark rum and grenadine, the Ramos Fizz, a gin-based drink with orange blossom water and vanilla, and a Brandy Milk Punch topped off with vanilla.

Photo by Jane Oberheim

Popular Louisiana bites will also soon be coming to The Bayou in the next couple of months, with plans to offer jambalaya, Po’ Boy sandwiches, New Orleans-style hot tamales, gumbo, boudin, and étouffée. Jazz brunches are also on the way with some serious Bloody Marys.

One of the most charming things about The Bayou is the intermittent visit by the iconic Tram 28 rolling right past the entrance. As you cool off with a refreshing taste of Louisiana in one of The Bayou’s elegant corners, the sound of Tram 28 adds its own rhythm to the nightly jazz of conversation flowing from this friendly new bar. It wasn’t Raegan’s original idea to go back to her roots when she moved to Lisbon, but the city is better for it because she did. Hopefully, The Bayou is here to stay.   

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