Although New Orleans is one of the country’s major mixology centers — in addition to having numerous acclaimed bars, it hosts the annual Tales of the Cocktail convention — it offers surprisingly few cocktail classes. The timing didn’t work out for us to try one at the Sazerac House, a museum and distillery just outside the French Quarter that opened in late 2019, but we were able to book a workshop with Drink Lab. We ascended to a cozy barroom above the company’s cocktail lounge, Victory, located in the Central Business District. Our teacher, Sean, gave us a warm welcome, and as we sipped welcome drinks of sparkling wine, rum, blueberry, lemon and orgeat, we learned that not only was he well versed in mixology, he was also a level 2 sommelier.
Other students gathered, and we took up positions behind the wooden bar at stations supplied with a range of barware. Sean pointed out that it was unwise to drink everything we mixed over the course of the evening, because it would total between 10 and 12 shots of liquor. Our classmates followed his advice to varying degrees. Nevertheless, the mood was cheerful and convivial, not sloppy.
The class covered three classic New Orleans cocktails: the Sazerac, the Ramos Gin Fizz and a proper Hurricane (we also made the lesser-known Tequila Smash). While mixing the first, I resolved to invest in a little atomizer for absinthe: Spritzing is far less wasteful than rinsing, the traditional technique of coating a lowball glass with absinthe before pouring in a mix of rye, sugar and bitters.