Love it or leave it, it’s no secret that New Orleans culture and lifestyle often coexist with—if not revolve around—drinking and nightlife. From soaring dancefloor highs to Bourbon Street puddle lows, the city’s earned its reputation among the uninitiated as a “wasted wonderland.” But for those of us who know better, the Big Easy’s ties to booze have lush, historical roots, like any other aspect of the area’s cultural heritage.
Sipping locally made craft cocktails or even knowing which cocktail recipes originated in the city is a good start. But the next level of understanding and appreciation for New Orleans’s cocktail culture comes from a local mixology class. Mixology classes can vary by length, format, and amenities. But in general, picture a typical New Orleans cooking class and swap in cocktails instead of cuisine.
“Most people, tourists and locals alike, know that the Hurricane and Sazerac are classic New Orleans drinks, but they don’t know why,” Lindsay Oliver, general manager at The Maison, said. “Learning where these cocktails fit into the historical context of New Orleans and how they’re made gives a deeper understanding of how this city has contributed to the thriving cocktail culture around the world.”
Not all these experiences are meant to be accredited bartending courses, so don’t necessarily expect to have “learned to make ‘em all on the rocks with a twist.” But what all these New Orleans mixology classes do offer is a deeper dive into the city’s contributions to and relationship with cocktails. And some even go a step further and offer you real, employment-worthy bartending skills.
New Orleans Drink Lab
Master bartender and Victory bar founder Daniel Victory launched New Orleans Drink Lab next door to his Downtown bar in October 2015. He aimed to help continue the city’s exploration of craft cocktail culture, which Victory himself helped pioneer. He and his team of master bartenders offer two, two-hour mixology classes, which also include a small lunch to help absorb the effects of frequent cocktail-sipping.
The Classic New Orleans Cocktails class focuses on famous local cocktails and their preparation, such as the Ramos Gin Fizz and original Hurricane. The Makings of Mixology class offers a rundown of fundamental bartending skills and other industry secrets that’ll impress your friends at your next get-together. Want to test your mixologist’s palate? New Orleans Drink Lab also offers two-hour master-tasting classes for wine, bourbon, and whiskey. Call or visit New Orleans Drink Lab’s website to check schedules and register for classes. 343 Baronne St., 504-522-8664, drinklabnola.com
The New Orleans Mixology Class at The Maison on Frenchmen Street is a weekly, Thursday-evening class where participants learn to make four cocktails. Each of the cocktails is quintessential to New Orleans’s drinking culture: the Sazerac, Pimm's Cup, Hurricane, and Vieux Carre. The instructor prepares each cocktail during the class, so attendees can imbibe the flavors, aromas, and other intoxicating effects of the cocktails themselves.
But all the while, students also learn the history and flavor profiles of each cocktail. That includes each beverage’s list of unique ingredients, particularly in the context of local culture and history. And having one too many or early senility aside, you won’t have to remember every detail of the day’s lesson—Maison’s mixology experts will send you home with a handy informational packet to flip through later. 508 Frenchmen St., 504-371-5543, maisonfrenchmen.com/new-
Mixology Classes US – New Orleans
The national brand Mixology Classes US operates in several major cities across the country, so it should come as no surprise that New Orleans is included on that list. The company specializes in hosting private mixology classes at local cocktail bars, particularly for couples, bachelorette parties, team-building seminars, and other special events. Visit their website for class details and reservations.
This experience may not be as locally focused as other classes offered in the area, but if fun, basic cocktail-making classes are what you seek, this company has you covered. mixologyclassesus.com
Revel Café & Bar
What most distinguishes the mixology classes at Revel in Mid-City is undoubtedly the master level of expertise offered by lead instructor Chris McMillian, one of the city’s most written-about bartenders. Imbibe Magazine named McMillian among the 25 most influential cocktail personalities in the past 100 years. He’s also won a James Beard Award for best bar program and was a founding member of the Museum of the American Cocktail. Need any more convincing that McMillian knows his way around a stiff drink?
That expertise and comfort behind the bar comes through in Revel’s hands-on mixology classes, usually consisting of about 10 to 15 participants. The classes may focus on a range of classic New Orleans cocktails, as well as various genres of libations, from gin and bourbon to the Tiki drinks trend that continues to emerge citywide. Classes usually last anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours, and you can now book classes online as opposed to personal bookings, which were formerly Revel’s exclusive mixology-class offering. 133 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-309-6122, revelcafeandbar.com
Crescent School of Gaming & Bartending
Want to take your mixology skills up a notch—maybe even to a pro level? Crescent School of Gaming & Bartending offers three-week bartending courses and 12-week beverage management courses for those looking to turn their mixology hobby into a more lucrative career. Through rigorous hands-on training, Crescent will arm you with everything you need to feel confident working behind a bar, whether it be at your next house party or your next job. 209 N. Broad St., 504-822-3362, crescent.edu
Drinking is an often loudly celebrated aspect of NOLA life. But that endless party vibe tends to drown out the more compelling nuances and historical context of local cocktail culture. If you’re looking for a more interactive and engaging way to enjoy cocktails in New Orleans, mixology classes could shake up your normal Happy Hour routine.