A veteran of the New Orleans bar industry, Daniel Victory opened his cocktail bar Victory (339 Baronne St., 504-522-8664; www.victorynola.com) in the Central Business District in 2010. Last fall, Victory and his partner Camille Whitworth opened New Orleans Drink Lab (www.drinklabnola.com), a bartending school above the bar. Victory spoke with Gambit about the classes and imbibing.
Do how does the class work?
Victory: I like to describe it as an interactive bartending school for tourists and locals. A lot of people hear "bartending school," and they think of an ABC-style of bartending where you go in and for two weeks you learn how to make kamikazes and Long Island iced teas. We teach more than that: (fewer) drinks but more history and more ways and techniques. The classes are about two hours, depending on how much fun you're having and how many friends you have with you.
I also include bar etiquette, which is about the things that maybe your favorite bartender does — and shouldn't do. Like tapping the tin on the side of the bar to get the glass free (from the cocktail shaker). That can break glass shards into the drink.
The class is based on three New Orleans cocktails: the Sazerac, the Ramos gin fizz and the hurricane. I would say that 80 or 90 percent of the bartenders in New Orleans do not know how to make a proper hurricane. All they know is ... lots of rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and grenadine. The correct way is passion fruit and lime. When you use fresh ingredients, that's going to be the best.
What made you decide to teach bartending?
V: I used to work for Bombay Sapphire as one of their ambassadors, and I would go around the country teaching people how to enjoy gin for the first time. I also taught for two years at the Crescent City School of Bartending. ... It's very similar to the cooking schools we have. They teach you how to make the classic dishes of New Orleans, have some fun and throw some jokes and a little history in there.
What are some of the most common misconceptions people have about drinking?
V: I teach people about this thing that they've been doing for so much of their life — drinking — and how they don't have a quarter of the knowledge about it as they do about eating. If someone orders a filet mignon rare and the chef sends out a New York Strip well done, they'll ask why they were sent a New York strip. But if someone orders a Grey Goose and tonic and they get sent a Ketel One and tonic, they'll drink it. People think they always have to drink the same thing.
The days of having a party at home where you thought you'd have a red wine, a white wine, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of gin, a bottle of bourbon, a bottle of Scotch ... those (days) are over.
The truth is, all you need to do is make a pitcher of sangria or a punch or maybe one or two signature drinks for the event, and it will cost you a third of what it would have cost you otherwise.
I also don't think people understand what bitters are. To make a cocktail, it has to have bitters in it. A definition of a cocktail is any (combination of) sugar, water, spirit and bitters — without bitters, it's a toddy. Bitters, in laymen's terms, are the seasonings of cocktails. So there are all these different seasonings that you can add, and we only taste five things: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Other than that its all aromatic, so why not go back to that drink you usually drink — a vodka tonic, for instance — and add something to it? Just try something else.