When it comes to cute places to sip a cocktail in New York City, Loulou Petit Bistro is one of the cutest. In the bistro, there’s rich, brown, wooden decor, accents of greenery and a marble bartop that serves as the perfect backdrop for their C’est La Vie cocktail: a light-pink-and-purple drink that evokes all of the beauty, art and whimsy of Paris. Edible Manhattan caught up with mixologist and creator of the C’est La Vie Mark Tubridy to find out the inspiration behind this cocktail, the ingredient he thinks is underrated in drinks right now and the NYC bars that excite him most.
Q: How did you come up with this cocktail? What inspired you?
A: All of the drinks I’ve crafted for Loulou are meant to highlight some aspect of France’s rich culture. The country has served as a torchbearer for fine food, drinks, fashion and art throughout the ages, and it’s my goal to celebrate those achievements through this French-inspired bar’s seasonal cocktail menu. For this particular drink, I knew I wanted to use Bombay Sapphire, a brand that has long supported the art world and one that offers a beautiful canvas to explore cocktail creativity. This led me to reflect on the millions of people who visit the Louvre each year and are captivated by the rich art history that rests inside. To capture this rather indescribable feeling in a flavor, I turned to the botanicals of Bombay Sapphire to bring out that creativity. This gin alone has complex layers of licorice, coriander and cubeb berries, yet still provides a bright, bold flavor that doesn’t overshadow other ingredients when mixed together. The subtly sweet and floral notes of lavender and butterfly pea tea harmonize with the gin’s essence and the texture of the drink is enhanced with a frothy egg white foam, as light and airy as a Parisian afternoon.
What do you love about this cocktail? What makes it particularly special?
I think there’s a lot to love about this cocktail, including its simplicity, elegance and subtlety of flavor, but perhaps what I love most about it is its sense of whimsy. Essentially a lavender gin sour, the drink unfolds like a daydream, whispering notes of Bombay Sapphire’s delicate botanicals and hinting at a floral memory without ever being so bold as to jar you from your reverie. Its pillow of foam is like a cloud that you lazily stare at while lying on your back in the sun, the delicate drops of butterfly pea tea like the shapes that slowly come to life in your eyes. C’est La Vie is not just the drink’s name, but a mantra for those who enjoy it—a reminder not to let the harshness of reality dampen the vividness of your imagination. Things may not always happen the way we expect, but such is life.
What ingredient do you think is underrated when it comes to cocktails?
I think vermouth is a very underrated and underappreciated ingredient behind the bar. For years, bartenders did everything they could to downplay or even remove this complex, fortified wine from their drinks, following Winston Churchill’s advice to simply glance in the direction of France while making a martini. More recently, however, mixologists have begun to embrace vermouth for what it really is: a versatile tool in their arsenal. Apart from taking the spotlight in many delicious low-ABV cocktails, vermouth loves to do what it has always done best—lengthen drinks involving stronger ingredients, while adding a subtle layer of nuance through its botanical blend. I think that once people understand what vermouth is and learn how to properly use it in their drinks, the stigma surrounding it will fade away, and it can finally have its moment to shine.
What bar or bar program in NYC (apart from yours) excites you the most?
With so many innovative bar programs in New York, it’s really difficult to choose one that I’m most excited about, but one thing that fascinates me at the moment is the incorporation of draft cocktails on drink menus. In my time at Westlight, a gorgeous rooftop bar atop the William Vale hotel in Williamsburg, we’ve really embraced the possibilities of cocktails on tap, especially since during the summer months we can serve as many as 1,500 people a day. The consistency and efficiency that we’re able to achieve through thoughtfully crafted draft cocktails has proven to be a real game changer, especially as we look for ways to marry our creative drink list with our high-volume business. I’m excited to see how other bars around the city have utilized this practice as well, from the unexpected flavor combinations in the delicious draft cocktails at Double Chicken Please to the ever-refreshing Toki Highball at Katana Kitten. I know some people are skeptical about pre-batched drinks being pulled from a handle behind the bar, but I’ve also seen firsthand how this technique can be employed to deliver a consistently delicious and incredibly nuanced cocktail.
C’est La Vie from Loulou Petit Bistro
Recipe by Mark Tubridy
2 oz. Bombay Sapphire
0.75 oz. lavender syrup
0.75 oz. lime juice
1 egg white
4 drops butterfly pea tea
Combine gin, lime juice, lavender syrup and egg white in a mixing tin and dry shake (without ice) for at least 15 seconds.
Add ice and shake again to chill.
Fine strain the cocktail into a chilled coupe glass.
Top with 4 drops of the butterfly pea tea, and drag a toothpick through the drops to create a heart-shaped design.