Xavier Herit, bartender at Daniel in New York, will make his first trip to Palm Beach this weekend, when he comes for the Cocktail Culture party at Cafe Boulud.
The party is part of the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival, and celebrates the launch of Boulud’s two-volume book, Cocktails and Amuse-Bouches: For Her & For Him.
During a phone chat from Daniel with Herit shared insight into cocktail making and gave us some tips.
He wasn’t comfortable talking about trends in the industry. “It’s different for me, working in a five-star restaurant. My clientele are high-end and expect the same level of service and quality at the bar as they do with Daniel’s food,” he said. They source rare and unique products for the bar, as they do in the restaurant. “We deal differently with our customers, in terms of products, from the mineral water to the coffee and the wines, as Daniel does with his cuisine, so we do the same at the bar with our cocktails and beverages.”
Still, the list has “something for everybody,” he said. You could get a mescal-based drink or one with whiskey at the core.
However, the most popular drink in the tony restaurant is the signature White Cosmopolitan, which he says has been on the menu for five years, since he came up with it. Though the bar menu, made of only a dozen or so drinks, changes with the seasons, that’s the one that stays.
“It’s a beautiful drink – we make an ice block with orchid flavors frozen in the ice.” Visuals are very important at this bar, he said. White cranberry juice and St. Germain liqueur, made from elderflowers, are key.
Tips for making great cocktails
His tips for making drinks are clear:
“Respect the measurements.” Don’t go rogue and pour at your whim. “A well made drink is all about balance – so too much bitters or fruit juice or alcohol make the drink unbalanced. Each ingredient is important – it’s like life. You need a little love, a little sadness – all in a balance.”
Change the shape of the ice. “You can fill balloons with water to fit the shape of the glass, then freeze them, and crack them open to have an ice ball.” It’s visually appealing and chills the drink without diluting it, as well. (Ice balls are all the rage among metro mixologists presently.)
Take care using citrus as a garnish. “Always remove the white pith from the citrus peel – it’s bitter and will affect the flavor of the drink.” Cut the peel in different shapes other than a twist for more visual effect.
Use flowers. “Flowers are one of the most appreciated garnishes.” Freeze them in a cube of ice or freeze petals. Again, it’s about the visuals.
Other tips and recipes from Xerit can be found in the book Cocktails for Her & For Him. Boulud and Herit will be signing copies of the book at the Palm Beach Food and Wine cocktail party, Cocktails and Culture, at Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach starting at 5 p.m. today. It’s $225 at the door and includes a copy of the book, and chats with Herit and Boulud.
For more about the festival and events, go to PBFWF.com.