Beverage Media
February 2013
Photograph by Evan Sung
The Chameleon
Olivier Flosse, Beverage Director,
When Daniel Boulud came calling
in 1999, Olivier Flosse left bucolic
England—where he worked at the
acclaimed Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
outside Oxford—with two suitcases
and headed for New York to become
the assistant to restaurant Daniel’s
well-regarded sommelier, Jean-Luc
Le Dû. “Who says no to Daniel?” he
recalls. Accepting the job turned out to
be a fortuitous move: before long, the
Marseilles native was cellar master at
Café Boulud.
For the past nine years, Flosse has
worked for the London-based Marlon
Abela Restaurant Corporation, and has
had Italy (and cocktails) on the mind in
recent years, overseeing the beverage
programs of both A Voce restaurants
in New York, on Madison Avenue and
Columbus Circle at the Time Warner
Center, along with Morello Bistro in
Greenwich, CT, and Bistro du Midi in
Boston. Here, he discusses how A
Voce’s lively cocktail list has become
just as important a profit channel as its
exemplary wine collection.
With all
your years steeped in the wine world,
it must have been an adjustment
responding to New York’s obsession
with cocktails. What is your approach
at A Voce?
Cocktails and the bar
is a different relationship than wine and
the bar. The focus at both restaurants is
on seasonal ingredients—of course Ital-
ian produce—and offering different sides
to drinks: bitter, sweet, sparkling. My wine
background helps me make sure there is
a balance between smell and taste.
Your cocktail list does highlight
a range of flavor profiles, from the re-
freshing Italian-style Kir with Prosec-
co, lemon juice, Crème Yvette and
St-Germain, to the elegant Albicocca
with Farmer’s Organic Gin, apricot
purée and nutmeg. What is the cre-
ative process behind your drinks?
We have a large bartending staff. I
give them the produce and styles, they
come up with ideas and then we assess
cost. If it’s feasible, then we test them.
The vision of the cocktail is critical,
too; it needs to look good, it needs to
look sexy. It may be old fashioned, but
glassware is very important. If you see a
beautiful cocktail at another table, you
will be curious to ask what it is.
Although A Voce is an Italian res-
taurant, interestingly your top-selling
cocktail is the Margarita in Fuoco, with
pepper-infused Montezuma Blanco
Tequila, Solerno and lime juice.
We sell about 1,200 a month at each
location. It’s a little spicy and delicious.
Something you are known for
is the savory, $33 Il Tartufo, made
with Michter’s 10-year-old bourbon,
black truffle-infused Foro Vermouth,
Carpano Antica Vermouth, black
truffle syrup, bourbon honey and
garnished with white truffle honey
syrup and a sliver of pickled black
truffle on the rim. Something that
ambitious must have taken a few test
runs to master.
We wanted to bring something dif-
ferent to the menu when truffles were in
season. Unlike wine, which is already
made and we are educating guests on
and selling, cocktails are the one thing
on the beverage side we make from
scratch with heart and mind. Cocktails
are like a baby. Even if there’s a due
date, we don’t deliver until perfect. I
wouldn’t give up on this recipe.
And now that it’s been perfected,
does it prove popular with guests?
It’s mostly a hand-sell. It’s an edu-
cation because some guests say they
don’t like truffles, or they don’t like
bourbon, but then they taste it and are
surprised. There is nothing better than
making someone change their mind.
Some people come in just to drink the
truffle cocktail.
Hand-selling is a skill you
undoubtedly mastered from convinc-
ing guests to explore wines they may
never have heard of before.
You can have a beautiful cocktail
list, but if you want to sell, the staff must
know the drinks and have a deep ap-
preciation and enthusiasm for them.
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