A Voce's Olivier Flosse: "The Cocktail Is as Dangerous as a Kiss."
I was running late for a meeting. "On my way!" I texted.
"Should I sent u an white horse to welcome u"? I didn't quite know the sender well enough to know how seriously to take the request. There are, after all, white horses in Central Park, which is where I was headed. "Please!" I replied as I laughed and scurried into the subway entrance.
I had spoken to Olivier Flosse earlier in the day for what I thought would be a complete interview over the phone. The renowned sommelier, with credits from Daniel Restaurant and Café Boulud, and a Diploma-Universitaire d'Aptitude a la Degustation from Bordeaux, the most prestigious wine diploma in Europe, is now in charge of not only wine, but spirits, as he serves as Wine and Beverage Director for MARC US, a restaurant company that owns two locations of A Voce in New York City. Google Flosse and you will see link after link pairing him with impressive Wine Spectator awards and articles, interviews on how he manages the thousand bottle wine collection at A Voce, and his many achievements in the world of wine. But nowhere do you see any mention of his craft cocktail menus filled with inventive infusions, balanced mixology, and quirky garnishes.
This was the topic of our conversation: the ties between wine and cocktails, the importance of balance and glassware, and the learning curve of a wine guy coming into a liquor world.
But at the end of our phone call he said, "Come in to the restaurant. You can't write about cocktails without tasting them." I immediately agreed. It was between the phone call and my impending visit that I found myself texting about white horses with the French jokester and undeniable flirt. When I finally arrived at A Voce, Flosse texted that he had gone to the other location. As my heart sank, he walked over with a Cheshire grin.
At the bar of A Voce at Columbus Circle, Flosse shared many drinks: the Pesca Mediterranea made with peach and cinnamon infused bourbon; the Margarita in Fuoco made with house-infused pepper tequila and peperoncini garnish; the Carota made with gin, cardamom bitters and carrot juice; and the Il Tartufo, a $33 cocktail made with truffle-infused vermouth and bourbon served in a glass rimmed with white truffle honey and garnished with a bourbon pickled slice of black truffle. Of the latter he says, "By putting the truffle honey only on half of the glass, you can have two different ways of experiencing the cocktail. Number one, you have the smell of the white truffle. But if you roll over the glass, you have the white truffle in your mouth but not on your nose. And when you swallow you have the black truffle infused with the aroma. It's a five-ounce cocktail, so most of the time we try to present it as a cocktail to be shared."
As we sipped our way through the bouquet of cocktails, the conversation shifted from garnishes and tannins to life: the challenges of living the fast-paced day-to-day of the restaurant industry, why he could never see himself returning to live in France, and the romance of champagne in the morning.
What is the connection between wine and cocktails?
I judge a cocktail the same way that I judge a wine. The region, number one; the way that the cocktail looks--the color is extremely important. But what is more important for me than the color is the glass. I always compare wine to a human being--most of the time as female--and I do the same with cocktails. A beautiful lady with the wrong dress isn't that beautiful. If you have a beautiful lady and a beautiful dress, it's even better. So the glassware, for me, is extremely important.
After, regarding the taste, because that is the main focus, it's the same thing as the wine: it has to be balanced. The difference is that there is no tannin in a cocktail; it's all sweet or all bitter but it also can be very well-balanced. The cocktail has to be something you want to have again. The cocktail is as dangerous as a kiss. When it's good, you want another. That is why balance is important.
On the next page, Flosse talks about the romance of 9 a.m. champagne and oysters.