Chatting up the cocktail king

Dimitri Lezinska, Grey Goose’s Global AmbassadorIf you are planning a chic spring soiree or just want have little more flair when you mix your love’s regular libation, don’t miss a word our exclusive interview with Dimitri Lezinska, Grey Goose’s Global Ambassador.

When Dolce Dolce’s Melodie Rodgers caught up with Dimitri she quizzed him about the season’s hottest cocktails for the fresh and feminine. She also asked him for entertaining tips, as well as how to set up a home bar. Dimitri is a trained chef, a dedicated culinary gourmand, and a bit of a celebrity; he co-hosted Discovery Channel’s hugely popular Cocktail Kings. He is known for his stylish and chic approach to mixology.
DD: What attracted you to mixology?
DL: Before being attracted to mixology, I was curious about nightlife, and knew I wanted to try working behind the bar. At that time, I did not know anything about mixing drinks or mixology. Once I got behind the bar, my focus shifted — to how a good cocktail can improve the experience people have when they are out drinking.
DD: How important are fresh ingredients versus store-bought ones for a perfect drink?
DL: The way I see it, the quality of your cocktail or meal will only be as good as the quality of your cheapest ingredient. So if you really are striving to achieve perfection, you should aim for no less than the best.
DD: As Grey Goose’s Global Ambassador, do you believe adding a cocktail theme is essential when it comes to events such as weddings, graduations, etc.?
DL: My aim is to create memories for people. To achieve this you have to create the best drink for that particular moment. For me, the right libation would make any celebration or special moment even more special. It is always fascinating to link the ingredients of a cocktail to a theme. The best part of it is the research. I’ve found that ingredients have such fascinating stories to tell.
For example, I am researching cocktails that will be featured at the Cannes Film Festival. One will be called La Croisette. The name alone has many implications. La Croisette is a famous promenade in Cannes that stretches along the Mediterranean Sea. It was once called Le Boulevard de L’Imperatrice for Napoleon III’s wife and Empress of France – Eugenie De Montijo. In French, ‘ l’Imperatrice’ is also a peach, and there is a famous French dessert called the Riz a L’Imperatrice, a cherry and vanilla-based dish named for the former French Empress. These interesting hints from history provide direction and inspiration for flavours, and I just have to do some fine turning.
People love stories, and cocktails — like paintings — have so much to say. So the hope is that people at the Cannes film festival will connect to that cocktail because of its story and parallel with French history and cuisine.
DD: What is the perfect fresh and feminine cocktail for woman for spring?
DL: The Butterfly Martini would be the perfect choice and looks incredibly elegant served in a cocktail glass, garnished with an edible flower.
1½ parts Grey Goose® Le Citron
2 parts white grape juice
3 basil leaves
3 mint leaves
1 tsp elderflower cordial
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 lemon rind
Rip the basil and mint leaves into a cocktail shaker.
Add the remaining ingredients and shake hard with plenty of ice.
Strain through a fine sieve and top with a squeeze of lemon rind to release the essential oils.
Discard rind.
DD: If you are starting from scratch on a limited budget, what are the absolute basics to stock a home bar?
DL: The first thing to stock up on is good quality ice! You can have the best ingredients, but if the quality of the ice is neglected, the quality of your drinks won’t be as good as what they could be. Secondly, before you can properly stock your home bar, it is important to understand what constitutes a cocktail to make sure you have all the essentials, which include modifying agents, flavourings, and colourings.
The Modifying Agent:
Without a modifying agent cocktails would not exist. Any spirit like gin that is shaken, stirred, or blended is still just gin — not a cocktail. So to make a cocktail you need a modifying agent, which takes the edge off the base spirit and at the same time, complements the natural flavour of the base. The modifier must never overwhelm the base, but must remain secondary. For example, a gin cocktail like the “White Lady” must still retain the flavour of the gin but become more than just a gin drink with the addition of fresh lemon juice, and orange liquor. It is a now a gin cocktail
There are three types of modifying agents:
Aromatics: Aromatic wines such as vermouths or Dubonnet and Bitters such as Peychaud, Angostura or Fernet Branca.
Fruit Juices: Orange, Pineapple, Lemon or, Lime. (These can be sweetened)
Smoothing Agents: Eggs and cream.
Flavourings and colourings:
These agents are usually added in small amounts to round off a drink; they will usually change the colour. They can be spirits or liqueurs, but in most cases are syrups or non-alcoholic cordials. When using these agents, only a small amount should be used as they contain a lot of sugar and can overwhelm the taste of the base and modifier.
In some cases the flavouring and colouring agents can act as a modifier too. For example, the Blue Hawaiian contains Blue Curacao mainly for the colour and not the taste.
With your favourite spirits, modifiers and flavourings — and of course high-quality ice — the beginner’s bar has all the right ingredients.
However no home bar would be complete without some of the essential tools which include the following:
A Boston shaker and glass
Fine strainer
Bar spoon
Different type of glassware to give more personality to each drink: coupes, martini cocktail glasses, rocks, highballs, flutes, etc.
For more details, the following books are a must-have for any novice! Joy of Mixololgy by Gary Reagan and The Fine art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury.
DD: Our readers would like to know the hottest Grey Goose cocktails for spring? 
DL: Some of the flavours and cocktails I have in mind will use Yuzu, Sudachi, Kabuso and possibly sherry. Unfortunately, I have not yet created the Spring Grey Goose cocktails, but look out for La Croisette (to be featured at the Cannes International Film Festival) — it will be irresistible!