Ben Wilson is the Head Bartender at Lulu White in Paris. He makes us two cocktails, one with Vermouth and Madeira and the second with Suze and Celery Juice.
Ben introduce yourself
My name is Ben Wilson and I am from Texas, but began bartending in New York and after five years moved to Paris with my wife for her job. The first place I worked at in Paris was Silencio, before I joined the Bonhomie group which manage Little Red Door, Bonhomie and Lulu White. I fell in love with Lulu the first time I came and have worked here for the last 2 years. Our menu is called The Blue Book and the concept comes from the blue books you could buy at the end of the XIXth century to find a prostitute you wanted regarding your expectations for an evening. We applied this concept to our cocktails, but it’s about the personality and flavour of the drink in our case. Because we like this concept, we are going to run it around 6 times and we’ll change the menu every 5 months.
The classic you want to show us
45ml of Baldoria White Vermouth
15ml of Malvasia Madeira
3 dashes of Oranges Bitters
2 dashes of Absinthe
The bar you dream of
My dream bar would be something about weird juxtapositions. Like a dinner club with a big stone wall, long carpet and big windows… a little bit of the Mad Men ambience, but in a small venue for 20-30 people, in a Berlin-style bar. I love mismatched things, so it would be a tiki bar, but absinthe based. Normally in a tiki, you have 10-11 ingredients and it’s balanced and you can feel the layers when it’s well done (which is not often unfortunately). Here you just add another layer of complexity with the absinthe. Of course, I’d also serve little bites to nibble. It would also be fun to set up the bar in Mexico City and it would be called The Hive.
What do you do in your time off
Because my wife is expecting a baby, everything is focussed on that at the moment: clothes, inventory, etc. Otherwise I like to go to films or explore Paris and discover new areas.
The spirit you like the most
Obviously, I would say absinthe. Because it’s very traditional to have it in cocktails, but more as a dash or a spray to improve the drink (like a sazerac where you rinse the ice). I like to use it as the main ingredient, like 2/3 of the pour and you can blend different absinthes because they are very different. It’s a whole world, like vermouth or amaro made with different types of herbs.
What makes a good cocktail
Like everyone says, it’s about balance, but beyond that, I look for things that shouldn’t be in a cocktail or things I don’t know. So when it works it’s magic, but it’s not always the case. I like experiments with things you are not expecting. When you look at the history of drinks, most of the time it’s expecting things, now we need to go further.
What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
I like to have ingredients that will make the drink savoury, like a stock in a sauce. It’s all about making a drink a little bit different and savoury as we did with sweet onion in one of the drinks on our previous menu.
The signature cocktail you want to show us
30ml of Suze
15ml of Oxidative Wine
10ml of Celery Juice
15ml of Verjus
20ml of Fenugrec Syrup
An inch of Nutmeg
Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
Go to Mexico City to try Waikiki Tiki Bar and also Hanky Panky.