Celeb mixologist dishes on cocktails, parties and TIFF
If they had a TIFF event for professional mixologists, you'd certainly find celebrity bartender-to-the-stars Dimitri Lezinska walking the red carpet.
His client list reads like a Toronto International Film Festival event -- everyone from Madonna, Beyonce and Robbie Williams to Robert de Niro and Brad Pitt -- and there's a certain European elegance to this Parisian-born pour master, in town with the rest of the talent to talk cocktails, parties and all-night events.
What's his secret to the perfect TIFF sip?
"All the ingredients should be linked to the inspiration behind the cocktail," says Lezinska, who achieved international recognition as the co-host of the Discovery Channel's hugely popular Cocktail Kings, a guide to some of the best cities in the world and the cocktails to enjoy in their most stylish bars, restaurants and hotels.
"The glassware or rituals are a great way to intrigue guests -- and cocktails must have a wow factor. Plus, different people have different needs and tastes. That's why I like to create a collection of different styles of cocktails."
In all his years attending TIFF -- and other red carpet events around the world -- what has Lezinska noticed that stars tend to consistently look for in their cocktails?
"In many ways, I would say intriguing simplicity," says Lezinska, global brand ambassador for Grey Goose vodka (created in the Cognac region of southwest France). "What has been a great success for us all these years has been (such ingredients as) elderflower cordial, freshly squeezed lime juice topped with soda water and served in a flute. It's incredibly light and refreshing."
If you're planning your own TIFF-inspired parties, Lezinska suggests you keep the decor "sexy, not cheesy! Do not try and overdo it. The things that impress people are not bold statements but your subtle classics."
Food's one of the most important elements of the party, and should be paired with what you are offering from the bar. This should include non-alcoholic versions of the traditional classics.
"Overall, you do not have to be too clever -- people love where they feel comfortable.
"As Maya Angelou said: 'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.'"
Here are two 2012 film-inspired cocktails created by Dimitri Lezinska for Grey Goose.
Tea For Toronto
The light taste of Earl Grey tea, fresh lemons, sweet Orzata syrup and dry ice for a dramatic, smoky effect will impress even the most sophisticated cocktail aficionado. Note, do not handle dry ice with bare hands. Orzata is a sweet almond syrup that can be purchased in most supermarkets or grocery stores.
- 7 oz. (207ml) pear flavoured vodka
- 2 Tbsp. (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon
- 2 Tbsp. (60ml) lavender syrup*
- 3 bar spoons Orzata (sweet almond) syrup
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. (22 ml) natural spring water
- 4 Earl Grey tea bags
Blend all ingredients, except the Earl Grey, in a teapot. Place in the fridge for 2 hours. Add a dry ice nugget or a regular ice cube into the teapot, pour into a tea cup containing the tea bag. Let steep to your taste. Remove the bag and enjoy.
Note: To make lavender syrup add 1 cup (250ml) sugar to 1 cup (250ml) boiling water and 1/2 cup (125ml) dried lavender flower. Boil for nine minutes and let cool until room temperature. Bottle or jar the liquid and refrigerate.
The perfect start to the party! A bold flavour combination with wow-factor.
- 1 oz. (30ml) orange-flavoured Vodka
- 1 oz. (30ml) dry vermouth
- 1 oz. (30ml) Dubonnet
- 1-2 drops of Aperol
- Garnish: Orange peel, cherry
Fill shaker with ice. Stir all ingredients and strain into coupette. Garnish with an orange peel and a fresh seasonal cherry on a pick.