In 1823, a little-known glass factory 250-miles southeast of Paris got its first a big break. The factory had already been in business for nearly 60-years when King Louis XVIII custom ordered a line glassware for an event he was hosting at Tuileries Palace, and it didn’t take long for other royals and dignitaries to follow suit.
Named for the town that it’s made in, Baccarat crystal soon became synonymous with luxury, a reputation that has long since preceded it.
Today, as loyal patrons of the eponymous hotel in New York are served in crystal glasses and coups with their initials delicately etched along the rim, it’s hard not to feel like royalty. Baccarat Hotel — which sits just across the street from the The Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan — is not only known for its intricate glassware, but surrounded by a collection of artwork whose history is just as storied and multifaceted as crystal itself recently unveiled a new cocktail collection called L’Art du Cocktail that was inspired by the glass company’s 250-year history.
“The idea was not just for each drink to tell a story, but for those separate stories to come together to form one larger narrative,” Bar Manager at Baccarat Hotel Mark Tubridy told Forbes. “In a sense, the menu as a whole is like a piece of crystal, with each cocktail representing just one of many shimmering facets.”
Recently, Tubridy walked us through the hotel’s exquisite new bar program and shared what guests can expect when they pull up a seat in the handsome barrel vaulted bar just off the hotel’s grand salon right now.
Can you share a bit of the history behind the hotel bar’s artwork
Tubridy: “The private art collection that adorns the walls of the hotel’s barrel-vaulted bar room was specially curated for us by French husband and wife team Stéphanie and Frédéric Chambre. The eclectic combination of canvas paintings, photography and mixed media prints speak to the rich history of Baccarat crystal, as it includes works from important movements over the more than 250-years since the legendary brand’s founding in 1764. We often look to pay homage to Baccarat’s storied history through our culinary and cocktail programming, and this guiding principle felt especially relevant as we began imagining a theme for the new fall menu.”
How did the idea of creating this unique collection come to fruition?
Tubridy: “The idea was not just for each drink to tell a story, but for those separate stories to come together to form one larger narrative. In a sense, the menu as a whole is like a piece of crystal, with each cocktail representing just one of many shimmering facets. We strived to create a collection of offerings that could be appreciated individually as stand-alone works, as well as brushstrokes to a larger piece.”
Art, like cocktails is a subjective experience. Tell me a bit about the creative process that went into this endeavor.
Tubridy: “The creative process behind this menu was as non-linear as the art collection itself. Sometimes a simple touch of color in an image would inspire the use of a certain ingredient, as was the case with the Thai chile that found its way into “Breaking Purple” because of a hint of red on the outline of the image.
Other times a subtle textural element spoke to us, such as the almost imperceptible patterns on the cut-paper work that yielded the drink “Harmonie,” a clarified coconut milk punch that also needs to be closely examined to be appreciated.
And then there were those pieces that just made us feel something, like the ominous picture of a cloud that gave birth to “Dark Sky,” a nuanced Dark n’ Stormy variation. Or the wild and seemingly tangled drawing of plants that resulted in the “Forbidden Forest,” an herbal gin highball with notes of stone pine, dandelion root, and sage. This menu features a beautiful array of unique flavor combinations and mixology techniques, but the most important thing was for the drinks to have a soul, an identity that transcended the paintings and the ingredients to become something entirely new.
What can guests expect from this new experience?
“It is our hope that each guest experiences the L’Art du Cocktail menu with the same open-mindedness that they would a work of art they’ve never seen before, trusting that it was created with purpose, intention, and care.”
What are you most excited about as far as the menu and what (if anything) do you think people should know about this before they go?
“I’m really excited to share the inspirations behind each drink with our guests and walk them through the creative process that brought them to life. The best thing is that they will have the opportunity to learn more about the cocktails, and the artworks that inspired them, via a QR code on the menu.
This code instantly directs the guest to the Esprit de Baccarat blog on the hotel’s website which shows the drinks and their paired artwork side-by-side as well as a brief description of the thought behind each concept. In this way, the menu can be like a self-guided experience, although our entire team is excited to share recommendations, provide more information regarding the drinks, and point out the actual pieces of art throughout The Bar.”