Q&A: Brian Van Flandern
Celebrating the recent release of his fifth book, Whiskey Cocktails, with Assouline Publishing, Brian Van Flandern, world-renowned mixologist and Southern Glazier’s Wine and Spirits executive director of mixology, spirits education and special events, once again collaborated with luxury crystal brand Baccarat. Las Vegas Magazine’s Kiko Miyasato sat down with Van Flandern to talk about his relationship with the high-end brand and how he incorporates the different glassware into his cocktail creations and award-winning books.
How did your association with Baccarat get started?
In 2007 I left Per Se restaurant and went into private consulting and my first client was Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel in New York City. While I was there my publisher, Assouline, decided they wanted to do a high-end cocktail book called Vintage Cocktails. They went to the director of operations at The Carlyle and said, “Can one of your bartenders make some cocktails for us? We’re going to shoot this beautiful cocktail book, Vintage Cocktails.” And the director said, “I’ve got Brian Van Flandern on retainer, the former mixologist from Per Se, and he would do it for you.” And Prosper Assouline said, “Fine, welcome aboard Brian. If you do this for us we’ll bill you as the author and let you write the introduction.” And I said, “Well that’s a good deal, my first published book. Let’s do it!” So I selected all the recipes and I thought if we’re going to do this at The Carlyle we’re going to make this a luxury project and do it high end, we need some good crystal glassware. Working in New York City, right on Fifth Avenue, I walked up and down the avenue and came across the Baccarat flagship store in mid-town Manhattan and I walked in and said, “I’m formerly from Per Se, currently at the Carlyle Hotel and I’m working with Assouline—three luxury brands, and we would like to include Baccarat crystal in the book. Would you be interested?” They said, “Yes, we would!” They gave me a lot of crystal to work with, we shot that first book, which today is still Assouline’s biggest-selling book, I think it’s in its 12th printing since 2009, and it features predominately Baccarat crystal.
What is it about Baccarat crystal that makes you want to use them in your books?
Baccarat is sleek. It’s elegant; it has a masculine feel that really translates on camera. For the guest, it creates a tactile experience—when you feel a glass in your hand and it’s weighted and heavy it enhances the experience. Baccarat is using angular, sleek, weighted crystal and especially for whiskey cocktails, and some of my other cocktails, it really gives it a stunning visual. Their flutes are second to none. Their double-wide Old Fashioned glasses are perfect for this new global cocktail revolution. They only have a couple of coupes but I like to use them again and again because they’re just so timeless and have such an elegant, luxury feel to them. And, quite frankly, it’s a major key to the success of my books. Very few mixologists, very few cocktail book authors are using quality crystal, and it really makes a difference. The proof’s in the pudding—these books outsell other cocktail books in their price range 10 to 1.
Does using a specific cup or glass enhance the experience of the cocktail?
Yes. When you holding great crystal in your hand it is evokes a memorable experience that lends itself to the overall sensation when drinking a cocktail. So, when you have a really beautiful piece of weighted crystal glass in your hand you feel important, you feel emboldened, you feel empowered to take charge of your circumstance. Some glassware is thin and delicate, which can be appropriate depending on the cocktail, other crystal producers can be chunky which is rarely desirable, but Baccarat is elegant, refined and weighted. It just feels great in your hand!
Is there any spread or photo in your new book that you really, really love?
Certainly the cover—it’s great, it encapsulates this whole cocktail revolution. Whiskey is coming back into vogue big time, and the chipped ice and putting that into a double-wide Old Fashioned Baccarat crystal is just gorgeous. I like the composition of the Golden Spike cocktail on page 120, too. There’s about 80 percent Baccarat crystal throughout the book.
Any future projects with Baccarat that you could share?
I’m currently in negotiations with two major A-list celebrities who own a well-established tequila company and they would like me to shoot their publicity photos for their tequila—done in Baccarat crystal.
Baccarat, The Forum Shops at Caesars, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. & Sun., 10 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat. 702.693.6877