MRM Savor: Art and the Cocktail

Chicago's Travelle at The Langham debuted a collection of art-inspired signature cocktails. Each handcrafted concoction is influenced by a famous work of art hand-chosen by the Travelle bar team. For example, embodying the simplicity of the season, the Lazy on a Sunday Afternoon cocktail – inspired by Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” – blends Belvedere grapefruit, lavender syrup and lime, then topped with prosecco and fresh mint. 

Lazy on a Sunday Afternoon

  •  2 oz. Belvedere Grapefruit

  •  .75 oz. Lavender Syrup

  •  .5 oz. Lime Juice

  •  Fresh Mint


    Lazy on a Sunday Afternoon

Beverage Manager Thibaut Idenn fills in Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine readers on the inspirations for the collection.

Near The Lake

Inspired by a Collins style cocktail, Near the Lake is a long drink in which I imagined would be sipped while doing leisurely activities on a beautiful day, preferably lakeside.  Just as this piece of art seems to be depicting. With use of the fresh sage leaves floating throughout the cocktail and some of the other pieces of garnish we give the appearance of some of the same elements seen in the artwork as well.

Near the Lake

  •  2 oz. J. Riegers Gin
  •  1 oz. Meyer/Blueberry Cordial
  •  4 Sage leaves
  •  1 Dash Boker’s Bitter
Above the Clouds

Inspired by a low ABV style cocktail, the chrysanthemum, my emphasis was on the lighter characteristics of the finished product, top photo. All of the flavors you get in this cocktail are pretty nuanced, no element is really outshining another. It’s just perfectly light on the palate, as well as its alcohol content.  When I look at this particular piece of art my initial feeling is weightlessness, just floating away through the clouds.  I took that idea and reimagined it in the form of something consumable and a cocktail was born.

Above the Clouds 

  • 2 oz. Riesling Mönshhof
  • .5 oz. Rhine Hall Cherry Brandy
  • .5 oz. Italicus
  • 1 Dash Absinthe

The inspiration on this cocktail was drawn from a cocktail called a Caipirinha, which is the national cocktail of Brazil.  Here we did a spring variation of the cocktail which turned out quite nice.  With use of chamomile, we get these floral notes depicting the blooming of all the flowers that begin to show their face once spring arrives.  I chose to use honey as my sweetener here to represent the unique relationship between the bee’s and the flowers we all enjoy during this time of the year. 

This cocktail was paired with a piece by Georgia O’keeffe, also titled Spring. The artwork is just a beautiful representation of spring and the visuals that come along with it.  I saw this as a perfect fit for the cocktail.   


  •  2oz. Cachaça Leblon
  •  1 oz. Chamomile Honey Syrup
  •  Kiwi
  •  Lime
Interior at Nice

With Interior at Nice the inspiration for me was more and open book.  I very much enjoy using tequila and mezcal together with seasonal flavors. I like to have fun with the creative ideas pop into my head whenever I have an opportunity.  Here you are seeing the use of lychee and lavender together which turns out is wonderful combination.  Lychee tends to be a bit sweet and candy like from my experience, the addition of lavender to the equation lends another layer of complexity, as well as softens up some of that sweetness from the lychee. 

 I also created a toasted coconut and lavender charcoal salt that we use for the rim of the glass which is another element of complexity, sort of a sensory explosion for the palate.  The artwork chosen here was Henri Matisse’s “Interior at Nice”, a piece of art depicting a woman enjoying the view of the ocean from her hotel balcony.  Matisse used a beautiful color palate here with soft pinks, greys, and blues along with some corals, which I played on in the creation of the cocktail as well.  The mood that is set but Matisse’s visual is the perfect mood for enjoying this fun summer cocktail.

Interior at Nice

  •  1 oz. Siete Misterios DobaYej Mezcal
  •  1 oz. Volcan Tequila Blanco
  •  1 oz. Lychee Lavender Cordial
  •  .75 oz. Lemon Juice
  • .25 oz. Lime Juice
  • .25 oz Coco Lopez Coconut Cream
    Interior at Nice
Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams is another one of our low ABV options for Travelle at the Langham.  It is another long drink, this time being more of an aperitif with plenty of bitterness. I used a combination of Grand Poppy Liqueur, which has some really nice spring flavors to it, most notably dandelion, which is very fun and unique, and Baska Malort, which unlike the malort most of us are familiar with is much milder in flavor.  We combine those two in a highball and top it with bitter lemon tonic water which is just delightful.  If you are a fan of the negroni, this is going to be a great low ABV variation for you to try.  There is also a beautiful bouquet of flowers and sun daisies for garnish which just further represents the field of dreams.  Inspired by Monet’s “Poppy Field” it is fairly easy to draw the connection between the artwork and the cocktail.  It was a natural selection to say the least.

Field of Dreams

  • 1 oz. Grand poppy
  •  1 oz. Baska Malort
Earthly Paradise

The inspiration behind Earthly Paradise is everyone’s favorite tropical cocktails, the Pina Colada.  Here I chose to get a little bit more abstract with the use of unusual flavors and elements.  I went with an Ardbeg 10 year scotch whisky, which is extremely peaty as it is from Islay. We also see other earthy elements such as Green Chartreuse and avocado which worked beautifully with the coconut cream and red bananas.  The finished product here is essentially and Ardbeg Pina Colada with an avocado red banana coconut cream and it is absolutely wonderful.  

This cocktail was paired with Pierre Bonnard’s “Earthly Paradise” as the collaborative artwork.  When Bonnard began this piece of work he was exploring his new daring infatuation with color, light, and space.  His drive to take a chance with something new is what motivated me to create such and abstract variation of the Pina Colada.  Sometimes we take chances and do something out of the norm, it can be accepted and appreciated or rejected, but we should never pass up the opportunity to try new things.  I also played on the aspect of the earthly element as well.  We see that with the use of Green Chartreuse and Avocado. This is one of my favorite cocktails I have put together so far in my career, I hope everyone can appreciate its complexity in the same way that I do.

Earthly Paradise

  •  1oz. Ardbeg 10yr
  •  1 oz. Plantation 5yr
  •  1 oz. Avonana Coconut
  •  .5 oz. Blackstrap
  •  .5 oz. Green Chartreuse
  • 2 oz. Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 oz. Pineapple Juice 
  • .25 oz. Lime Juice
  • 2 Dashes Australian Chocolate Bitter
Ciphers and Constellations

Inspired by the Angostura Sour, one of my absolute favorite cocktails of all time, Ciphers and Constellations is complex and bitter, but still nuanced elements find their way of shining through the strong, robust spiced bitter notes.  This cocktail is a knockout punch of wonderful Caribbean flavors.  Joan Miro’s “Ciphers and Constellations in Love with a Woman” is the artwork that has been paired here.  I love the abstraction of the piece and how it seems to have no real direction, sort of a representation of creativity itself and how it’s so randomly in the mind.  The use of reds in the piece draws warmth for me and is represented through the use of the spice notes layered throughout the cocktail.

Ciphers and Constellations 

  • 1.5 oz. Angostura Bitter 
  •  1 oz. Lime Juice 
  •  .75 oz. Mandarine Cordial
  • .5oz Mandarine Napoleon
  • .25 oz. Dr. Bird Rum
  • Egg White
Spanish Physician

The Spanish Physician is a fun low ABV cocktail where I had the opportunity to explore using Tempranillo as the base spirit.  With beautiful leather and tobacco notes, I continued to play on those flavors with the use of PX Sherry, Amaro Sabilla, Tobacco and Birch Bark bitters. Served over crushed ice in a copper tin, this cobbler style cocktail is sure to please with its big, bold, meaty flavors.  Max Ernst’s “Spanish Physician” is the art work that I chose to go along with this cocktail because of the incorporation of all the Spanish ingredients, it’s really a beautiful piece of art.

Spanish Physician

  • 1.5 oz. Termes
  • 1 oz. Pedro Ximenez
  • .5 oz. Varnelli Sabilla
  • 2 Dashes Tobacco Bitter
  • 2 Dashes Birch Bark Bitter
Midday Sorrow

Midday Sorrow was a fun exploration into using some ingredients I hadn’t really explored much.  This is a long drink consisting of 8 year Armagnac, Grand Classico, and Pimento Dram topped with a wonderful house made Tepache.  The spirits included on this one bring great flavor, but the real treat comes from the Tepache, which we spent a lot of time developing and it was definitely worth it.  The Catalan artist Angel Planells’ piece titled “Midday Sorrows” was a perfect fit for this cocktail.  Being heavily influenced by Salvador Dali, the artwork features surrealism.  There is great use of perspective as well as plenty of playful shapes and nuanced details layered throughout, much like the cocktail we have put out.

 Midday Sorrow

  • 3 oz. Tepache 
  •  2 oz. Bas-Armagnac Darroze 8yr 
  •  .75 oz. Gran Classico
  • .5oz Pimento Dram
  • .25 oz. Lemon Juice
Fire & Copper

The Fire & Copper cocktail pays homage to Chicago’s History. The first inspiration came from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This tragedy allowed Chicago to reborn from its ashes and in 1885 the first skyscraper was built. The cocktail is a variation of a gin fizz cocktail however no Gin is used in this drink. Instead, we used a sustainable Mezcal from the Oaxaca region for its distinctive smoky flavor (fire). A local Fernet and a homemade herbal syrup complete the flavor of the Mexican spirit. To bring the fizz in this cocktail we added heavy cream, egg white and a lots of shaking, a lot of it! And finally after couple minutes we achieved this distinctive frothy top and creaminess texture. The cocktail is served in a specific glassware to enhance the link with the industrial era mixing copperand tinted crystal and the frothy top representing the clouds. The Skyscraper Cabinet was the perfect representation for this cocktail. Breaking the rules established and going beyond the flat surface of the paper.  

Fire and Copper
What About The Parrot?

We came to this cocktail with the desire to create a spritz outside of the common lines. Too often you will find overly sweet blend versions. Here, the cocktail is balanced, slightly spicy and refreshing! The homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb shrub brings an amazing savory length to the cocktail and pairs wonderfully with cinnamon. All to compliment the Pisco, grapes spirit from Peru or Chile (here Peru). The name of the cocktail is directly inspired by the story behind the release of the painting, Woman with a Parrot — Gustave Courbet. When the painting was released in 1864, people rejected it on the grounds of indecency. All the attention was driven toward the denuded lady that people seemed to have forgotten the parrot. As Jules-Antoine Castagnary, critic and Courbet’s great defender, praised the artist for representing a “woman of our time.” We could say that this cocktail depict the taste of our time: international, savory and complex. 

What about the Parrot?

  •  1.5 oz. Barsol Pisco
  •  1 oz. Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub
  •  .5 oz. Cinnamon Syrup
  •  .5 oz. Lemon
  •  1 drop saline
  •  2 Muddled Strawberries