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People in the know are already big fans of downtown’s Coco Laurent for its wonderful wine bar led by Sommelier Henri Marquis, and its leading French and Basque-inspired cuisine courtesy of Chef Wilks Medley, but now cocktail lovers are taking note because Krishna Vutla, the new Cocktail Director and Bar Manager at Coco Laurent, has crafted 12 tasty libations perfect for hot summer days and cool, exciting evenings.

With Basque-inspired cocktails based around Armagnac to rye to gin to rum, tequila, and vodka, there’s something for every palette.

“There used to be a high level of pretention that came with craft cocktails, and I was one of those people who followed along with that,” Vutla confesses. “In my new program at Coco Laurent, I aim to create delicious cocktails that are more approachable with familiar ingredients so that the general public can come along with the ride, and then progress from there. I want to create drinks that are simple, but delicious. There are a couple things on the list for the aficionado types, but a lot of it is just about sipping and enjoying.

“Being that we’re a French bistro,” Vulta continues, “I tried to do a few cocktails with cognac and Armagnac (brandy) to keep that French vitality going, but I tried to make it personal at the same time. I tried to make it a little French forward without being too overwhelming. I have a few sparking cocktails for pre-dinner, and I have a few that I think go well with dinner and some that should just be enjoyed on their own.”

One drink that works well with the cuisine is the Dangerous Liaison, featuring a gentle mix of Armagnac, Fino Sherry, Benedictine, and Gran Classico Bitters, it’s a good, unique drink that gets the job done and can be paired with the Duck a l’Orange, or Steak Frites. The same can be said for the Veev La France, a mix of Veev, Reyka Vodka, Blood Orange, Aperol, ginger, and sparkling wine (think Blood Orange mimosa), which should also go well with the duck.

With so many cocktails to choose from, let’s start off by saying that Krishna Vutla should put the standard mimosa out of the brunch business as his La Vie En Roe, made with Mount Gay Rum, Combier Pamplemousse, topped with Proscecco, and Casis ‘Roe’, should become the new go-to brunch beverage.

“The name came from the Cassis roe, as I wanted to do play on words because I thought it might grab people’s attention when they look at the ingredients on the list,” Vutla points out. “But the whole idea behind the drink is to give people a different experience from the traditional mimosa. It’s a really nice, light, summery pre-dinner drink.”

Likewise, the LA Woman, made with Rittenhouse 100 Rye, lemon, orgeat, hibiscus tea, and aloe, is a refreshing drink perfect for the outdoors, but it does come with a slight kick. This will get your brunch off to a good start before you should switch over to the La Vie En Roe (think pitcher!).

The French 75, made with Ford’s Gin, lemon, topped with sparkling wine and an Absinthe ‘mist’ is a nice, smooth drink that would pair well with Chef’s lovely Kale Caesar.

The Vieux Carre, made with Old Overholt Rye, Antica Carpano, Benedictine, Pierre Ferrand 10yr Amber Cognac, and Angostura and Peychaud Bitters, looks like an Old Fashioned but is too sweet for me. If you’ve ever wanted to sport an Old Fashioned but didn’t want something too strong, this is for you.

Fans of rum, get the Insane Bolt, mixed with Smith & Cross Rum, bitters, Maraschino Liqueur, and orgeat, it’s a first rate drink. I would also recommend a glass of Plantation Barbados Old Reserve 2000 rum, which thanks to Krishna Vulta, I’m now a big fan of. It’s the closest rum I’ve found to Cuba’s Havana Club that is perfect for sipping straight.

For a drink on the stiffer side, go with the Cabana Boy, made with El Jimador Blanco Tequila, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Combier Pamplemousee, and Yuzu Bitters, it tastes like what you’d expect from a tequila drink, but it’s smooth and tasty so watch out. One will get you going; two may take you too far.

The For Queen & Country, made with Brokers Gin, Zubrowka Bison Grass, and Lillet Blanc, is a nice, stiff drink. All hail her majesty!  The Champs Élysées, a mix of Pierre Ferrand 10yr Amber Cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, with a lemon peel, is so tasty, and the
Fraise Coquine with Leblon Cachaca, strawberries, cinnamon, and peach bitters, has a nice, sweet taste but with a kick—think a stiff Strawberry Daiquiris.

“I really, really like the Fais Coquine cocktail,” Vutla says. “It’s really different from the norm. First of all, it has Leblon Cachaca, which is really different from the standard Caribbean rum, along with fresh strawberries. The skin of the strawberries gives the drink a bit of a tannic nature to it, so that it’s sweet, and then dries out a little at the end with some peach bitters. It’s really unique.”

For adventurous foodies and cocktail connoisseurs looking for a really good time, make a day of it at Coco Laurent on a weekend and start with brunch and drinks and then switch over to an early dinner paired with some fine wines. Now that’s living! Whether you’re out and about in downtown or looking to make a night out of it at Coco Laurent, stop by Krishna Vutla’s bar and elevate your day.

“We wanted to create things for guests that want to come and have a nice dinner, as well as people who want to hang out at the bar, so the goal was to make a cocktail menu that was extremely approachable from every angle. Ultimately, I am really looking forward to introducing our clientele to a new form of craft.”

Coco Laurent is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 am to 10 pm; Friday from 11:30 am to 11 pm; Saturday from 10 am to 11 pm; and Sunday from 10 am to 10 pm. Call 213-623-0008.

Top and first two below by: Ryan Tanaka








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