Fresh off the heels of a stint at New York’s Experimental Cocktail Club, bartender Xavier Herit opened his own concept, Wallflower, in 2013. Though he had designed the small, 45-seat restaurant to be closer in line to a casual neighborhood spot, the drinks can’t help but lean towards the lavish and the avant-garde; his Sho Sho, for example, a drink anchored in carrot shochu and oloroso sherry, gets an unconventional root beer topper, whereas the Jamaican Kiss, which builds on Jamaican rum, banana liqueur and clove-infused honey is shaken with cream and drinks more like dessert.
The contrast found across the menu should come as no surprise—Herit has made a name for himself as one of the city’s most creative cocktail minds. After beginning as a restaurant apprentice at the age of 16 in his home country of France, he went on to work for two years behind the bar at the Plaza Athénée before moving to New York to help chef Alain Ducasse open Mix. From there, he began working as head barman at Daniel Boulud’s Daniel, a position that he would hold for seven years, during which time he would author a book on cocktails with the acclaimed chef.
So what does Herit do when he’s not eating, drinking or drink-making? Here, Herit tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to reveal his strangest hobbies, his side gig and the weirdest cocktail experiment he’s ever attempted. —Lizzie Munro
What do want to be when you grow up?
I hope to oversee and manage multiple bar programs around the world.
Best thing you ever drank:
A bottle of Château Haut-Brion 1982. I shared one of my first apartments in NYC with a sommelier; when he moved back to Europe, he forgot this prestigious bottle of red wine in a closet. Thank you, Arnaud.
Worst thing you ever drank:
I have to admit, with all due respect for Chinese culture, that I am not a big fan of baijiu.
First time you ever got drunk:
My uncle produced his own wine in Bordeaux. Growing up, we spent every summer visiting the vineyard. One day we had a family reunion in the barn, and the red and white wine was flowing at all of the tables. I experienced my first buzz at the age of 12. After that, I did not really drink again until the age of 16.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I know myself, and I would get bored after a few weeks. I actually moonlight as a DJ and like different styles of music depending on the mood and the time of the day.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I like to watch yachts from the boatyard.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
Running a business in New York is not so easy.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I tried to play with Japanese whisky and seaweed, but quickly came to the conclusion that it was not going to work.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
“Can I have a virgin Margarita?”
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Spending time with my wife and kids on a Sunday and walking around the city for hours.
Your favorite bar, and why:
There are many great cocktail bars in the city, one of my favorite is Mace. The mixologist and co-owner Nico de Soto is a good friend of mine [and] I think his team has perfected the combination of great cocktails, excellent hospitality and a comfortable, homey feeling.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
I love food, but the most memorable meal experiences for me seem to happen with great friends in a more casual places.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Anything with rum.
In a wine bar?
I love an oxidized, funky white wine.
In a dive bar?
A beer and a shot of bourbon.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Burger or pizza. And a beer.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
The last text message you sent:
“On my way.”