Elise Collet-Soravito’s latest book “Elise Et Ses 28 Cocktails” combines her passion for art and cocktails. She talks to SHONALI MUTHALALY about each page of quirky drawings and recipes
Hitting the bottle is the obvious solution. The time-honoured way of dealing with wicked ex-boyfriends (and if they’re exes, they’re naturally ‘wicked.’) Elise made a cocktail.
A gifted artist, Elise Collet-Soravito travelled the world, conjuring up a kaleidoscope of bright, vivacious women in the French cookbook that made her famous, “Elise Et Ses Délices”. The book, which won ‘Best Cookbook Illustrations in the World,’ at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, in Beijing, 2007, translated desserts into women, ranging from a bright- eyed, tousled girl for Cherry Crumble, to a dark, pouting mafia-style Godmother, for the Cannoli alla Siciliana.
And then she created the cocktail ‘Peter Broke My Heart.’ “There was a Peter in my life,” she says, as we settle on a couch at The Park, where she recently auctioned prints from her latest book “Elise Et Ses 28 Cocktails”. (Elise and her 28 cocktails.) “And he broke my heart!”
The beautiful French artist explains how she made the cocktail, waving her hands in the air for emphasis. “It is in the heart of the night. I cannot sleep. So I think, “Let me be positive. I will take my revenge.” So she took a bottle of rose syrup. “Because Peter is from Lebanon.” Added crème liquor. “Because it’s all about love,” she shrugs. Vodka, and then a crushed chilli. “It’s like a dessert: and then you have the bite of the chilli.”
The illustration, aptly enough is a drawing of her, holding out a big, bleeding heart. “Only,” she whispers, “I made myself thinner!”
Elise’s latest book, as you have probably guessed, combines a passion for cocktails and art. Each page, vibrant with gorgeous colours, quirky drawings and original calligraphy, is like a piece of theatre, which explains why her original drawings have found their way into an art gallery in France.
Experiments and hangovers
“It took eight months,” says Elise, talking of the struggles unique to an artist like her: finding a sheep with a nice face to recreate in the Irish Coffee Recipe, and dealing with the hangovers that accompanied her experiments with liqueur. “Oh my God! You don’t know how many headaches I had!” she says, rolling her eyes.
The book includes classics like the Cosmopolitan and Manhattan, illustrated with a line of hip New York women, “See, I have a Yoko Ono style woman too,” giggles Elise, pointing out a tiny woman who’s all straight hair and flowing clothes. It also has Elise’s original recipes, most of them characterised by sweetness with an edge.
“The Hot and Dirty Litchi is a sorbet, with sake and ginger powder,” she says, then turning the pages to Lou Lou In The Garden, featuring a girl with a cloud of golden hair and a dress made of flowers. “It’s got crushed strawberries, with pepper, mint and Vodka, but you can put pineapple instead and call it Lou Lou in Chennai.”
You could say this efficiency with cocktails started early. “My mother taught me how to make Zabaione when I was this high,” says Elise, holding her hand at kneecap length. “In a large bowl you break a yolk, add sugar and beat till it’s white. Then put in half a glass of Marsala (an Italian wine), and add hot milk.” What her mother didn’t realise was that little Elise thought it was a nourishing morning drink, perfect for breakfast. “So every morning, to go to school I was making my Zabaione.”
It took a while for her parents to catch on. “One day we had visitors and my mother said, ‘Ooh, you must have some Marsala, from Italy, la la la. And it was over.” Algebra class must have been fun though.
Perhaps that accounts for Elise’s zest for cocktails. “They’re happy, full of freedom and fantasy, with strong, funny names,” she says.
They can also inspire you to live a cocktail life. Like her recipe for a Venetian cocktail, which ends with: “Drink the spirit of Venice, and kindly choose to live with a gondolier!”