By Michele Graham
Photography by ChiChi Ubiña
Image Location – L’Escale Greenwich, CT

If Amazon was creating a series about cocktails, Eric Ribeiro would be cast immediately. Sleekly handsome, with a seductive French accent and an expert hand at delectable drinks, Eric has traversed the hospitality world from famed Lenôtre in Paris to bustling Mediterraneo on Greenwich Avenue. As the Bar Director and Educator at Diageo NYC, headquarters for the one of the world’s largest producers of spirits and beers, Eric wears many hats. Now, he’s got something new on the horizon.

Cooking informs cocktails
Eric, who was born in Paris, knew at a very young age that he wanted to become a chef. “My first job was at the age of 16 where I worked as an apprentice at Lenotre, a 2 star Michelin restaurant. The four-year apprenticeship was highly structured and demanding; it taught me perseverance and that’s why I am always aiming for perfection and quality in everything I do. My inspiration came from my mother who was a chef at home for our family every evening.”

In 1997, Eric moved to the States and started work as a sous chef at Mediterraneo. Two years later, he went to nearby Wild Fire and to work under Chef Bill Taibe, who in a few short years received three Excellent ratings from The New York Times. At Wild Fire, Eric fell in love with the then groundbreaking kitchen and where cocktail innovation became his passion. “After my work experience in Paris and New York, Bill and owner Mary Schaffer contacted me to become the bar manager at Napa & Co in 2007 where I stayed for 7 beautiful years. From there, I was invited to join the Diageo bar and innovation team.”

Cocktails, glorious cocktails
At Diageo, Eric shares his cocktails and knowledge with a world-wide audience. His is a multi-faceted role: managing the Diageo bar in NYC (the in-house company bar of great renown); leading training and education for national and local accounts; assisting with R&D for the Diageo brands and Innovation Team; and participating in national activations, events, and brand photo and video shoots.

Working behind the bar requires a lot more skill than meets the eye. According to Eric, being a great bartender is, “a combination of things but if I have to use in one word, that would be hospitality—giving an amazing experience to a customer. That is key for me. It might sound obvious but most of the time bartenders concentrate all of their passion and effort on prep, research, and trying to create the best new cocktail, when should pay more attention to customer service.”

“We are serving customers, not drinks” That’s a sentence I use when I finish teaching a class or a seminar.”

As a chef by trade, Eric’s inspiration always goes back to basics. Seasonal ingredients mixed with new trends provide the groundwork for his cocktail and beverage development. At Diageo, Eric has an enviable brand list to work with: Johnny Walker Scotch, Ketel One vodka, CÎROC vodka, Captain Morgan rum, Don Julio tequila, Guinness beer, and lots lots more.

Trends in cocktails change quite rapidly. Eric reports that in the past year, “We saw sustainable served cocktails, culinary cocktails, cocktail and food pairings, along with low ABV cocktails, zero proof cocktails and lighter calorie drinks made with club soda. That being said, classics such as Old Fashioned, Manhattans, margaritas, mules, and palomas are always in high demand.”

Cocktails made with super foods are also hot. “They really took the spotlight this year, such as those made with matcha tea. Turmeric and teas are also trending this year. As far as liqueur and spirits, bartenders love using fortified wines such as sherry. Gin is coming back. Mezcal and sotol are popular, as well as banana liquor. Blue curacao is also trendy in some places.”

And for style, Eric likes stirred cocktails. “They are sipping cocktails and you can taste the spirit and they are also usually less sweet.”

The new secret ingredient
As the go-to cocktail guru at Diageo, Eric was fielding requests from the company’s brands for custom syrups for the cocktails they present at large events and activations. Some of the existing syrups were hard to find or to make. To help the brands succeed, Eric created Le Sirop by Parisian Shaker, a ginger honey syrup. Along with being available to Diageo’s professional crew, the syrup is also sold on Amazon.

Perfect for both zero proof and alcohol-based cocktails, Le Sirop’s ginger honey syrup was designed to inspire wellness—with honey and ginger being timeless soothing elements. Le Sirop was first used by the Johnnie Walker Black team for their off premises national activation. Since then, it’s been used by Crown Royal at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Captain Morgan for a Major League Soccer event, and CÎROC for their drink strategy.

The signature recipe for Le Sirop’s ginger honey syrup is the Penicillin, a cocktail originally created by NYC bartender Sam Ross—it’s become an instant classic. But Eric sees Le Sirop amping up the flavor in a range of cocktails. À votre santé!

Penicillin
2 oz Johnnie Walker Black
.75 oz Ginger honey syrup Le Sirop (by Parisian Shaker)
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz of Lagavulin 16 (Float)
Glass: Rocks Garnish: Crystalized ginger
Preparation: Add all ingredients except the Lagavulin into a shaker filled with ice. Shake until is chilled, strain into a rocks glass filled with ice add the Lagavulin float and garnish.

Moscow mule
2 oz Ketel Vodka
.75 oz Le Sirop Ginger honey
1 oz Fresh lime juice
Top up with club soda
Add all ingredients except the club soda in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until is chilled. Strain into a rocks glass or a mule cup filled with ice and top up with club soda. Garnish with a lime.

Pimm’s Cup
2 oz Pimm’s N1
.5 oz Le Sirop Ginger honey
1 wedge of each – lime, lemon, orange
3 slices of cucumber
Handful of mint
1 strawberry
Top up with club soda
Muddle in a glass all ingredients except the club soda, add ice and top up with club soda.

Hot Toddy
1 oz Le Sirop Ginger honey
.5 oz Bulleit bourbon
6 to 8 oz hot water
Add all ingredients into a mug. Garnish with a lemon wheel spiked with 4 cloves.

And for more good libations, Eric shares these recipes for some of his most recent signature cocktails.

P.E.I Martini
2 oz Ketel One
.75 oz Dry vermouth infused PEI oyster shelf (ISI) + Fino sherry & White balsamic
1 Drop Chili tincture
Glass: Martini Garnish: Olive

Single in Spain
2 oz Singleton 12
.5 oz PX sherry
Bar spoon blackberry liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Glassware: Rocks Garnish: Orange twist

Trade Off
1.5 oz Don Julio Blanco
.5 oz Giffard Apricot liqueur
.75 oz Orange-Thai basil cordial
1oz Fresh Lime juice
Glass: Rocks Garnish: Thai basil leave