The chicest cocktail in town: Around the world with Madame St. Germain

The face of the seriously on-trend elderflower liqueur, St. Germain, Camille Vidal exudes effortless French cool. Set on sharing her passion for the art of the aperitif, this cocktail guru has gone from bartender to brand ambassador and major girl boss, founding a group for women in the drinks industry and publishing her own book – how to drink French fluently. To celebrate the launch of our Food Issue, Camille lets us into her life as a brand ambassador, as well as some of her favourite spots around the world to say “Santé!”.

HOC: You’ve worked at high-end bars across the globe. What are your top 5 bars in 5 cities and why?

I’m very fortunate that I get to travel around the world and visit different cities and their beautiful cocktail bar scene, so it’s hard to pick only 5!

Dante, New York: My home away from home! I just love the energy in New York so much – I lived there for a few years and any excuse to go back to visit is a good reason and the bar scene there is great.

Le Mary Celeste, Paris: Paris is another great place to go and I’m lucky that it’s only a train ride on Eurostar away! I love the aperitif culture and how everyone enjoys a drink together after work on the terrace – it feels so lively. Le Mary Celeste is a great aperitif spot with delicious food, but it’s too difficult to choose just one place in Paris, Café Moderne is a restaurant run by dear friends of mine and Combat is another amazing bar – I could go on and on. 

Mint Gun Club, London: Despite the grey and the cold I LOVE London (although we’ve had the most amazing summer!). This is a beautiful little bar with insanely delicious cocktails – perfect rain or shine.

Black Pearl, Melbourne: I lived in Australia a few years back and I’d choose Melbourne as my top pick. It’s such an incredible place good food, good coffee, good drinks, good people. My favourite bar has to be Black Pearl – but watch this space as there are about to be some amazing bars opening there soon. 

Big Bar, LAI might be French, but my heart lies in California. I love LA and Big Bar has a great daytime vibe. For the evening, I’d suggest Normandie Club – it serves up creative drinks in a stylish setting.

HOC: When you aren’t jetting around the world with St. Germain, what is your favourite destination to travel to?

I love India and I wish I could travel more there.  The culture, people and food are all amazing, the country has so much beauty. I’m also a yoga teacher and student so I feel connected with this country.

HOC: Here at #Teamcoco we’re all about our girl gang. You recently founded St. Germain Ladies Bartender Club – a networking group for women in the industry. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to create the club, and what you hope to achieve?

Supporting women in the industry has always been a big focus for me. I’ve started Les Femmes du Bar which is the St. Germain ladies bartender club about 6 years ago. I wanted to build a community that will support and inspire the amazing women in the hospitality industry. 

HOC: If you could only have one cocktail for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Bamboo Cocktail – it’s dry vermouth and sherry. Rich Hunt (owner of Mint Gun Club) has made a version which adds St. Germain, coconut water and fresh tarragon to it – it’s the best drink I’ve ever tasted!

HOC: What cocktail is trending at the moment and how can we recreate it?

A massive trend at the moment in drink is low ABV spritz and aperitif style cocktails. It’s my favourite style of drink and makes me so happy! The St. Germain Spritz is an amazing example of this and very easy to make at home.

HOC: Having launched St. Germain’s first coffee table book, How to Drink French Fluently – where did the idea for the book come from?

I wanted to write a cocktail book to show the incredible versatility of St. Germain but also showcase the recipes from all the amazing bartenders that create delicious cocktails using our beautiful French liqueur as a thank you! I thought the book was a great way to introduce the world of cocktails to more than just people who work in the industry too. I wanted to talk about more than just a drink, I wanted to talk about occasions and teach people about what to drink and when to drink it at different moments during the day. The book is organised by time of the day: brunch, afternoon cocktails, aperitif, dinner and nightcap. I’m currently working on a new book which is coming out in January – watch this space!

HOC: What was the best part about putting it together? 

Seeing the creativity of all these bartenders featured in the book! It was a nice way to also say thank you to them and putting them in the spotlight.

HOC: You grew up in France, but have spent time in Australia, NYC London, where do you call home?

That’s a good question and something that I get asked quite a lot! Although I am from France, I left 10 years ago and have travelled far and wide, so I also consider myself from all those places I’ve been to and lived in. I met some amazing people along the way who have influenced and inspired me so there are lots of different influences that make me, me. I recently did a DNA test which flagged to me I actually have no French in my DNA! Turns out, my ancestry is mostly Iberian and North African which is fascinating.

HOC: Do you find there is any stigma attached to being a woman in a male-dominated drinks industry?

The drinks industry is a beautiful community and a pretty supportive one! I wouldn’t say that gender equality is an issue in the drinks industry only and I think it’s not quite there in the world in general regardless of where you work. It’s up to us all to make small changes that will facilitate this for next generations.

HOC: What are your favourite female-centric drink brands? Any female distillers, bartenders?

So many women inspire me in the industry! From bar owners to bartenders, women I work with and women I get to mentor. I’m in awe of their talent, creativity, strength, determination, energy and kindness.

HOC: What advice would you give to women who want to make a career for themselves in the drinks industry?

Be kind, be honest, be driven and most of all, be yourself and don’t apologise for it!

Read more about Women in the drinks industry in our Food Issue!

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