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Master Mixologist: Thierry Carrier of AVENUE in Long Branch, NJ

This week, we are featuring Thierry Carrier as our "Master Mixologist." He is the General Manager and Manager of Operations of Avenue in Long Branch, New Jersey.

Carrier, whose career spans Geneva, London, South Beach, New York City and more, has refined international service standards in his blood. Born in St. Julien, France - a small town near the border of France and Switzerland, and raised in Divonne Les Bains - a tourist destination close to Geneva, Thierry grew up running the halls and learning the ropes inside Le Rucher in Divonne Les Bains, a sixty-room hotel with a Michelin star restaurant that his grandfather built and his mother and father operated. Thierry's mom was the gracious innkeeper, and his father was the fastidious chef.

This third-generation hospitality professional went on to a more formal hospitality education at the prestigious Lycée Hôtelier Savoie Léman of Thonon les Bains. After graduating, Carrier spent his late teens working in hotels in Geneva, Switzerland, and then worked for several years in London, where he had the pleasure of de-boning Dover Sole tableside for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

At age 23, Thierry spent a year at sea working aboard the ocean liner SS France, which was the largest passenger ship in the world until the RMS Queen Mary 2 was launched in 2004.

By his mid-twenties, Carrier was catering to Miami's elite and hosting celebrities like Prince and Madonna while managing legendary South Beach nightlife brands The Strand, Tantra and Pacific Time. Thierry left Miami for The Hamptons to manage Pacific East in Amagansett in 2001, and a year later made his way to Manhattan to open and run several hot restaurant and lounge concepts.

In 2005, Carrier joined the team to help conceive and operate Avenue, utilizing his three decades of hospitality experience to lead one of the premier beach club, restaurant and nightlife concepts in the U.S.

Broadwayworld.com interviewed Thierry Carrier about his career and Avenue in Long Branch.

When did you first become interested in the cocktail culture?

In many places where I've worked as the manager or general manager, there was a head bartender or mixologist who was in charge of the specialty cocktail list. I watched and learned the technique of making cocktails over the years and, having a culinary background, I grew to understand how to mix flavors, and ingredients like fruit and vegetables. It became another way to integrate my knowledge and was like an extension of being in a kitchen.

What innovations in mixology and bartending do you find fascinating?

When mixologists started to use vegetables in drinks a few years ago (carrots, kale, beets, avocado) and herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil) it opened a door for even more combinations and flavors you could incorporate into a cocktail. When I started in the business you were mixing liquor with mostly fruit so this recent development definitely contributes to a versatile cocktail list.

How do restaurant and bar guests encourage your creativity?

There's always something interesting coming from our guests and it's helped make us better. I enjoy hearing their input when they talk about drinks they have tried elsewhere, ingredients they like and dislike, what they have experimented with at home and what worked and what didn't. It sparks the creative process.

What are your preferred "classic cocktails" and why?

I like a margarita because you can modify it and add things to change it up. We have created versions with pineapple and cilantro, blood orange, and cranberry. It's also a drink that's great in the summer or the winter, frozen or on the rocks. Because it's a versatile drink you can do so much with it and it's synonymous with a good time.

What are some of your favorite infusions and how you like to use them in drinks?

I like to infuse jalapeno in tequila to make a spicy margarita.

Tell us about a few of your signature cocktails at Avenue and why they are distinctive.

Our Peach Passion is a combination of peach puree, passion fruit, and peach vodka topped with champagne and served in a martini glass. It's a staple on Avenue's cocktail list for 11 years now and is a favorite drink of our regular guests. It's light and bubbly with a balanced level of sweetness and freshness.

For our Spiced Pear, we combine, spiced rum, pear berentzen, pear puree, lemon and cinnamon. The combination of ingredients makes it taste like fall and the spiced rum adds the extra kick that makes the drink popular.

Give us your perfect pairing for a cocktail and a culinary selection from Avenue.

I would pair our Pissaladiere with the Bourbon Side Car. The onion tart has a nice sweet finish and goes well with the bourbon and amaretto in the Side Car which is strong bodied with a light sweetness.

Tell our readers more about Avenue and the inspiration for the restaurant.

Avenue is a blend of the classic Parisian brasserie and the luxurious beaches of St Tropez. The dining room has dramatically high ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, classic brasserie banquettes in an oceanic palette, pearl colored marble tiles that shimmer under the light and 25-foot bar, inspired by the hull of a ship.

We wanted to bring quality French cuisine and seafood, like in our raw bar, to the Jersey Shore and have people feel like they really could be relaxing on the beachfront in the South of France. By incorporating our beach club in the summer, complete with luxurious cabanas and over-sized day beds, we achieved that and feel like it really gives Avenue's guests a taste of vacation on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

Avenue is located at 23 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch, NJ 07740. Call them at 732.759.2900 or visit their web site at http://www.leclubavenue.com/.

Photo: Courtesy of Avenue

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