The seed of success: Dijon’s cocktail program

00:00 June 14, 2012
By: Kristal Blue
The 007 at Dijon [Courtesy of Anne Berry]

I had plans to meet girlfriends at Dijon on the same day the Times-Picayune ran its one-bean review (which, like the bad boy your mom warns you about, served to intrigue us even more).

And like any bad boy, this one has a compelling address (on a sketch but resurging street in the lower Garden District) and a gorgeous frame (the historic firehouse is soaring and grand without feeling formal, and backed by an alluring, prettily lit courtyard).

But Dijon's biggest asset, as I see it, isn't a man at all - it's the charming girl behind the bar. Tasoula Harlan made me a very good drink that night (smooth gin and citrus, sweetened with vanilla simple and a thick dollop of condensed milk that, while making things creamy, didn't blot out the booze).

Born of a Greek mother and American father, Tasoula is a child of the world, having lived everywhere from Saudi Arabia to Rome (and, most recently, Brooklyn). She's trained as a music therapist, but is more than capable as a bartender.

On a return visit, she makes me a 007 martini, made with a splash of Crème de Violette and nearly equal parts vodka and Cocchi Americano, a bitter orange aperitif (the combination shares more in common with the Vesper, another Bond-themed cocktail, than the original 007, a puckery clash of orange vodka and Sprite).

Tasoula's 007 opens with a deep violet perfume, then a blossoming wine on the palate. It's like being knocked on your ass in a flower garden.

Overall, Dijon's cocktail list tends toward signature twists, with a few straightforward classics (it's heavy on gin and milky drinks; I'd round out the menu with a gingery rum buck, and add a dedicated bar food menu).

Back at the bar (where customers outnumber those in the dining room), Tasoula talks easily while building her drinks. Music can heal Parkinson's patients, she says; moving to the beat "helps them get their gait back."

So might Dijon, by taking a cue from its solid cocktail program.

Let's talk on Facebook or on Twitter @AnneBerryWrites.

Dijon restaurant is running bar promotions through the summer, including a Celebrity Bartender Bash on June 26 to benefit the LASPCA (guest bartenders will be Hank Allan of WGNO and Chriss Knight, owner of NOLA Soci@lite). Following that turn behind the bar will be guest bartender Jennifer Hale of Fox8 on July 31. Dijon will also host free wine tastings every Wednesday from 5:30 - 7 p.m., $5 cocktail and wine specials every Thursday, and a "Build Your Own Wine Flight" special on Friday nights.

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