Cocktail of the Week: Bywater American Bistro’s Take Flight

Nina Compton's latest has way more than just great small plates.

by Paula Echevarria
August 28, 2018

Even though Bywater American Bistro has only been open for a mere five months, it has become the new favorite restaurant of the vibrant namesake neighborhood, already garnering national accolades including Eater’s Best Restaurants in America and USA Today’s 50+ standout restaurant openings in 2018. This is, in part, very much due to its stellar cast.

The sophomore restaurant from one of the city’s most beloved hospitality duos is as much a culinary triumph as it is a family affair. The stars that shine here are part of a legacy that chef Nina Compton and her partner, Larry Miller, work tirelessly to cultivate. If you’ve ever worked for them, you’re family. It is a rare thing in this business but an integral ingredient to their success.

And just as chef and co-owner, Levi Raines, worked his way up from Compere Lapin’s sous-chef to main the kitchen at BAB–adding his contemporary American twists to the mix of cultures that have made this family’s dishes so successful–so has the bartender that crafted and curated the cocktails that pair with said dishes.

Bar manager Crystal Pavlas had been a bartender at CL from the beginning, and had worked her way up to managerial status before she got an unexpected but delightful phone call.

“I was speechless when chef called me at 7:00 one morning” she recalls, “‘We want you to run the bar program’ and I was like ‘Are you f***ing kidding me?!”

The Belle Chasse native has a business administration degree from UNO but confesses that her passion is bartending, a craft that she has been honing for the last 15 years.

Crystal is as edgy as she is whimsical, commanding as much attention when she concocts your drinks as the chefs that waltz in the open kitchen behind the bar.

The Take Flight is a variation of one of her favorite classic cocktails, the Aviation. Traditionally, the drink uses gin as the base spirit and it’s mixed with maraschino, creme de violet and a little lime juice. Her take uses an introductory mezcal for its approachable versatility.

“I use Vida Mezcal. It’s a softer intro mezcal. It’s very feminine and has a lot of tropical notes like banana, so I paired it with passion fruit,” she explains.

The beautiful indigo-hued libation is garnished with a grapefruit twist, reminiscing of a bird taking flight.

Take Flight ($12)

  • 1.25 Oz del Maguey Vida Mescal
  • .75 Oz Giffard’s Passion Fruit Liqueur
  • .5 Oz Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
  • .5 Oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Grapefruit Garnish

Pour all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake. Strain and pour in a Nick and Nora glass.

Born in Madrid, raised in Miami, bred in New Orleans: Paula is a gregarious locavore always in search of a good cocktail and a great story. She won an Emmy for her kitchen production work while at NBCUniversal, and was nominated for a second one while working as the Associate Producer for PBS's Check, Please! South Florida with host, James Beard Award Winner, Chef Michelle Bernstein. While she worked as the Miami editor for national digital food and drink powerhouse, Tasting Table, she was chosen by Tom Colicchio as one of his secret diners for Bravo's Best New Restaurant. Food...

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