The city of Alexandria has its eye on French tourists, and tourism officials think they’ve found the perfect way to welcome them — with a cocktail, of course.
To that end, Todd Thrasher of Alexandria speakeasy PX got a chance to mix up some of his magic with two bartenders from Paris Thursday.
PX hosted Jerome Susini and Sephora Cohen, who own Shake n’ Smash in Paris’ Marais neighborhood, for a cocktail-off of sorts. The tasting is part of a larger plan to introduce French travelers to the D.C. region’s cocktail culture: Shake ’n Smash will serve one of PX’s cocktails at a cocktail party for travel industry folks in Paris this fall.
Alexandria allocated $50,000 to the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association this year specifically to target international travelers, and ACVA is partnering with Capital Region USA to target the French market.
“Why? Because the French respond to our tourism product,” said Patricia Washington, president and CEO of ACVA. “We know from research that French visitors are looking for an authentic experience with distinct local flavor in a small-town setting, and that’s exactly what we deliver.”
The city sees approximately 25,000 visitors from France per year, and they spend approximately $20 million per year while they visit, according to ACVA data. The agency is looking to increase that number with the marketing efforts through Capital Region USA — a tourism co-promotion group made up of Destination D.C., the Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Maryland Office of Tourism.
French travelers on average spent more than 12 days in the D.C. area when they visit, and spend an average of $854 per person, according to CRUSA.
The idea for the cocktail exchange came about after CRUSA’s representative in Paris, Olivier Barthez, visited Alexandria, and more specifically PX, last year. Barthez “fell in love” with PX, and knew its style would appeal to French travelers, according to ACVA .
During Thursday’s tasting, Thrasher did his best not to disappoint, making some of his staples, including the Sweet Basil cocktail that’s been on the PX menu since the bar opened nearly nine years ago, as well as a brand new creation, a Thai-flavored cocktail called “Inspired by Pok Pok.”
Not to be outdone, Susini pulled out all the stops, including one cocktail called “On my way back from Omaha,” that involved applewood smoke, calvados and caramelized sugar apples; and other, Le Dandy, that had nearly as much garnish as it did alcohol.
If French travelers take to the PX offerings in Paris, they may also find something familiar in Alexandria, should they make the trip: Thrasher plans to put one of Shake ’n Smash’s cocktails on his menu as well.