Meet Camille Ralph Vidal, Global Ambassador for St-Germain Liqueur, and Lily Kwong, Creative Director and Landscape Artist.

In Los Angeles, a star-studded crowd including Olivia Culpo, Dita Von Teese, Eric Balfour, Natasha Bedingfield and Michelle Trachtenberg celebrated with landscape artist and creative director Lily Kwong at the L.A. debut of Maison St-Germain, where she turned a botanical fantasy into a reality. The exclusive private event, which took place at the iconic Houdini Estate, incorporated elements of magical realism and mystique throughout the five-acre property for guests to explore.

Maison St-Germain is a celebration of St-Germain, the world’s first French liqueur, made from elderflower blossoms handpicked at the height of their beauty. Lily’s romantic-yet-whimsical journey honors the joyful decadence of summer indulgence, with an opportunity for guests to enjoy a rare fleeting moment of exuberance in the spirit of 1920s années folles.

Guests mingled inside the Maison made completely of illuminated flowers, while sipping on specialty cocktail pairings by St-Germain global ambassador Camille Ralph Vidal. Here’s what the ladies told Chilled about this fascinating partnership.

Talk to us about the overall concept of Maison St-Germain. What is the goal of the collaboration?

Camille Ralph Vidal: I am so excited for the L.A. debut of Maison St-Germain at the Houdini Estate after launching in NYC on the summer solstice (6/21) at the High Line! In celebration of the thousand elderflowers in every bottle of St-Germain, we have partnered with landscape designer and visionary Lily Kwong, who turned a botanical fantasy into reality. Honoring Harry Houdini’s legacy, Maison St-Germain LA incorporates elements of magical realism and mystique throughout the five-acre estate, including bespoke magicians, a stimulating performance by No)one. Art House, improvisational sound art by Patrick Belaga, and a secluded section for Celtic tarot reading. Vintage black and white films were projected in tucked away gazebos, with the creation of a ‘Maison’ made completely out of light for guests to experience while exploring the sprawling grounds at the iconic Houdini Estate. With a nod to her installation for Maison St-Germain in New York, where she created a larger than life 16th century-style outdoor labyrinth furnished from live hedges and various flora and fauna, Lily’s take for LA includes discovery moments throughout the Laurel Canyon property.

Built in the Edwardian tradition in the early 1900s, the Houdini Estate still has caves, hidden tunnels, and terraced gardens, where Lily cultivated an immersive discovery experience for modern bon vivants who seek life in full bloom, using plant life as a medium to tell a story that will leave a lasting impression. Her romantic-yet-whimsical journey celebrates the joyful decadence of summer indulgence, with an opportunity for guests to enjoy a rare fleeting moment of exuberance in the spirit of 1920s années folles.

Lily Kwong: I was deeply inspired by the project site: the historic Houdini Mansion. The 5-acre estate was home to one of the most famous illusionists of all time, and I incorporated elements of magical realism and mystique throughout the space. I wanted to layer the landscape with dynamic performances and art pieces ranging from dance to archival ‘magic’ projected films to a sound installation featuring sacred tones.

I wanted to use a more restricted floral palette for the Los Angeles installation, and focus more on playful shapes and composition than diversity. The botanical art is more avant-garde, with less of a color and species range. Since there is a lot going on in the Houdini Mansion gardens already, the florals are meant to pop out and nod to the property’s whimsical roots.

Why did you want to partner with St-Germain?

Lily Kwong: I was inspired by St-Germain’s process. Each bottle of the French liqueur is composed of 1,000 delicate handpicked elderflowers that are all harvested by hand in a short two-week window. My work as a landscape designer has a real human touch and is all about harmony with nature, and I felt very aligned with St-Germain’s method. I also was drawn to collaborating with a brand that was truly supportive of artists-for both projects I was empowered to pull in creatives like artistic director Mafalda Millies, Solange Knowles’ favorite contemporary dance group No)one. Art House, botanical artists like Jeff Leatham and Lani Trock, choreographer Nathan Mitchell, visual artist Morale Turgeman. The list goes on and on.

Tell us more about your inspiration for honoring Harry Houdini’s legacy with lights.

Lily Kwong: The “Light Maison” is special. We’ve constructed a 2,500 square foot house made out of neon lights on the main lawn in a traditional chateau style as a nod to St-Germain’s French roots. I was inspired by the Calder show currently at the Whitney Museum, and I’ve collaborated with renowned florist Jeff Leatham to install hanging orchids that capture the feeling of the sculptor’s famous mobiles.

Tell us a bit about the NYC launch last month.

Lily Kwong: St-Germain approached me to come on board to the project as a Creative Director. They knew they were doing an event on the High Line on the Summer Solstice, but were looking for a creative to bring their brand story to life. My experience is grounded in landscape design. The concept grew out of this idea – in the end, we installed over 13,000 flowers and 200 linear feet of green walls on the High Line. I use landscape as a vehicle to connect with other art forms, and was excited to pull in friends and collaborators to add another dimension to the greenscape.

I tapped Artistic Director Mafalda Millies and choreographer Nathan Mitchell to create the “The-Solar-Do-Nothing-Dance,” in honor of the solstice and of Eames’ invention that turned solar energy into electricity. My inspiring friend Mia Moretti, part of the all-female arts collective Chez Conversations, was on the 1s and 2s on opening night. My longtime collaborator, stylist Laura Jones, stepped up to dress our St-Germain team in all sustainable clothing. St Germain really empowered me to express my design vision, and in the process gave a platform to so many gifted artists to create an extraordinary installation on one of New York’s most iconic landmarks.

How has this partnership impacted the brand?

Camille Ralph Vidal: My experience collaborating with Landscape Artist Lily Kwong as creative director for St-Germain’s first-ever brand-owned project at this large of a scale has been utterly awe-inspiring. For Maison St-Germain, we knew we wanted to launch on the summer solstice on the High Line in NYC to celebrate the joyful decadence of summer indulgence. We wanted to tap someone with a creative background, who understood our brand aesthetic in the spirit of 1920s années folles, and can bring it to life with a modern interpretation.

As a landscape artist and urban planner, Lily’s vision was to cultivate an immersive discovery experience for modern bon vivants who seek life in full bloom. She successfully took our brand story of the thousands of delicate handpicked elderflowers that create St-Germain, and brought it to life using plant life as a medium to tell a beautiful and breathtaking story.

I worked on a signature cocktail with Lily inspired by her work called the “Labyrinthe,” which was inspired by the 16th century hedge maze entrance leading up to the Maison. I created a cocktail featuring bright kaffir lime flavors for summer. In Lily’s words, “The goal of the maze was to usher people into a new, extraordinary reality: a world where flowers burst from the ceiling, dancers reflect the sun and every turn offers a new surprise.” And similarly, the cocktail is a journey for the senses.

The Labyrinthe is a versatile cocktail that pairs well with a range of different menus. With Lily’s love for tequila and a “not-too-sweet” drink’s composition, I incorporated Cazadores Blanco Tequila to balance the cocktail with the fruity notes of the fresh elderflower blossoms of St-Germain.

Any projects coming up?

Lily Kwong: This year, I am designing the landscape masterplan for Shou Sugi Ban House – a 3-acre retreat center next to the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, which is scheduled to be installed in 2018.

What should someone who has never heard of St-Germain know about the brand?

Camille Ralph Vidal: Each bottle of St-Germain is made up of 1000 delicate elderflower blossoms handpicked once a year in Europe. Also, did you know where the color of St-Germain comes from? The beautiful gold that shines in our Parisian bottle is derived from the pollen from our fresh elderflower blossoms! Oui St~Germain is a natural liqueur — no preservatives, no artificial coloring!

Here are the cocktails that were being served throughout the evening:

Labyrinthe

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Cazadores Blanco Tequila
  • 1 oz. Kaffir Lime Infused St-Germain French Elderflower Liqueur
  • 3/4 oz. Noilly Dry
  • 1/4 oz. of Fresh Lime Juice
  • 5 dashes Chartreuse

Preparation: Shaken in a coupette. Garnish with kaffir lime leaf.

“I wanted something green inspired by the French maze entrance leading into the Maison, as that was Lily’s vision for Maison St-Germain. Lily loves tequila with a sour drink’s composition. With my interpretation of her work, I wanted to create something structured with her taste profile in mind, a cocktail with both elegance and character. Kaffir lime is such a beautiful bright flavor that goes so well with the fruity notes of the fresh elderflower blossoms of St-Germain. The dry vermouth adds some interesting wine notes, complemented by the French herbal flavor from the chartreuse verte.”
– Camille Ralph Vidal, St-Germain Global Ambassador


Abeille Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Beeswax DEWARS 12 Blended Scotch Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. St-Germain French Elderflower Liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Orange Twist Discard
  • Nasturtium Flowers

Preparation: Combine ingredients in rocks glass.

“Bees are essential in the ecosystem and I wanted to create a cocktail to celebrate that. The Abeille is a modern twist on the classic old fashioned recipe, with notes from whisky, St-Germain and beeswax blending together to create something both rich with flavor and so delicious.”
– Camille Ralph Vidal, St-Germain Global Ambassador


Printemps

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Oxley gin
  • 3/4 oz. St-Germain French elderflower liqueur
  • 3/4 oz. Martini Ambratto
  • 2 dashes Orange Blossom Salive Solution

Preparation: Combine ingredients in rocks glass. Garnish with basil flower (or just basil).

“The Printemps cocktail is fresh like spring – incorporating basil, orange blossom, and of course St-Germain. There is an interesting blend of botanical and floral notes with a slight bitterness.”
– Camille Ralph Vidal, St-Germain Global Ambassador


St-Germain Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Brut Champagne
  • 1 1/2 parts St-Germain French Elderflower Liqueur
  • 2 parts Sparkling Water

Preparation: Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add champagne first, then St-Germain, then club soda (the order is essential). Stir completely and garnish with a lemon twist.

“An elegant, light and refreshing aperitif. A great introduction to St-Germain as you get all the flavors of our elderflower liqueur in a very balanced cocktail.”
– Camille Ralph Vidal, St-Germain Global Ambassador