Inside the iconic Grand Floridian Resort and Spa at Walt Disney World is one of Disney’s most renowned restaurants, Victoria and Albert. Since 2000, the fine-dining restaurant has won prestigious awards like the AAA Five Diamond Award and the Forbes Travel Guide Star Award, largely due to its excellent wine pairing program. But after being closed for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria and Albert reopened with a brand new soft drink menu, with mocktails for the sober… or sober-curious crowd.
Although the team at Victoria and Albert’s weren’t cooking every night for an intimate dining room full of guests while it was closed, they were busy revamping the menu and working on plans for the new cocktail couple at the zero test. As a result, non-drinking patrons who can secure a coveted reservation at the restaurant have the option of indulging in a prix fixe menu that starts at $295 while adding all nine drinks. zero proof cocktail pairing for an additional $110. (For those in the dining room who soak in, the wine pairing menu starts at $150.)
But what exactly goes into creating a zero-proof cocktail pairing menu for Disney’s most elegant dining experience? Israel Perez, maitre d’ and sommelier at Victoria and Albert’s, and Gabriella Syvaniemi, sous chef at the recently reopened restaurant, say plans for the new beverage offering have been in the works for some time.
“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Perez told Yahoo Life. “We want everyone to have a similar experience with pairings, and there are a lot of guests who can’t drink alcohol, so we wanted to do an alcohol-free menu.”
Creating zero-proof drinks that are more than just sweet, one-note concoctions is what Syvaniemi does best. “Since I work in the kitchen in addition to helping with menu development, it’s a good look at what’s going to match and what flavors are going to complement each other,” she says.
For those who would like to sample what Syvaniemi and his team mix up in the kitchen without committing to a full deal, Perez says guests can order a single zero-proof drink, even if the menu doesn’t list the drinks as singular options. (Individual drink prices are not currently listed on the Victoria and Albert menu.)
Perez says creating the new pairing menu took about two months and went through a few sweeter iterations before the final menu was developed. “We retained some of the essence or spirit of my drinks,” he says, “but it wasn’t until Gabriella joined the team that we were able to balance those drinks and make them more ‘one-dimensional.’
Syvaniemi says the drink menu at Victoria and Albert’s will always evolve. She is constantly trying to make things better, bring out another flavor component, and make sure the fruit used doesn’t change in taste with the changing seasons. “It’s always taste, taste, taste,” she says, “and just change the development of the drink. We’re starting this program, [but] the sky really is the limit.”
Syvaniemi also mentions that the menu will change seasonally depending on what produce is at its peak and what flavors the team is able to add to the mix. For fall, the team may be looking to add warm spices or winter fruits like cranberries.
So what exactly will those who choose not to drink try if they can get a reservation at the popular restaurant? At a recent dinner party at Victoria and Albert’s, I tried the complete zero-proof drink combination and was pleasantly surprised. From savory jasmine to spicy guajillo pepper, here are the flavors on the current pairing menu.
Yuzu Mineral Seltzer
This drink is made with a combination of Badoit naturally carbonated French mineral water, fresh citrus zest, yuzu, juniper, parsley and rosemary. It comes with a course of Belgian royal caviar and cauliflower panna cotta.
Tomatillos and melon
Tomatillos and Melon combines the tangy, lemony taste of green tomatillos and the fresh taste of honeydew melons. It is served with Danish hiramasa trevallies, carrots and sweet potatoes from Okinawa.
With the dish of wild turbot, fennel and young leeks, a sweet drink that highlights the peaches is served. Vin de Pêche is made with fresh peaches, lemon juice, orange blossom water and white verjuice – a juice from unripe, unfermented grapes.
Basmati with lychee
Leaning on Asian flavors, the Lychee Basmati. Similar to a light and flavorful sake, the drink is made from a tea of flowers, nuts, and spices, then topped up with Asian pears, lemongrass, Thai basil, and lychee fruit. The drink is paired with Glacier 51 toothfish, charred mushrooms and spicy sambal.
After the light and floral Lychee Basmati, the Guajillo Spice is a leap across the spectrum. The drink combines roasted guajillo peppers, black peppercorns, and charred jalapeños with fresh lime and turbinado sugar for a flavorful, smoky sip. It comes with Green Circle chicken, Australian black truffle and corn.
Le Cassis is Victoria and Albert’s attempt to deconstruct a glass of Bordeaux wine. It uses cassis fruit, vanilla, peppercorns and black tea to strike the balance between sweet fruit and tannins, and is paired with lamb, pickled blueberries and purple mustard.
The 1711 is a riff on a classic English milk punch, made with coconut milk, lime and pineapple juice. The drink takes 48 hours to make and comes out perfectly clear like a glass of white wine. The 1711 comes with wagyu Miyazaki A-5, potato rösti and romesco sauce.
Along with the cheese course, which prepares your taste buds for four dessert courses, comes Sauternes, a riff on the sweet French wine of the same name. The drink is made with the essence of white raisins with a concentration of dried apricots and peaches.
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