A French-Inspired Summer Garden Party

Lillet, Maman, and Blake Lively's lifestyle brand Preserve host an outdoor fête in SoHo

French country in the city: The outdoor patio at Maman during its spring entertaining event with Lillet and Preserve.
French country in the city: The outdoor patio at Maman during its spring entertaining event with Lillet and Preserve.
A Lillet Rosé cocktail at the party.
A Lillet Rosé cocktail at the party.

What better way to kick off aperitif season than with an intimate gathering at one of downtown Manhattan’s chicest cafés? When Maman (which we profiled in this recent home tour) revealed its charming outdoor patio—scheduled to open later this summer—it was only natural that Lillet would choose to host its annual National Aperitif Day party there and invite a few friends to join in on the fun. To celebrate a season of alfresco cocktails and outdoor entertaining, the iconic French spirits brand teamed up with Maman co-owners Benjamin Sormonte and Elisa Marshall and the team at Preserve, the online lifestyle shop owned by actress Blake Lively, for a floral-filled garden fête.

Maman co-owner Elisa Marshall.
Maman co-owner Elisa Marshall.
A series of wood steps leads to the café's outdoor patio.
A series of wood steps leads to the café's outdoor patio.
A Pre-Summer Garden Party in SoHo

The event’s ambiance—a rustic-chic vibe influenced by both the café’s interiors and Lillet’s French heritage—channels Marshall’s own design inclinations. “Event planning always starts with the space—it’s the one element you can’t change,” she says, drawing from her previous background as a wedding planner to curate a richly atmospheric setting. Her design process includes creating mood boards for each party, large and small: “It creates a unified vision that can be shared with everyone involved, from the person making the invitations to the florist.” Naturally, her mood board for this party emphasized plentiful flowers, repurposed decor elements, and attention to the tiniest of details.

“What people remember most are the small things—the way you fold the napkins, the type of cutlery you use, the garnishes on the food,” says Marshall. Assorted vintage flatware and tableware were used as serving pieces; florals and foliage were positioned on serving trays;  and everyday household items such as terracotta pots and mason jars became added layers to the displays. “Creating different heights with flowers is important—you don’t want them all at the same level as the food,” Marshall explains.

A display of savory bites with bottles of Lillet Rouge.
A display of savory bites with bottles of Lillet Rouge.
A wicker picnic basket doubles as rustic decor element.
A wicker picnic basket doubles as rustic decor element.
A Pre-Summer Garden Party in SoHo

This technique was used with both the floral arrangements—a hand-picked mix of peonies, spray roses, alstroemeria, and dogwood branches from the flower market—and the food, a menu of savory and sweet bites by Maman chef Armand Arnal incorporating Lillet’s three varieties (Blanc, Rosé, and Rouge). Of course, given that this was a French-inspired affair, a cheese board accompanied by an assortment of breads and fruit took center stage on the outdoor patio.

Vintage crates and flowering branches add height on a party table.
Vintage crates and flowering branches add height on a party table.

Signature cocktails were created for the occasion by Lillet brand ambassador Claire Needham. The most popular drink of the night was Needham’s Le Vert Cooler, a refreshing summer aperitif involving muddled grapes, thyme, elderflower liquor, and Lillet. The party was the perfect opportunity for Preserve to spotlight their new floral fashion collection, and guests were invited to shop the looks—rounding out a night of cocktails and canapés in a magical setting.

A Pre-Summer Garden Party in SoHo

Le Vert Cooler

“The bright green colors in the drink make this a beautiful cocktail—the presentation is already done for you,” says mixologist Claire Needham. “And it’s extremely easy to prepare ahead, so you have more time to mingle with your guests!”  

2 parts Lillet Blanc
10 muddled grapes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ ounce St Germain
1 part sparkling wine

Add the first four ingredients to a mason jar and lightly muddle thyme and grapes. Fill the jar with ice and screw on the lid. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Remove lid and top with sparkling wine. Add a straw and enjoy.

A Pre-Summer Garden Party in SoHo
HOW TO CREATE A CHEESE PLATE LIKE AN EXPERT

The owners of Francophile haven Maman share their tips on assembling the ideal party platter.

 

  • BALANCE FLAVORS

    Keep the stronger varieties (aged or blue cheeses) to a minimum—you don’t want too many overpowering flavors on one plate.

  • MIX IT UP

    Varying textures—soft, hard, a log of goat cheese—keeps things interesting and is visually appealing.

  • ADD COLOR

    If you only supply bread and cheese, your display will be monotone. Incorporate fruit and extra foliage from your floral arrangements.

  • HAVE FUN WITH FLATWARE

    There’s no rule that you have to use cheese knives with a cheese plate. Instead, choose styles that work with your decor.

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