Drinkers Are Welcome at Petit Trois, Too

Bartender Danielle Motor serves up food-friendly French cocktails (and gives us a recipe)

“There’s no way people can just come in for a drink, right?” I asked Petit Trois bartender Danielle Motor. Looking around at the seriously petite eatery, located next door to chefs Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo’s other hotspot restaurant Trois Mec and serving a formidable French menu of its own, dropping in for just a drink seems highly unlikely.

You figure with only 21 seats, no reservations taken, and classic dishes like steak tartare and Boursin-filled omelettes being the main attraction, all those bar stools would be taken up by diners. The small standing room-only space by the restaurant’s entrance accommodates drinkers who are most likely either waiting for their reservation at Trois Mec, or for a seat at Petit Trois. Such a shame, I thought, considering Motor’s previous bartending experience at The Hungry Cat is reflected in her food-friendly drinks.

Yet Motor swears that people can, and have, come off the street for a cocktail. “You don’t have to be hungry. Just come in and have a drink,” she said. Her 10-cocktail menu—inspired by the restaurant’s classic French cooking, her French grandmother, and her memories of Paris—is certainly motivation enough for any Francophile to brave the crowd.

“Each drink is really special like the food,” said Motor. “It has a memory to it and some story behind it.” Her Bellocq’s Shot cocktail, named after a turn-of-the-century Creole photographer, is a Sazerac variation that trades the absinthe rinse for a housemade pastis sugar cube. And the Mauresque is a classic from Southern France and Chef Ludo’s favorite, made with Pernod, orgeat, lime juice, and Poire Williams pear brandy.

The only cocktail trendiness you’ll find on the cocktail menu is an infusion here, and a spiced wine reduction there. Motor says she’s not opposed to trends. “But I tend to go against the grain of the trends of what’s going on. You can get that anywhere. Come here and get something completely different.”

With no involved mixology, no tipping, (an 18 percent service charge is figured into each check), and no cash payment allowed, the wait time for freed-up seats and standing room isn’t too unbearable. “It has been a pretty smooth flow to date. No crazy lines but consistently busy,” said Krissy Lefebvre, Ludo’s partner and wife. The longest anyone has waited has been 30 minutes, but typically it’s much closer to 10. And apparently the late night Croque Monsieur has caught on.  “It has turned into a fun, little industry late night scene, coming in to get a cocktail and Croque,” said Lefebvre.

If, however, you don’t want to wait at all, try a little taste of Petit Trois at home courtesy of Motor who shared her recipe for Petit Prince, a variation on the Aviation named after writer/aviator Antoine de Saint-Expury’s novella. Note that she stirs rather than shakes the cocktail, which goes against the rule of shaking drinks with citrus and stirring those without. “This one I stir, I stir it pretty well. Purists would hate me as far as some of the things I shake and some of the things I don’t,” said Motor. “I don’t follow the rules. I don’t think any of us here do that’s why we’re a good fit.”

Petit Prince
by Danielle Motor of Petit Trois

1.75 oz Broker’s Gin
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
0.25 oz Tempus Fugit Creme de Violette

Combine the ingredients in a tin full of ice and stir it. Then strain it into a cocktail glass.

Petit Trois, 718 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038