25 years ago François Thibault left the world of cognac production and created his recipe for a French wheat vodka from Picardy with local spring water from Gensac. Now one of the most popular vodka brands in the world, it was only right that we talk about it Gray Goose’s quarter-century mark of dining at New York’s Michelin-starred EPIC restaurant with a stunning view of the city Thibault credits with much of the brand’s success.
Who is one of your favorite people to share a Gray Goose drink with?
Gray Goose does a lot of collaborations. Cars, gastronomy and we’re always into cinema. During the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 I met Jessica Chastain and we had a martini together. And it was great to have this moment with her because we were able to do it in Cannes, France, and represent our country. He said I was a very good actor.
When did he see you play?
I was part of a short film we did as a commercial for Gray Goose. He thought it was unique to see someone who made the spirit play a part and said I did very well as an actor playing myself for the first time. Coming from one of the most amazing actresses that was quite a compliment.
Did she offer you a role in her next film?
What was your first drink?
The wine my father used to make. There were moments with friends to have a little something here and there, but the first glass of any significance was after I started studying winemaking. I turned 18 and my father gave me a glass of wine and then the keys to our cellar where the wine was made. It was a special moment, the wine and then the keys.
What was the wine?
It was a blend of merlot and cabernet. I grew up in Cognac where we mainly grow the ugni blanc grape to make cognac, but we have some red wine grapes that people make for their own consumption. Not for sale, we don’t even talk about it. It’s for family only.
How did you go about taking on the winemaking?
There was mutual agreement in town that the wines I made were much better than the previous ones. My father also agreed.
What did you do differently?
Everything I learned in school. Healthy, new technology. I embraced anything I could to make the wine better.
What was your first cocktail?
I didn’t really drink cocktails until I started making Gray Goose. The first memorable one was here in New York. I was told I had to try a martini. So first, this was before Gray Goose, so it wasn’t a Gray Goose martini. And second, it was a heavily shaken martini. I can’t deal with it. I spent months making my vodka and I wanted to make something really elegant and you don’t want to think it’s bruised. The natural texture of Gray Goose has a silky, creamy texture. It doesn’t need to be shaken, just chilled and gently stirred for best enjoyment.
In your personal life when is it wine time and when is Gray Goose time?
It is French culture to enjoy wine during dinner. But throughout my professional life and experience I knew that Gray Goose was good for aperitifs, but then I discovered that it is the perfect thing to pair with dinner and now it has surpassed wine for me. You can make cocktails according to the type of dishes you eat. It just has to be spot on.
Did you think 25 years ago that Gray Goose would have the success it has?
So, to be very humble, I never conceived Gray Goose with the idea that it could be as popular as it is. Even if the creator takes pride and pleasure in creating the spirit at the end of the day, the judge is the consumer. And because people have accepted it and enjoyed it, I’m very proud. It is a real pleasure to have developed this vodka and then be able to share it with people all over the world. The person who does not share his passion is very selfish.
What is your proudest moment in the last 25 years of doing Gray Goose?
It’s that before my father died he saw that I made something that had a global impact. He was very proud. Everything he taught me about nature, about being humble, about the type of man I should be, I was able to take, assimilate and adapt to what I was doing.
When people enjoy Gray Goose it’s like I’m sharing my family values with them. You have to have a strong personality to build something. If you don’t have the personality or dedication, you’re just going to copy.