Posted on 18/06/2016 by Mistercocktail

This Sunday is the start of the 9th edition of Cocktails & Spirits, the barshow in Paris and it is one of the most defining shows for Europe, maybe even for the world. Paris has seen a complete turn-around from lagging lightyears behind, to being one of the leading cities for cocktails in a very short matter of time. Thierry Daniel (pictured below), founder of Cocktails & Spirits has witnessed the revival of the Parisian cocktailscene from within and made a next big move by starting the Paris Cocktail Week (PCW), together with his business partner Eric Fossard. The next step starts today with the Summer Cocktail Week in Paris. I had the chance to interview Thierry in his bar Le Coq about this shift, that happened almost overnight.

Thierry_Daniel

Paris Cocktail Week is now in it’s 2nd year running and it is to build a bridge between the professional and the consumer. Paris is unique, it is one of the best scenes in the world, maybe not the best, but it’s very active, there are many nationalities, much creativity and just a great community where everybody helps each other. It’s a very good time to be working in the cocktail business.

Cocktails & Spirits is very different from PCW, as this is focussed at the professional, but ultimately the bartender is a key factor in educating the consumer. So even C&S is created with the consumer in mind, to educate the bartender. We have really seen the revolution in the scene and of course we have contributed to this but without media, bartenders and bars it would not have happened. You can’t achieve things like this all alone. C&S brought the boom of the cocktail from the US, UK, Germany etc to France – we are sometimes not very openminded and focus too much on our own culture, wine and cheese etcetera and not necessarily on cocktails and it’s important for the community to be inspired by other countries.

“The Paris Cocktail Week is very different from the one in London as cocktails are not yet mainstream in France. We are building the brand slowly, to help people discover the cocktail trends. It’s therefore very important to organise masterclasses for people to learn about cocktails and the history of drinks. At the moment we mainly follow trends, but this may change over time. Sometimes in France we think that what we think is the best, but in this case it’s not true. The trends come from the US, the UK and Germany. For us, it’s important to give inspiration and in time we can define the French culture. So in five years time, but not now, we can set trends. The world is entering the 2nd Golden Age of Cocktails and PCW is helping to build the understanding of why cocktails should be in France.

“At the same time we are rediscovering our heritage: at Le Coq we use a French ingredient in each cocktail. Le Syndicat is only using French products in their menu. It is a big trend globally to use local spirits, to rediscover their heritage. Also in France we see a come-back of Calvados, Armagnac, Cognac and Champagne, drinks that were considered old-fashioned.

“The influence of cocktails was very big at the end of the 19th century, the Boom of Paris, with the opening of some of the great hotels, L’Exposition Universelle in 1900 and the influence of the prohibition in the US. But after WWII we didn’t really recover and especially in the 80s and 90s the cocktails were really bad.

“The change came in 2007 when Experimental Cocktail Club was opened: good music, good cocktails and good value for money. It was something new and exciting. In that year we also started PCW and we realised that in order to be a leading market you need to educate. For example, we organized a masterclass last January at PCW in Le Mary Celeste about non-alcoholic cocktails. It was very unique, cocktails with the same texture, flavours and appeal as alcoholic cocktails. A bar is like a liquid kitchen and we can use many new techniques like rotavap and fermentation to push creativity. But it is important to understand all ingredients, not just the alcohol.

“The new trend in gastronomy is about experience. In good restaurants and bars it’s now all about the experience and we don’t care if that’s with or without alcohol. We need to democratize the cocktail offer, so not just based on alcohol. So PCW is for the consumer and not for the bartenders. We want to create a door to this experience and all the best bars are collaborating to achieve this. Each bar also creates two cocktails specially for PCW, one with and one without alcohol.

Before he created C&S, Thierry was working for La Maison Du Whisky, where he helped create and launch Whisky Live, one of the world’s leading events in whisky. His business partner Eric Fossard was working in London during the late 90s with icons like Nick Strangeway, Dre Masso, Henry Besant, Charles Vexenat, when the cocktail revolution started.

“It took a bit longer than we expected to reach Paris. It’s a small city, not like New York and London and we don’t change the culture so easily. For PCW we have 50 bars participating, with 15 nationalities working behind the bar.  It takes more time because we don’t have the same dynamics as Hong Kong, Singapore and London, we take it step by step, but we have changed the mentality. The bars are all run by bartenders who have become entrepeneurs. Carina [Soto Vélasquez of Glass, LMC, Candelaria] was a bartender and now owns these bars. Other examples are Olivier Bon for ECC, Joseph Biolatto with Baton Rouge, Scotty Schruder in Dirty Dick, all bars run by bartenders so it’s a different mentality. In other cities, bars are more built around the startender, so it’s a big difference.

Bars are not just to have a drink, it’s a question of lifestyle, to appreciate hospitality, to be hedonist, to take time for yourself. And bars are a culture between many cultures. It’s a link between design, architecture, music and art and they all meet with cocktails. Bars used to be focussed on drinks and now it’s about the guest and it’s very open-minded. There are no fronteers and you can eat, drink a beer, have a cocktail, go outside, come back in so it’s more based on the expecation of the guest. This is a good evolution in the market, ultimately it’s the guest who pays. There are so many links between the evolution of food and drinks, so we try to combine these in this mixture of cultures with art, music, design, architecture, chefs and bartenders. And for that, Paris Cocktail Week is unique.