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Remy Savage is one of the most positive and creative bartenders in the Universe. He travelled across many countries, but still stays a real French, a true patriot, though he works in London. His professional career started in Lyon where he helped his family at Irish pub. But being a true artist, he tried himself in different fields. Gained a degree in philosophy, travelled a lot and then came back to bartending in order to become one of the best in the profession.
He worked for famous Parisian Little Red Door bar bringing it to the top. Now he heads Artesian – a legendary bar placed in London. Remy is the best European mixologist 2018 according to prestigious Mixology Bar Awards. We got acquainted at previous Awards in 2017 in Berlin. But I managed to make interview with him only by now. I was lucky to meet him in Moscow during World Class Night, a final of a second stage of “Back to the Future” educational program for bartenders by Diageo Reserve World Class Russia 2019. Remy was a referee there. And conversation turned to be quite amusing. Take a look!
Secret of a good mood
Remy, do you think it is easy to stay positive all the time? When you are bartender you have to be cheerful. So, is it your personality trait or is it a mask you put on during your working hours?
Well, I could do a long answer and a short answer. First of all I don’t think you have to stay positive all the time. It is nice thing, but you don’t always have to be at your best mood. Actually I like people and I like serving them, so this is very easy for me to be positive because its genuine sense of liking to serve the people. Sometimes something is not going right and you don’t have to stay positive, you have to stay professional. And especially trifling with the guests, it’s ok to be done.
Yes, but people coming to a bar want some kind of show, some positive atmosphere. So, when you have bad mood, you just put on a smile. A kind of self-training.
Still for me it’s kind of opposite, because if I am in a bad mood, I go behind the bar and get a good mood. If I am behind a bar, I am happy, because I do what I like. I think it’s very easy for me. And I think there is only one good advise. If you are behind the bar and you don’t like your day, don’t go behind the bar. Just do what you like and you going to be in a good mood.
And what do you think are other important non-professional skills bartender should have besides this?
You have to be on time and you have to work out. And this is the hardest thing. Usually the great bartender is the one who doesn’t get stuck on one element, he moves on and just works out whatever it is. So, be nice, be on time, work out.
And don’t get drunk.
Exactly. Just keep it under control, if you don’t want to get drunk every day, just do not do that.
When you love people
Do you think it is important for bartender to be a bit of psychologist? To understand what really people want, how do they react?
I think it is important to know how to interact with people. To be very open and genuine. You don’t have to be psychologist, you just have to be interested in people. And sometimes it’s just forgotten, that genuine interaction, genuine interest in them makes sense. Just ask people, how do they feel? It’s very important to listen. But that’s not only about bartending, it’s about life in general.
Could you bring some examples with epic fails from your practice? When you make a cocktail and people say: “Oh no, it’s not what I expected”.
That happens all the time. It’s a daily job! Epic fails I have, they are more about technical stuff. One day I was double shaking, I think just to impress someone. Then I hit myself in an eye. I was trying to put some ice, but I was all in a blood, and it was quite embarrassing. As to the drinks, usually I don’t have them coming back but people not liking their drinks is all the time. If you trying to do something new, to push some kind of boundaries, people usually do not accept it. But it’s fine. As long as they leave happy, I’m happy.
Bar anthropology: drinking culture
As far as I know, you travel a lot. Can you comment on preferences in alcohol in different countries?
Something I am really interested in is drinking habits. I like anthropology and I like to observe the dynamic of social gathering from one country to another. For example in France the story happens in a market. In the U.K. it is in a pub. Pub is a place where you go to exchange stuff. And in the U.K. they drink a lot. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. everybody is drunk. In France the bars are full at 10 o’clock in the morning and people are drinking small glasses of wine or a half of half of beer. So it is a whole day drinking process. And in Russia I do not know yet.
Here we do not have that kind of culture like in France. Our drinking habits are different. Yes, Russians drink a lot, usually while celebrating. And mostly hard spirits like vodka, cognac and home made distillates. Much depends on mood and situation. We really stick to traditions. And when we celebrate, everyone has to drink. But in everyday life, during working days we prefer soft drinks like tea or coffee.
I think it is very interesting. And much here depends on geography. For example if you go to the south of Italy, people are outside and all day long they are drinking. Actually, people do not like to work all around the world, but there is a difference how they spend time in different countries.
And what is your favourite?
I think Mediterranean region: France, Italy, Spain. There is an amazing sense of freedom. It’s Tuesday 10 o’clock and bars are full of people who are not working, I think it’s the most refreshing, the most sexy and alife kind of lifestyle.
But the only people who work hard there are bartenders as they have to serve all that crowd.
And could you point out some bars you like most of all around the world where you come as a guest? For example if I go to Paris, what would you recommend me?
First, I would recommend you Le Syndicat. They are serving only French alcohol. And they were the first bar in the world to do this. Behind the bar there is only cognac, Armagnac and other local stuff. And I think it is very cool. What else? The most fun when you go to Paris is to get super drunk in bistros and then go singing karaoke in the weirdest parts of the city. Also there is district called Pigalle, very interesting, a little bit dangerous, but worthy of visiting local cocktail bars: Lulu White, Lipstick, Glass, Dirty Dick – visit all of them.
What about London?
In London you need to go to pubs, one hundred percent. There is a place called Wigmore, it’s next to the hotel where I work. And it’s amazing. Not quite new, but it has traditional British ales and British food like cheese toasties and pies. And it’s great when its cold and rainy outside, you rush in and have a pint and a pie. As to the bars in London I like the Connaught, it is a hotel bar. And in terms of hospitality they are going to be the first in the world. The sweetest, the nicest staff and they do everything for you very-very lovely. What else do I like in London? There is a bar called Satan’s Whiskers, it’s in my neighborhood, quite rough. And in this bar makes really nice drinks.
And what about Asia?
Asia is big and different. I like Tokyo. But it is different because it is universe of its own. I like the Bar Ben Fiddich. It is very cocktailly, it is very small. A traditional Japanese bar. What else? Beer bars, karaoke bars is what you have to see there.
“When I grow up…”
Do you love cocktails bars? Or you prefer some atmospheric places?
I don’t think one can not be the other. And I think for when I grow up and open a bar it have to be all together. It would be a bistro, a bar, an atmospheric bar…
So you started your career in France?
Yes, in Lyon. But in pubs. Five years I was working in an Irish pub with my sister and my dad. And then I met a girl. And she made me move to Oxford because of her job. I did a little bit of studying there. I studied philosophy. And then I started working with cocktails. I think it was a kind of transition. After all these pubs I wanted to make a real job. So after finishing my studies I started cocktails. Then I moved to Asia for a year and a half, to Bangkok. And then back to Paris. I worked for Little Red Door for five years and then moved to London for year and a half.
And why London?
First of all I like it. And after working for 5 or 6 years at the same place you’ve done it. And I think one day I needed a bigger platform, so I moved on. And now it is a big bar, it’s a big challenge, an old place with big history. And I think it is really exciting.
Do you like London?
Yes it’s fine, but I miss France at the moment. I think it’s mainly because it’s raining all the time. Still London is beautiful. Very green, there is a lot of outside space and the city is very diverse. Like Moscow a little bit. You have new buildings, you have old buildings, and all that red bricks. I like it.
Remy Savage and his life priorities
Do you think you could move to Russia if you have a good job offer here?
Now I have a daughter and my priority is to be a good dad. So probably for consultancy or just for a project, for sure. But not for a long-term job.
If you choose between Lyon and Paris, what would you get?
Lyon for sure! It’s a wonderful city famous for its food. And I like food.
Ok, the last question, what is your favorite movie?
I like watching movies. One of my favorite is “Coffee and cigarettes” by Jim Jarmusch. It is very atmospheric, aesthetic is wonderful.
My point is to show you as a personality, that’s why I ask such type of questions.
Sounds good. Thanks!
All photos are courtesy the hero. Taken from Remy Savage FaceBook page.
This post is also available in: Русский (Russian)