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March 23, 2019

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A French cocktail bar with a twist in its mix

HAVE you ever wondered what France would taste like? Le Syndicat, a Paris cocktail bar, ranked 24th on the World’s Best 50 Bars’ list, has created a menu paying homage to 15 of the French capital’s monuments, including Versailles, the Louvre and Moulin Rouge.

Head bartenders Giovanni Allario and Juliette Larrouy brought the flavor of France to Shanghai last week. The two were behind the bar at the Portman Ritz-Carlton for a pop-up event from 7pm to late.

The bar is famous for its devotion to French ingredients. And during their six-day stay in Shanghai, Allario and Larrouy stayed true to all things Gallic.

“If you think about countries that have a long history and tradition in spirits, then France is one of them,” said Allario. “Yet in the world of cocktails, French ingredients aren’t domineering.”

It’s the Le Syndicat team’s wish to reverse the scene and put the spirits of France back on the cocktail map of the world. And they did that with Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados, Marc de Bourgogne, Absinthe and gentian-based bitters. A modern twist was added to these traditional French drinks to give them a bit more life.

For example, Opera Garnier is a modern twist on the classic Sidecar cocktail. They took a cocktail and modernized it by adding some orange blossom to lighten it. Then a smoking pipe was used to add the flavour of smoked orange bark to add some complexity to the experience.

“Two customers that had drinks in Le Syndicat last summer came to our pop-up event especially,” said Allario. “This means we are doing something right, not just about drinks but also on the atmosphere that made them want to come back.”

“This is why I like being a bartender, meeting people from all over the world, screaming ‘bonsoir’ in the background music and make me feel at home,” he said.

Allario and Larrouy chose six distinctive drinks from the bar menu for Shanghai customers. Among them were cafe Germain, Champs-Elysees and Peach Don’t Kill My Vibe.

“Peach Don’t Kill My Vibe is the most popular one among the staff,” said Allario.

It’s a green, fresh drink, inspired by La Cite De La Mode Ed du Design, with a long cucumber slice to create a look of architecture while adding freshness alongside the peach.

“We try to bring a signature flavor while making sure to have something international that will be liked by the majority,” said Larrouy. “I noticed customers like a fruity taste in Shanghai, so cafe Germain is quite popular.”

Allario and the team of Le Syndicat spent months on the streets of Paris finding monuments and creating corresponding drinks. But what would Shanghai taste like in the bartenders’ eyes?

“The drink should have a sweet and salty balance and a delicate taste,” said Allario. “As it is the vibe of Shanghai. It’s a busy city but you can see people are not in a rush. They seem to have time to think.”

For Larrouy, the Chinese food she tried during her stay provided a lot of inspiration. She might choose ingredients that remind her of tea and salty food.

Allario and Larrouy also shared an easy homemade cocktail recipe called Americano.

One part red vermouth, one part Campari, one part gin, then squeeze some orange slices and, voila! You have your potion.

“It’s a simple recipe with many variations,” said Allario. “If you want it to be more light you can add sparkling water instead of gin.”

While they both enjoy their job as bartenders it is a physically demanding job. On average 400 drinks are concocted on a regular night.

“It’s something people wouldn’t expect from bartenders,” said Allario. “You are not allowed to be tired. Even if you are troubled you need act like there’s nothing wrong.”

Having traveled all the way from the other side of the world, they also need to be at their best for their customers.

“But it’s totally worthwhile. We get to travel the world,” said Larrouy.

“A short stay in the Portman Ritz-Carlton provided a change of view because the customers here aren’t young people looking for party. They’re business people,” said Allario. “A group of customers that we don’t see a lot in Le Syndicat.”

For cocktail lovers that missed the event, Portman Ritz-Carlton do plan to hold more pop-up bars featuring one of the World’s Best 50 Bars in the future.


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