27 Jul BearChat with Colin Peter Field
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
JB: How long have you been head bartender at the Hemingway Bar?
CPF: 22 years.
JB: Hotel Ritz Paris has been closed for renovations since 2012. What have you been up to for the past 4 years?
CPF: I’ve created a program with Air France called, ‘Cocktails in the Sky’ and I present my signature cocktails to the First and Business Class passengers ; it’s great fun to talk with the travelers and crew on board and an opportunity to see the world. Since I am interested in motivating young bartenders, I am also President of the jury of Meilleur Apprenti de Francebartenders.
The graduates of this prestigious school eventually earn a university degree in this noble profession.
I am also constantly traveling since I like to discover and make sure I am utilizing the best, authentic ingredients in my cocktails. I just spent time at a monastery with the Carthusian Monks since they produce the best chartreuse.
JB: When the Ritz opens this month, will there be any noticeable changes or enhancements to the Hemingway Bar?
CPF: The Hemingway is still considered an iconic cocktail bar so we are not veering too far away from tradition, however, I am now introducing the ‘hemburger’, my Parisian version of the American sliders.
JB: I last interviewed you in April 2004 and the star high-end cocktail at the Hemingway Bar was the ‘Ritz Sidecar’ made with Vintage 1830 Champagne cognac. It was 420 Euro then (approx. $500 in 2004) and there were at least 5 sold per week. What is the price now?
CPF: It’s not about the price-what makes the ‘Ritz Sidecar’ so special is it is still made with the Vintage 1830 Champagne cognac! In 1923, Frank Meier, the charismatic bartender at the Ritz, created and introduced this cocktail and the ingredients, the tradition and the passion are in every ‘Ritz Sidecar’ we mix! Interestingly enough, right before the Ritz closed for the renovation in 2012, a gentleman ordered 6 Ritz Sidecars at 1500 Euro each.
JB: Over a decade ago, your clients loved the ‘Benderitter’named after Brigitte Benderitter, the PR Director of the French Publishing house, De Chene. It was made with champagne, ‘Essence of Ginger’ and garnished with a medallion of kumquat. Which cocktails are most requested?
CPF: If you get a cocktail named after you then you become immortal so it is an extreme honor. Years ago, two sisters used to come in quite often with their boyfriends. The Bond sisters each wanted a cocktail named after them and it would not have been politically correct to choose one sister over the other so I created a cocktail called, ‘Miss Bonde‘ (added the e to make it plural) to pay tribute to both of them. It is still one of the most popular cocktails and the people that order them are usually confident, independent and have a certain joie de vivre…
JB: In New York, microbreweries are currently a big trend. Since you are a trendsetter in your own right, what current trends most interest you and your team? What do you expect the next trend to be?
CPF: I have always tried to be on the cutting edge. Twenty two years ago, I was serving raspberry vodka. The Hemingway was the first bar in France to use frozen glasses (American bartenders were doing this much longer) and we were actually the first cocktail bar in the world to serve cucumber water to our patrons. Now, I present my guests with a variety of tomatoes on a silver tray so they can choose which tomatoes go into their ‘Hemingway Bloody Mary’. Instead of celery salt, I use fresh celery and radish. I have always been using the freshest, most natural ingredients in my garden- to- drink cocktails. I have a few new cocktails that will appear on the new menu when we reopen-I hope you don’t mind if I can’t share them with you, but I want it to be a surprise.
JB: Many chefs don’t like to deviate from their signature dishes. Where do you draw the line when making changes to our signature cocktails?
CPF: We make people whatever they want because we want the Hemingway to feel like their home. We are also genuine and try to be engaging and sincere. Many times patrons don’t know what they want to drink, but, after speaking with them, we can usually make a cocktail that suits their personality.
JB: What are some of your favorite bars in Paris at the moment?
CPF: I like the bar at the fairly new Maison Souget Hotelopposite the Moulin Rouge. The bar is similar to a boudoir and, Clara, the young, female bartender, is very creative. I also like to go to the Moonshiner which is in back of a pizzeria. It is a low-key, friendly bar and you can just relax and be yourself.
JB: Do you have any stories about famous people you can share?
CPF: Many years ago, Sharon Stone was staying at the Ritz and, when she called for a cocktail, I brought it up to her room, but her body guards answered the door. Since I thought I should deliver it to her personally, I told the 2 gentleman that there was a specific procedure to mixing the drink so they had me present it to her. When I walked in, she was standing in the middle of the room all in black. Her beauty was so mesmerizing that I could all but give her the cocktail, bow and leave.