Chatting with Kevin Govindin of Gentlemen 1919
World Best Bar
Mar 05, 2019
26 November 2020
The bar is all about enjoying a great drink, especially in the fumoir, in good company. And great drinks he makes, Kevin shakes up innovative sur mesure cocktails in seconds with an eye to perfection – little wonder he’s made a name for himself as a barman to watch in France.
Yet things could have been very different if he hadn’t taken the plunge and launched himself headfirst into the bar industry. He works with charm, speed and a smile as he talks about how he ended up in the world of cocktails, future projects and the makings of a gentleman…
You started off as a pâtissier, what made you decide to change to this career?
I started out working in patisserie when I was 15, I fell into it by chance if I’m honest but I quickly became really passionate about it. After six years, my passion started to fade though. I decided to move over to bartending and cocktails because it has the same skills, being precise and meticulous, but it’s much more about working with people.
I did my training at Le Meurice (a luxury hotel in Paris) where I learned about excellent service and classic cocktails, and after I had the chance to perfect my techniques at Forum.
How did you end up at Gentlemen 1919 and what attracted you to this bar?
It was a friend and regular who put me in contact with the bar. During the interview I immediately fell for Gentlemen 1919. The concept is awesome. It’s a bar which breathes class, indulgence and savoir-vivre: all things I love.
How do you define the Gentlemen concept?
It’s definitely about a code of conduct, the way you live your life and the things you enjoy. Here it’s about authenticity, and taking pleasure in the finer things in life, especially over a good drink.
What do you want to create here? What’s coming next?
The future of Gentlemen 1919? Well, the bar is already about top quality spirits and cigars, and this is at the heart of the menu and what we do, but we’ll be working more on pairings between the two. There are more surprises in the pipeline too but you’ll have to wait and see!
How do you make the bar somewhere customers will want to stay?
With a place like this and the great customers we have, it’s easy to create a friendly, relaxed environment, I’d say it kind of happens by itself – especially in the fumoir with a cigar!
What inspires you when you’re inventing cocktails?
To be honest my inspiration comes from what my clients are asking for and, of course, I try to come up with drinks that pair with cigars. I’m always trying to make cocktails that are simple and balanced without overdoing it on ingredients. I work a lot with infusions, I find they really enhance the flavours of the alcohol.
What do you think of the bar scene in Paris? How has it changed in the last few years?
The bar scene in Paris… I feel more and more disillusioned truthfully. There are more bars than ever in the city, so more barmen than ever. In turn there are more people wanting to make cocktails but they forget that at the heart our job is about service and building that connection with customers. Of course, there are some really good bars here in Paris but the ones that stand out for me are rare and I haven’t tried them all! (laughs)
Where do you like to go out for a drink?
I don’t go out that often really but I do have a little soft spot for UC-61 where I used to work…
Any words of wisdom for someone wanting to get started in this industry?
Don’t skip the basics: nail the classic cocktails, good service and keeping the bar clean. Once you’ve got these essentials covered then think about where you want to head next, like finding a specialist bar if you want. Above all it’s about having fun and making other people happy – enjoy it!
And the best and worst parts of the job?
I think the best thing about being this job is meeting new people and getting to know them. The worst? Where do I start! (More laughter) Well, don’t drink too much behind the bar, if there’s one thing to keep in mind then it’s this!
If you could only choose one alcohol to work with, which would you pick?
Hmm, definitely whisky! It’s incredibly flavourful and aromatic, and let’s not forget how many different types there are to try! It’ll keep me going for a while!