Meet Margot Lecarpentier (COMBAT), Paris’s most influential bartender
World Best Bar
May 25, 2020
10 January 2019
Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your background up until now?
I grew up in Normandy until I finished high school. After that, I got the chance to travel a lot during my studies and thanks to work. I studied Communications, then Law, and started heading towards a legal career in the cultural field. I practiced 2 years in NYC, where I first discovered cocktail culture. It was love at first sight. When I returned to France, I dropped everything to start at the Experimental Cocktail Club Paris, as a waitress at first, then as a bartender. I worked there with a team of scholars who taught me a lot. And then in 2017, COMBAT opened its doors in Belleville.
The name of your bar, COMBAT, from the name of the Belleville area where it is located, means “fight”, “battle”, in English. Can you tell us about the different fights you’ve led / that are dear to your heart?
The name of the bar is first a nod to the neighborhood: historically, the block on which we are located is called COMBAT. The name of the bar is also a tribute to the feminist struggle, which is very close to my heart. We are a bar opened by women, run by women, and open to everyone. The inclusive dimension of the establishment is very important to me. Finally, the other fight we are waging is a fight for better drinking and better eating. We constantly strive towards responsible consumption, and only offer noble products that respect the environment to our customers.
What can one expect upon entering COMBAT?
COMBAT is not a classic, speakeasy type cocktail bar, it’s actually quite the opposite. I like to describe COMBAT as a cocktail bistro. It is a very open and very bright space, with an outside terrace. On top of our signature cocktail menu, we also serve beer, wine, and small plates.
You released your book, La Bible des Alcools, a little over a year ago. What motivated you to write it? What stories did you want to tell?
La Bible des Alcools was a real challenge. With my editor Hachette, we talked a lot about the format the book should take. I wanted to write a book that would make the spirit world more accessible – when I was learning about bartending, the books I read were all so academic. My intention was to make a book that would be a good start for amateurs as well as aspiring bartenders.
What are the must-have liquors and ingredients to have at home to get the most cocktails right when starting out?
I always recommend buying at least 3 bottles of spirits: gin, rye, rum, vodka… Then some aperitifs and liqueurs. I think it’s important to practice classic recipes at home before embarking on original creations, to avoid any disappointment 😉 To do so, you need to have some vermouth, amaro, chartreuse and maraschino on hand. But the most important thing is to buy ingredients that you like. If you like the ingredients, it will be more fun to mix them!
Can you tell us one ingredient that more people should know about?
Aquavit remains largely unknown to the general public.
What about an ingredient that people know, but rarely think about?
Your favorite cocktail(s) to make at home?
A Negroni, Michelada, Americano, Suze and tonic, sweet vermouth and soda… In short, anything that’s quick to make!
Any pro tip to share with us that will impress our buddies?
Cinnamon sparks over a fiery cocktail. Watch out for your curtains!
How do you envision the future post-lockdown for COMBAT, and more broadly for the hospitality industry in France and around the world? What message would you like to send to the bartenders and bar owners who read us?
It’s hard to summarize such a topic. I could only allow myself to express wishes: that everyone can return to work in good health, that all businesses can pull through this crisis and be reunited with their customers, and that they all prosper.
You can follow Margot on Instagram @margot.combat
© Photo by Christophe Meireis