For International Women's Rights Day, JNPR has decided to highlight a woman who has established herself on the French cocktail scene: Margot Lecarpentier. This young Norman swapped the Labor Code for the shaker in 2014, after discovering mixology in New York, where she worked as a lawyer . Today , she has nothing more to prove and is at the head of three establishments including the cocktail bar “ Combat ” located in Belleville as well as the “Petit Combat” located in the 14th arrondissement of Paris at the Food Society .
Why did you get into mixology?
I was a lawyer in New York and it was difficult for me to stay in front of a computer all day in a 35-storey tower. I no longer saw too much sense in what I was doing, I needed this return to the concrete. I'm someone who parties a lot but I was a little tired of drinking “badly”. When I arrived in the United States I noticed that they had a culture of mixology much more developed than in our country and I became passionate about this field. For a very long time, I had wanted to set up my own company, to be my own boss and to embark on this passion to make it my job.
Why the name "combat" for your bar?
So there are always two explanations: We opened Google Maps, we looked at the address of the bar and that's where we basically saw that it was marked "combat", which is the name of the neighborhood Beautiful city. Then, there is a second explanation: when we opened, it was another time... it was not at all the same as today to be a feminist. It was quite frowned upon. So we called it “combat” for the neighborhood and above all, it was a tribute to feminism.
The bar scene is often perceived as predominantly male... how do you feel about that?
It's still predominantly male, there's no doubt. On the other hand, the steam has reversed a little lately and even if there are still quite a few women, they are showing more sisterhood and female solidarity. I think the place of women in the world of mixology is much more established today, and much more respected, and that's very encouraging!
Where do you get your cocktail inspirations?
Mainly in food. I eat and cook a lot and I am also very inspired by chefs. I also draw inspiration from my travels like Copenhagen, where I love food. Ditto for Japan, the first time I went there, I came back with a full menu! I think that we are sometimes a little formatted in tastes and associations by our culture and the traditions of our country. We discover while traveling new and surprising associations!
Is a mocktail a cocktail for you?
Yes, of course! We've been working on all non-alcoholic cocktails since the opening and that's what made me know a little about myself in the sense that it was quite innovative at the time. I also think everyone is a bit tired of the soulless soft drinks that are still too often offered like sodas. For me, the alcohol-free culture is really going to be democratized in mixology.
Finally, what advice would you give to women who want to become a bartender?
First of all, you mustn't be aggressive as I have been for quite a few years in relation to unfair or sexist situations that I thought I was going through. I have changed, I have surely matured since then. Now I try to go through more pedagogy. I would also say to take advantage of the training moments because they are very important moments to gain self-confidence. It will gradually forge your style. Then it is very important to choose the bar in which you will work and to ensure that there is a climate of benevolence and listening. The bar scene can sometimes be a bit brutal, where you work late at night and you can't learn and be a good bartender if you don't feel safe. Finally, my ultimate advice is to surround yourself with other women, to create communities of support because it's not always easy. Surrounding yourself with a female team and finding other women to work with, looking for female accommodations... I think that helps a lot and encourages you to gain self-confidence.
Photo credits: Christophe Meireis