Be a nice person that works hard. The rest is secondary
Since being named Best European Mixologist at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS 2018, Remy Savage has moved countries, started a prestigious new job, and launched two cocktail menus. What’s next for the notoriously creative bartender?
Remy Savage has built a reputation for creativity behind the bar. Even in an era where it seems every high profile bar relies on a conceptual menu, or a range of bizarre homemade ingredients, Savage’s drinks stand out. From cocktails containing paper syrup to drinks inspired by architecture, Savage’s recipes and presentation rightly turn heads and win awards. But what about the man himself? For the first time, he might be grabbing more headlines than his drinks.
Remy Savage’s Excellent Adventure
Last year, Remy Savage capped off a very busy 12 months by being named Best European Mixologist at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS. Before that, he helped create and launch Little Red Door’s highly anticipated Menu of Applied Architecture in April. Then, in October, the day after shepherding the bar to the number 11 spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, he announced he was moving to London to become head bartender at the Artesian at The Langham.
Despite having such a successful year, Savage is characteristically humble about his big victory. Winning at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS “was a very nice feeling,” he says. “It’s always lovely to get a bunch of people you like telling you [that] you are doing something right.”
As the first winner of the Best European Mixologist category working outside the UK, Savage certainly must have been doing something right to catch the attention of The Langham recruiting team. Since November, he has been working alongside Artesian’s new bar manager, Anna Sebastian – a hotel bar veteran who formerly headed the Beaufort Bar at The Savoy. Together Sebastian and Savage aim to revitalise the ailing reputation of the Artesian.
Familiar Faces in Unfamiliar Places
Savage doesn’t seem bothered by the change of city and the great expectations of his new role. “To be completely honest, not much has changed in the way we are doing things,” he says. For Savage, the big difference between working at Little Red Door and working at Artesian is running a bar as part of a larger venue. “The Artesian is a hotel bar, so we had to get used to a new (sometimes complicated) structure of work,” he says, with a smile. Savage has no complaints about the new job, though, and he’s quick to clarify that The Langham “has been great to us.” Most importantly of all, Savage says he and Sebastian “get absolute freedom in every single aspect of running the business and that means the world!”
He may be in a new place, but that doesn’t mean Savage is surrounded by new faces. “I had the chance to have most of the old Little Red Door team make the move with me, which made the transition much easier,” says Savage. That team has certainly helped Savage and Sebastian put their stamp on Artesian.
The pair have launched two menus over the past nine months. The latest – Artesian Moments – is based on shared memories, such as learning to ride a bike. Each drink evokes a particular moment or stage of life. Artesian Moments is a highly conceptual menu, making use of some surprising ingredients. In other words – it’s pure Savage.
What Makes a Good Bartender?
But don’t be fooled into thinking Savage is interested in chasing bar rankings and awards. “I think awards are fine,” he says. But it’s vital not to overstate their importance. “It seems to me it is more the value we may give [bar awards] that can have a negative impact on the bar industry,” says Savage. Although it’s “[a] nice feeling to be told ‘good job’,” recognition for one bartender doesn’t imply others are unworthy. After all, “hard working bars and bartenders will be good regardless of awards, right?”
As for Savage’s own take on what makes a good bartender, once again, it’s straightforward: “For me, a good bartender is a nice person that works hard, all the rest is secondary.”
Scaling it Back at Bar Savage
This ‘less is more’ attitude from the man behind so many conceptual menus seems surprising, unless you’re familiar with Savage’s side hustle – the Instagram account Bar Savage. He launched it in March 2017 after moving apartments and being forced to cut back on his booze collection.
Savage set himself the challenge to develop two new cocktails a week, working with just the 20 bottles he had kept, and anything he could make in his kitchen. On a platform that’s become a byword for impractical garnishes and style over substance, Savage took a no-frills approach. And, as always, his drinks stood out.
The account became so popular that Savage began featuring other bartenders and their creations in his apartment bar, too. In February, Savage took his Instagram drinks on the road for a guest shift at Two Schmucks in Barcelona. He says Bar Savage is about “minimalism applied to drinks and creativity through limitation.” Not only has Savage managed to (roughly) keep up his intense Instagram schedule since moving to London, he’s even talking about combining the minimalism of Bar Savage with his day job. “We are now looking into the idea of bringing this angle to the Artesian,” he says.
Whatever comes next for Artesian, one thing is clear: Remy Savage isn’t ready to rest on his reputation just yet.
Photo Credit: Remy Savage/ Bombay Sapphire
Foto: Remy Savage/Bombay Sapphire