Combat – the female bartenders conquering the Paris cocktail scene
Combat isn’t just the name of an area in northern Paris, it’s also a new bar, ready to attack the cocktail scene in this trendy district. Behind the bar, there are three young women, including two former bartenders from the Experimental Cocktail Club.
A few months ago, La Commune, a bar specializing in punch, opened the first chapter of the cocktail history in the northern Paris district of Belleville. It was a great concept and a hard act to follow. But a daring team has opened another bar in Belleville, just a few meters away, in an area which, until now, has catered mostly to wine lovers.
The new bar is named Combat, and it’s putting up a real fight, led by a young team from the famous Experimental Cocktail Club (ECC). One can’t help but see parallels with the successful Mexican speakeasy Candelaria, also founded by ECC alumni six years ago and still going strong. Let’s hope Combat sees similar success!
Combat bar: From female duo to a quartet of mixology experts
The story of Combat began in 2012 when the two young founders, Elena Schmitt and Margot Lecarpentier, met together in New York City. There was an instant friendship “thunderbolt” which made them want to quickly set up a project around their shared passions: good drink and good food.
Schmitt was in the Big Apple to boost her CV through apprenticeships in finance and marketing. Thanks to her family, this budding businesswoman already had a strong taste for wine. Lecarpentier, a master of law, worked for some big New York record labels, managing artists like The Strokes and Asap Rocky. Thanks to her bartender boyfriend, she discovered the world of cocktails and worked shifts in the Standard Hotel and The Wayland. When both came back to Paris in 2014, Schmitt was working at a small consulting startup and Lecarpentier, after a fruitless job hunt in the music industry, began working behind the bar at ECC, alongside the head bartender Gladys Gublin and Maxime Potfer.
After two years, these two hospitality-loving friends wished to go out on their own and create a cocktail bar that was different from the typical speakeasy. In 2016, they discovered the place of their dreams, in the new epicurean district of Paris, Belleville – a popular place for wine, but with no cocktail bars in sight at that time.
After a few battles with banks and suppliers, the dream came true. “Having a loan for business women of 30 years is no a small matter. It’s the law of the jungle when you create your business,” say Lecarpentier and Schmitt. Once Combat began to take shape, Lecarpentier asked her talented colleague, Elise Drouet, to join her behind the bar. Potfer, now the ECC’s bar manager, delighted by the all-female bar team, joined them also as a partner. It’s an association which shows how supportive the Paris bar community is. “Our bosses at the Experimental Cocktail Club took very well our departure and supported us to the end in the creation of our project. They were with us for the first days of the opening,” says Lecarpentier. From such a strong foundation, Combat could then draw its battery of cocktails!
Combat is a cocktail bar with the look of a bistro
Opened during the 10th edition of Cocktails Spirits this month, the bar at the top of the rue de Belleville has already created a little buzz. With its dark-gray façade, Combat is cleverly integrated into the décor of this district of eastern Paris. It’s a simple bar, open to the street, and skilfully structured by the young architect David Olivier Descombes, designer of several trendy Parisian restaurants and hotels.
We appreciate the absence of flashy details: white walls, vintage furniture, and white marble trays on the tables. It is the bar corner that holds all the attention, functioning like an open kitchen: mustard-colored tiles on the wall behind in a Spanish style, a simple shelf to hold the whole range of spirits and a metal bar-top which invites conversation with the three girls. To accentuate this sense of conviviality, an open window along the bar allows direct cocktail service for people outside.
A sustainable, homemade menu
Thanks to their great experience in the Parisian cocktail scene, Lecarpentier and Drouet offer a menu which combines their passion, their feminine sensibility, and their culture. For their first menu, they’ve prepared 10 cocktails which are appealing for amateur barflies, but also for their bar room friends. Combat is the only bar which closes on Tuesday, so it can welcome the bar community on Sunday and Monday.
As good global citizens, the two bartenders rely on a panel of homemade products in an eco-friendly spirit. “For long drinks, we work with homemade fruit juices, obtained with a juice extractor, and we create our own syrups but also our tonics in a spirit of sustainable development. Every day, we imagine a cocktail from decommissioned foods, fruits or vegetables,” says Lecarpentier enthusiastically.
There are other touches of originality, too, along with some unexpected combinations. For example, a gin infused with pastis eucalyptus, or a mix of Suze aperitif and smoked whisky, which is an original take on the more common Suze and whisky combination. Two of our cocktails contain vinegar – elderflower and apple, respectively – providing a sweet-sour side for the drinks which is amazing and inventive.
For the other drinks, Combat offers what customers in the district expect: a small but pretty selection of natural wines, and some great craft beers, like Sabetz Que Leu and Perle Nature. But the ace up their sleeve is a myriad of small plates, including 48-month old gouda and terrine. There’s also a cocktail pairing of artichokes with hazelnuts from Piedmont, to be enjoyed with a Cynar Collins.
Combat certainly promises to do something new. It’s a unique cocktail bar that rhymes with simplicity, parity and French indulgence.
Foto: Photo via Combat Paris