Remy Savage discusses the Evocative Menu
Whether it’s his victory as Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender of the Year 2014 or his work at Paris’s Little Red Door, tt’s been a monumental last couple of years for Remy Savage. And now the Little Red Door are set to launch their ambitious new Evocative Menu.
Remy Savage has had quite the few years – the sort you might term as “defining”. Head bartender at Paris’s utterly charming Little Red Door, he also won the Bombay Sapphire’s World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition with his Paper Anniversary cocktail in 2014, made of gin, saline solution, and “paper syrup”. And the biggie? He also had a child with his girlfriend Laura, who works at Little Red Door as well.
Now after meeting at the Reykjavik Bar Summit, where Little Red Door took a spirited 3rd place, we meet to discuss his current project. Little Red Door launched their new Evocative Menu that now got shortlisted for Best Bar Menu at 2016’s Spirited Awards. It marks a suitable meeting point for Remy’s bartending prowess and his passion for philosophy, as well as something the bar community has undeniably not seen before.
The pioneering menu
The Evocative Menu is a new way of presenting a drinks menu, with 11 drinks ‘evoked’ with only an image. Words are out. “None of them have the name or ingredients, just visual interpretations,” he explains. This was a response to looking for a new way to present drinks without relying on words. Or as their official press release elucidates – the result of stray thoughts keeping Savage up on a “warm June Paris morning…and a 5.33am email to the bar owners”.
“The Evocative Menu allows you to choose things based on sensitivity, like a piece of art. You associate the flavour with something else”, he says. He notes that many people see certain ingredients and have certain dispositions to them, even if the ingredient will have a completely different flavour profile as part of the drink. In Remy’s mind, these prejudices were doing a disservice to the subtleties of drinks. “There’s lots of discrimination in the world of drinks – people might not get a drink with tequila because they have a bad memory with it. But you might not even taste tequila in the drink”, he explains. He also notes that cocktail menus are also becoming ever more complicated, utilizing more and more obscure ingredients customers have never heard of. By removing words, Remy wanted to remove the intimidation factor from the drinks menu.
Customers can however see the ingredients if they so wish. “We wanted people to be able to have a choice of ordering what they feel like but also being able to see the ingredients. You can pull the tab on the right hand side and you can see the ingredients – just like a children’s book”, he smiles.
Identifiable, but still complex
In order to maximise the sensitivity, the drinks are designed to have quite strong, big flavours. “They taste like something that is easy to identify, whilst still being complex of course”, he laughs. Expect the experimentation to filter down to the nitty gritty – the drink composition. Salt, a mainstay at the LRD, is included in every drink as are other unique ingredients from oyster leaves to green Colombian coffee beans. Expect unique drinks and expressions to go with the unique way of selecting them.
What about the choice of the artists? They compiled a list of different artists and got them all to try, with some artists coming to Paris to try with others further afield being sent a bag along with glassware, lighting instructions and a music playlist, all to evoke the right atmosphere. The artists span a wide variety of nationalities – four are from Paris but others come from Mexico, Hong Kong and more. They also come from a variety of professions. There are musicians, street artists, graphic designers and more. One is anonymous.
“All artists didn’t know what was in the drink when they tried the drink, all so they had a raw relation to the flavour,” he says. “They were asked to create something based on the mood and what it evoked.” Pre-visit disclaimer time. I’m especially drawn to number 9 by Kris Platt, a Northern Irish musician, which depicts a suited and booted man shooting what looks like beams of energy with his eyes.
The heart of the Paris revival
Little Red Door is right at the heart of Paris’s recent cocktail revival. Remy thinks back. “First of all, what is strange to think that we were behind in the early 2000’s as Paris was, alongside Cuba, the cocktail capital during prohibition with bars like Harry’s New York Bar.” So, what’s changed with the current revival? He juggles some theories. “Maybe because we have a passion for everything tasty, maybe cause the scene is still sufficiently small that we all evolve together in a non competitive way”, he suggests.
Perhaps, but it’s also more adventurous pursuits like the Evocative Menu that have resulted in this upswing. Remy is well aware it’s a risk, as whilst others have experimented with the senses in their menus – Berlin’s Fragrances Bar for instance – the LRD is striking their own path here. He has no idea how the reaction will be but he’s hugely excited.
The Little Red Door Evocative Menu is live since April 18th 2016, having launched in Paris, with a weeklong JubJub popup in London having followed the week after. Oh, and that’s not it: Remy’s launching a restaurant too in the near future. “We don’t know the name of the restaurant yet,” he starts. “We’ve been working on it for over a year, with the idea to do something very different with the way a menu functions.”
Foto: Remy Savage via Bombay Sapphire