Creating, tasting, hosting, learning and passing on knowledge: when you’re the Head Barman of the mythical Bar Américain, you need to get the mix just right. Khalid El-Hajraoui shares the secrets to his success over nearly 20 years. A cocktail by a great professional, "made in Bar Américain”.
What’s your secret for arousing the emotions of customers through a cocktail?
Khalid El-Hajraoui: The originality and quality of the cocktail. Every detail counts: the presentation, the way it’s served, the glassware… For example, we don’t serve champagne cocktails in normal champagne glasses, but in flared wine glasses. The customers are surprised and delighted. As for recipes, we recreate the classics. For the Mojito for example, the rum is more elaborate than Bacardi, the lemon is freshly squeezed and the wild mint is of superior quality. Between June and September, we revamp the Bellini with tasty white peaches and prosecco. We regularly change the ingredients with fresh and local seasonal fruits.
What’s your best memory?
K.E-H: During the Monte-Carlo Summer Festival in the summer of 2015, Brian Newman, Lady Gaga’s band leader, called me to see if they could improvise a concert at the bar the next day, after their show at Sporting Monte-Carlo. They turned up dressed as if they were coming out of a 60's film. It was wonderful, insanely classy. The news had spread on Twitter a few hours earlier: it was madness when Lady Gaga arrived. They played until 2 o'clock in the morning. I’ve seen some crazy parties here, but that one was unique.
Which cocktails are causing a sensation?
K.E-H: A few years ago, we created a cocktail called the 'Bloody Lobster'. It was a version of the Bloody Mary, but with lobster juice and a Worcestershire sauce prepared by the Chef. We also launched a cocktail called the “Monte-Carlo”, with a sorbet created with vodka and Menton lemons, garnished with red fruit to use the colors of the Monaco flag.
What makes the Bar Américain so magical?
K.E-H: All the history that has unfolded there. Table 34, for example, could tell a lot of stories, lots of memories for both customers and staff. At the time, we liked to sit there and just watch. It was the table of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior. I think it's the most beautiful part in the bar. During the Grand Prix, it’s like being in a bubble: the table is inside, and you can see the excitement outside, while listening to music. What's also magical is that the atmosphere is completely different depending on the time of day.
His 3 favourite cocktails
1- The Bellini, “with white peach. I love champagne cocktails!”
2- The Fragolino, “a creative cocktail made with raspberry grapes, which only grow in the region.”
3- The Tennessee Martini, “which was so named by one of our customers and is still on the menu this season.”